Makes four 1-pound loaves. The recipe is easily doubled or halved.
Broa is a very rustic recipe from the Portuguese countryside. Broa just means bread in Portuguese, but it's often used to refer specifically to this dens part-com loaf that's perfect for sopping up hearty soups like our Portuguese Fish Stew (page 84 of the book). It bears little resemblance to American Southern cornbread, which is quite sweet, and leavened with baking soda and powder.
Form this loaf as a relatively flattened ball (so that you'll get lots of crust). The flattened loaf is truer to the original and helps to prevent denseness from the corn.
1. Mixing and storing the dough: Mix the yeast and salt with the water in a 5-quart bowl, or a lidded (not airtight) food container.
2. Mix in the remaining dry ingredients without kneading, using a spoon, a 14-cup capacity food processor (with dough attachment), or a heavy-duty stand mixer (with dough hook). If you're not using a machine, you may need to use wet hands to incorporate the last bit of flour.
3. Cover (not airtight), and allow to rest at room temperature until the dough rises and collapses (or flattens on top), approximately 2 hours.
4. The dough can be used immediately after the initial rise, though it is easier to handle when cold. Refrigerate in a lidded (not airtight) ontainer and use over the next 10 days.
5. On baking day, dust the surface of the refrigerated dough with flour and cut off a 1-pound (grapefruit-size) piece. Dust the piece with more flour and quickly shape it into a ball by stretching the surface of the dough around to the bottom on all four sides, rotating the ball a quarter-turn as you go. Flatten slightly and allow to rest and rise on a cornmeal-covered pizza peel for 40 minutes.
6. Twenty minutes before baking time, preheat a baking stone to 450 degrees F, with a baking stone placed on the middle rack. Place an empty broiler tray on any other shelf that won't interfere with the rising bread.
7. Just before baking, sprinkle the loaf liberally with cornmeal and slash a cross, "scallop," or tic-tac-toe pattern into the top, using a serrated bread knife (see photo, page 29). Leave the cornmeal in place for baking; tap some of it off before eating.
8. Slide the loaf directly onto the hot stone. Pour 1 cup of hot tap water into the broiler tray, and quickly close the oven door. Bake for about 30 minutes, until deeply browned and firm. Smaller or larger loaves will require adjustments in baking time.
9. Allow to cool before slicing or eating.
This page created January 2009
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