Friday, May 25, 2012

Broa de Milho (Corn Bread) Recipe and Technique

This is a recipe for a Portuguese corn (mihlo) bread. As with many of the breads we make, there are many variations.

First, this is not a sweet corn bread like we often think of in the US. Broa de Milho is a medium heavy bread with a fine, somewhat moist texture. Great to enjoy with soups or stews - an excellent dipping bread.

This photograph of the Azores is from my good friend Anders Stangl.
Preparation and cooking methods also vary - the one I make is a single rise bread - swirled around in a bowl and then slid onto the hot stone in the oven. I'll describe this in more detail later.

Broa is popular in Northern Portugal and is also very popular in the Azores, where they use a fine white corn flour - very difficult to find here in the US - it is not corn meal.

Ingredients

1 1/2 cup fine corn meal
3 cups bread flour
1 cup whole grain flour (I mix rye, wheat and barley in equal parts)
2 teaspoons salt
spring water
1 cup slow-rise starter


Preparation

The first step is to 'scald' the corn meal flour. You accomplish this by placing the corn flour in your bread bowl. Boil water and pour 1 1/2 cups water right over the corn flour. Stir with a wooden spoon until it is the consistency of mashed potatoes.

Let that sit for 15-20 minutes to cool down.

Next - add the other flours on top of the scalded corn flour, add the salt and the starter.

Add spring water (about 1-2 cups) until the dough is workable but will be somewhat sticky. Knead for several minutes. Place in your bowl and cover to let rise.

broa de milho
This is slow-rise so it will take 8-10 hours to rise.

I usually prepare this stage at night so in the morning, the bread is ready for the next steps.

You should have a bowl of risen dough - it will be soft and sticky - but DO NOT punch it down!

Use a spatula and carefully divide the risen dough into 4 parts - being as careful as you can not to deflate the dough. Of course this is nearly impossible so the main technique is to not squish down the bread - be gentle.

Prepare a mixing bowl by putting water into is and then pouring it out - next dust with flour. Have this standing by.

Take the 1/4 of the dough you have carefully removed and place it into the mixing bowl you just prepared. SWIRL the bread around the bowl and you will be able to 'form it' by the action of swirling. (this is amazingly fun - don't be afraid, it's only dough!) You can turn and swirl the bowl and the dough will gently fold onto itself without collapsing (too much!). You only need to do this for 10-20 seconds to form a fairly round mass.

Gently pour the dough you just swirled onto a baking sheet.

Dust them with flour.

Cover and let rise another another 1-2 hours. They will not rise as much as spread out - these are not tall breads.

Preheat the oven to 450F. Slide the baking sheet in and bake for 15-18 min at 450F, then reduce the heat to 400F and bake for another 15-20 minutes or until done.

8 comments:

  1. This is wonderful! I was desperately looking for a serious "broa" recipe. Most, lets face it, are plain corn breads, which share no resemblance at all with these portuguese beauties. I will definitely be trying this! Thank you!

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  2. I really want to try this! I made biscuits with yeast and they are delightful.

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  3. Good luck! This is one of my favorite breads - great with a soup or stew.

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  4. Can't wait to try making this for my Portuguese girlfriend! Have you ever thought of making a YouTube video. I'm a little unsure about some of the instructions-- dividing into quarters without deflating.

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  5. Mike - yes- the dough will deflate! What you need to do is handle it as carefully as you can. Try and avoid handling it too much and don't 'knead' it - just work carefully with the deflated dough - in whatever shape it ends up - the irregular shapes are fine. After you 'swirl' and get the dough onto a baking sheet - it rises again before baking. The minimal handling keeps larger holes in the bread and makes a better 'crumb'.

    I am going to provide better step by step photos on this recipe which I will try and post tomorrow. (I am making this bread tonight!) Someday I will make some videos!

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  6. Mike - here is a link with better photos of the technique:
    http://portuguesebreads.blogspot.com/2013/06/broa-portuguese-corn-bread-aka-pao-de.html

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  7. Hello Miguel,
    I am attempting this bread for a third time today, unfortunately, i do not have time for the natural starter, but i have made one and it is in the refrigerator. This bread is delicious and perfect for stews.

    I am having a problem reproducing the cracks on the top of the bread, that my girlfriends dad says are the identifying characteristics of this bread, while he says the taste reminds him of his youth in Portugal, i can not seem to get the cracks on top. Any ideas on why this is not happening?
    Thanks in advance

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  8. Josh - here are a couple of suggestion:
    1. Increase the ratio of corn to the wheat flour. If you are using (example) 1/4 cup of corn and 1 cup of bread flour, then up it to 1/2 cup
    2. Set oven to 450F when you bake the Broa - the high heat will help make the cracks.
    3. Place a pan with the water at the bottom of the oven to produce some steam.
    4. Add a tablespoon of sugar to the dough when you first mix it.

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