A typical Portuguese breakfast is a simple affair with usually just coffee, a bread or roll, smeared with jam, maybe accompanied by some cheese or ham. After the somewhat heartier breakfasts of late, I was perfectly happy just having some bread. After all, you know how much I love bread. Despite my love, I rarely make it from scratch, so far having some strange aversion to making anything with yeast. Irrational position, I agree, but after making the waffles, I started to come around to the idea that it was easier to make that I had previously given yeast bread credit for being.
There is one pretty signature sweet bread known around Portugal and is similar to what is known as Hawaiian bread here in the U.S. It’s typically served on Easter Sunday and appears to me to be somewhat brioche in nature. Despite sounding delicious, I decided to go for another style bread- Portuguese corn bread- but have bookmarked the former in my head for later this spring, so maybe look for it for Holidays Around the World, the Easter edition.
Broa is rustic in style, and is commonly eaten alongside some pretty traditional soups and stews, which are on the menu for later this week, so I figured I’d kick things off this week with that in mind. It’s heavy, moist, and has a really think, crunchy crust, made possible by “steaming” the loaf while it bakes at a really high temperature. This recipe was adapted from King Arthur Flour, but the technique came more from The Barefoot Kitchen Witch. Next time I think I’ll take the tip to use whole wheat flour or blue cornmeal, just for variety. This is definitely not your light and airy bread, but more like a brick. One tasty brick.
Makes one loaf
1 cup yellow cornmeal
3/4 cup hot water
1/2 cup milk, warmed
2 tsp instant yeast
2 1/2 cups Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
3 TB honey
1 TB olive oil
1. Preheat the oven to 450 F.
2. Mix together the cornmeal and hot water in a small bowl. Stir in the warm milk, and let the mixture cool to lukewarm. Then add the remaining ingredients and mix and knead them together. I did by hand.
3. Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl and turn it over, so that the top is oiled. Cover the dough and let it rise for 1 1/2 hours.
4. Turn the dough out onto a lightly greased or floured work surface, knead it lightly (just once or twice), and form it into a ball. Place it onto a lightly greased or parchment-lined baking sheet, or one that’s been sprinkled with cornmeal. Cover it and let it rise for 45 minutes, or until it’s very puffy.
5. Put a heavy duty shallow metal pan in the bottom of your oven or on the lowest rack about five minutes before it’s time to bake. Heat a couple of cups of water, or just pour two cups of the hottest possible water from the tap.
6. When it’s time to put the bread in the oven, pour the hot water into your shallow pan after you’ve placed the baking sheet on a rack. The water will create a burst of steam – close the door quickly.
7. Bake the bread about 50-60 minutes. You want a very hard, dark crust. Tap on the bottom of one of the loaves – it should sound hollow.
Cheese, a taste with jam and bread