Broa is a type of cornbread traditionally made in Portugal and Galicia (and in Brazil, where it is traditionally seasoned with fennel). Unlike the cornbread typical of the southern United States, broa is made from a mixture of cornmeal and wheat or rye flour, and is leavened with yeast rather than baking powder or baking soda.
This yeast bread has the rustic flavour and texture that suitably accompanies soups, especially Caldo Verde, the Portuguese green soup made with tender collard greens, potatoes, and chouriço sausages.
- 900 g white unbleached bread flour
- 3 cups fine-ground cornmeal (polenta)
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 x 75 g fresh yeast cakes
- about 5 cups warm water
- flour, for dusting
- oil or lard, for greasing
- Sift the flour into a warm bowl and stir in the cornmeal and salt. Dissolve the fresh yeast in a cupful of the warm water and sprinkle with a spoonful of the flour. Work the yeasty liquid into the flour, adding as much of the water as you need to make a soft, sticky, rather wet dough. Work the dough to stretch the gluten (push and tug), form it into a ball, and dust with flour. Set it to rise under a damp cloth in a warm place for a couple of hours until more than doubled in bulk: you need well-risen dough with nice big bubbles to get a crisp light bread.
- Dust your hands and the table with flour. Scoop out the dough and punch it down roughly with your fists to distribute the air. Cut the dough in half, work each piece into a ball, and dust generously with flour.
- Transfer to a greased baking sheet, cover with a cloth, and let rise again in a warm kitchen for 30 minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 200°C. Bake the bread for about an hour, until well-risen and hollow-sounding when you tap the bottom. Don’t undercook the loaves, or they’ll be heavy.
When stored in a cotton bag and hung in a current of air, home-baked bread dries out rather than growing a furry green jacket and rotting. In dried form, it provides the basis for dozens of different soaked-bread dishes, serving much the same function in Portugal as dried pasta in Italy.