Monday, 17 September 2012

Big Broa

My first attempt at home made Broa de milho (maize bread)
Once upon a time in Portuguese peasant homes there was usually home made bread,though nowadays perhaps less frequently.It is an essential ingredient for an abundance of Portuguese bread dishes.There are açordas,ensopados,migas, a variation on açorda, and Gazpacho.It is of course possible to buy a valiant attempt at the so-called peasant loaf all over Portugal, in supermarkets or bakeries.But do not let your taste buds deceive, you it will never match up to the hands on home made variety.These white lifeless breads of a cotton wool consistency will scupper the chance of your bread dish being as appealing as it deserves to be had you used the real McCoy.The bread of choice for these kind of dishes is a good old fashioned home made Broa de milho like the grand mothers used to make,typical peasant bread at its best.When properly made,maize bread should have a good crumbling consistency and therefore be ideal for thickening up these soups and other bread dishes.This bread is also particularly good to eat with those delicious small olives, so typical of Portuguese tables,with a good cheese or some cured meat.
Well I decided to be avõ (Portuguese granny) for a day, put my pinny on, pour out some papa de milho on a board and start kneading. I would advise beginners like me who have not done this before to halve the quantity stated in the recipe which makes two loaves,and not be put off by the`boiling water method´,which is an essential part of maize breadmaking.Good luck....

Broa de milho
(this is the traditional recipe for a heavy broa.For alighter loaf,use equal parts of both flours and still keep the same method)
450 g (1lb cornmeal)
175g(6oz) unbleached white flour
30g (1oz) fresh yeast (or equivalent  dried yeast)
15g (1/2 oz) sea salt
600ml(1pint) boiling water
Crumble the yeast and mix with a little tepid water.Add a quarter of the white flour and mix well.Set aside.Put the maize flour in a roomy bowl and pour the boiling water over it.Mix well using a spatula, to avoid burning your hands.cover until the temperature allows you to do some kneading,for a couple of minutes.Add the salt,the prepared yeast and remaining white flour.Now give it a really good really kneading, addinmg alittle more tepid water very gradually if you the dough is excessively dry,but not until then.I found my dough was a little on the wet side and ended up adding some more flour.When the dough is smooth,cover with a cloth and and leave in a warm place,to rise for an hour.Knead again  for just a few minutes and divide the dough into two halves.shape each half into a ball,rolling it in a bowl containing flour,to coat it all over.This will give the broa loaf a whtish crust,when it comes out of the oven,with yellow brown on a greased,floured baking tray,cover again and leave to prove in a warm place for another 20 minutes.bake it in the oven (219C/425f/Gas 7) for 25 minutes or until it sounds hollow when you tap it on the bottom.Do not undercook your broa but try not to burn it either,or it will be too dry.Remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack.
maize bread keeps well for about a week,if kept in a plastic bag in a bread bin.
It can also be frozen.

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