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Portuguese Recipe: Broa (Portuguese corn bread)

Cooking 60 min Preparation 60 min 4-6 medium
Recipe type: Bread Cuisine: Portuguese

Portuguese Recipe: Broa (Portuguese corn bread)

One of the most inviting smells in the world is that of warm, fresh-baked bread! On many an evening, you can smell the mouthwatering aroma drifting on a warm current over from the local bakeries preparing the next morning’s supply. It’s heavenly!

Bread baking in Portugal is just as an important part of the culture as is wine, cheese and pastries. And even though most Portuguese consume all of these on a daily basis, bread is the only one that plays an integral part to every meal, consisting of the entire meal in some regions – broa is no exception!

Enjoy this soul-warming recipe and don’t forget to slather it in a delicious layer of Pumpkin Jam!


  1. First make a sponge: In a large bowl, combine the yeast and ⅔ cup of the corn meal, pressing out any lumps. Blend in ½ cup of the lukewarm water, beating until smooth. Set in a warm, draft-free spot, cover with a cloth, and allow to rise until light, spongy and doubled in bulk—30 to 40 minutes. There will most likely be a distinct alcohol smell; this is ok and contributes to the flavor.
  2. Meanwhile, combine the remaining 1 cup lukewarm water, the milk, corn oil, and salt. As soon as the sponge is light and bubbly, stir it down, blend in the milk mixture and the remaining 1⅓ cups corn meal. Now add enough of the flour, 1 cup at a time to make a soft but manageable dough. Turn the dough out onto a well-floured board and knead hard for 5 minutes or until the dough is smooth and elastic. Shape the dough into a ball, place it in an oiled bowl, and turn the dough in the bowl so that is oiled all over. Cover with a cloth, set in a warm, draft-free spot, and allow to rise until doubled in size– about 1 hour.
  3. Once doubled in size, repeat and allow to rise for another hour.
  4. Once again punch the dough down, turn out onto a well-floured board, and knead hard for 5 minutes. Divide the dough in half; knead each half hard for 2 to 3 minutes, then shape into balls. Place each loaf in a lightly greased 8 or 9 inch layer cake pan and sift a little cornmeal on top. Cover with a cloth, set in a warm, draft free spot, and let rise until doubled in bulk – about 45 minutes.
  5. Meanwhile, improvise a brick-and-steam oven by placing three or four unglazed bricks in a large, heavy, shallow baking pan and set it on the lowest shelf of the oven. Place the rack on which you intend to bake the bread on the center shelf. Preheat the oven to 500F for a full 20 minutes.
  6. When ready to bake, fill a metal watering can with ice water and drizzle the water directly over the hot bricks. Place the loaves on the center rack so they don’t touch each other or the oven walls. Close the door and bake the bread 15 minutes, drizzling water over the hot bricks every 5 minutes. Reduce the temperature to 400F and bake 15 minutes longer, again drizzling water over the bricks every 5 minutes. As soon as the bread is browned, firm and hallow sounding when tapped remove from the oven and transfer to wire racks to cool.