Broa – Portuguese Corn Bread (BBB October 2010)

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Bread Baking Babes: Broa  - Portuguese Corn Bread (BBB October 2010)Bread Baking Babes (BBB): October 2010

Portuguese Corn Bread (bbb) When Tanna chose Portuguese Sweet Bread for August, it reminded me of the Portuguese Corn Bread recipe I have had bookmarked for eons. I have been searching on and off for a recipe for this Portuguese bread (always seen it labelled as “broa” in the store). I love this bread! I first tasted it when we moved into the neighbourhood, an area of town with LOTS of people of Portuguese descent. There are churrasqueiras galore (they make THE best roast chicken!). And most bakeries and supermarkets carry plenty of Portuguese-style cheese, pastries and bread. The best bread by far (or at least, I think so) is broa.

Before we started baking all our bread, we bought our bread from “The Brazil Bakery” not far from us. T always chose a very spare ring bread they make (they call it Calabrese – not exactly Portuguese but there it is) that looks and tastes decidedly Italian – no big surprise there considering the name. I am not the biggest fan of the commercial Calabrese – I find it to be too dry and empty tasting (I don’t think they do overnight rises at that bakery…). So each time we bought bread, I couldn’t help getting a fabulous looking flour dusted corn bread called “broa” (which simply means “bread”). The Broa is a wonderful bread with a dense moist crumb and a thick chewy crust. They sell it in three different sizes: large, medium and small (the small being the size of a dinner roll). The bread is made with white corn flour and fine cornmeal.

People have always advised me to ask the bakery how it’s made, but this is tricky. Even if they WOULD tell me their secrets, I don’t speak Portuguese, nor do I know anyone who speaks Portuguese. (Well, I do know lots of people who speak Portuguese, but not well enough to drag them to the Brazil Bakery to barge into the kitchen).

I tried making the bread in 2006 but alas, it wasn’t correct. Not that there was anything wrong with the resulting bread. It just wasn’t what I was expecting.

Then sometime in 2007, I came across Jane’s (Little Compton Mornings) post about Portuguese bread: Pao de Milho

Pao de Milho [is] a rustic Portuguese table loaf with a rough exterior and a fine crumbed, dense, moist (indeed, damp) interior. This lesser known sister to Portuguese sweet bread is, for me, a summer essential. While it is fine for its traditional uses in soups or as an accompaniment to meals, and it certainly makes satisfying toast spread with strawberry jam or tomato butter, it is the best grilling bread, bar none, you will ever put down on your Weber™. Grilled Pao de Milho makes a superb platform for all kinds of good things, from cheeses and grilled vegetables to meats, and I often use it as a kind of “plate” for entire pick-up meals outdoors.

-Jane, Little Compton Mornings,
“RI White Cap Flint Cornmeal: Jonnycakes and Beyond”, May 2007

I was out of my mind with joy! That’s it!! That had to be it!! It might not be labelled broa but who cares. A broa by any other name would taste as sweet, if I might be so bold as to steal a phrase from the master.

white cornmeal and cornflour I’ve had the recipe bookmarked ever since then, with plans to make it immediately. At the time, I even asked Jane about it. And bought the flour. And the cornmeal.

But lack of freezer space and requests for other kinds of bread kept shelving it. I eventually used the flour and cornmeal I had bought to make multigrain sandwich bread. And until the BBBabes made Portuguese Sweet Bread, I didn’t think to replace the cornmeal. Even though I see bags of it every time we go to the Portuguese butcher at “O Nosso Tahlo” (ha. I just looked that up and see that all this time, I’ve been wrong wrong wrong about what the store name means. I thought it was “at our table” but it turns out that it’s “our butcher”.)

At least I didn’t think to replace the cornmeal and corn flour until being given the honour to choose this month’s BBB bread….

Portuguese Corn Bread (bbb) For my first attempt at making the bread, we were in the middle of a heat wave. I’m pretending that it fried my brains and that’s why I had difficulty putting the correct amount of water in (I don’t want to talk about it… suffice it to say that I had to knead very very very slack dough).

The next attempt went very well, when I put in the correct amount of water. Well, well, well. Isn’t it amazing the difference it makes when you put in the correct amount of water!!

Portuguese Corn Bread (bbb) With the correct amount of water, the dough wasn’t nearly as sloppy as I initially thought it was. Sure, it’s still on the slack side but at least it doesn’t look like loose porridge!

T readily admits that he isn’t the biggest fan of the Brazil Bakery bread; he says it’s too dense and wet. Although… he doesn’t mind it grilled and served with barbecued sardines. And this is how I sold him when we went to buy the corn flour and corn meal.

Broa is absolutely stellar grilled on the barbecue to put under grilled sardines. I know. Summer is past. It’s chilly at night. And dark.

In October, many people have put their barbecues away. But you don’t have to wait til next summer to try this bread!! Rest assured that broa is equally wonderful in winter – it’s particularly delicious with stew or a hearty bean, sausage and kale soup.

Portuguese Corn Bread (bbb) Here’s what I did to make the bread:

Broa – Portuguese Corn Bread
based on Jane’s (Little Compton Mornings) Pao de Milho

makes one large round loaf or two smaller ones

  • 300gm (~1¼ US c) boiling water ¹
  • 7 gm (~1 tsp) honey
  • 145 gm (~1¼ US c) white cornmeal, finely ground ²
  • 4 gm (1 tsp) active dry yeast
  • 120gm (~½ US c) lukewarm water
  • 60 gm (~½ c) whole wheat flour
  • 300 gm (~2½ c) unbleached all-purpose flour, not necessarily all of it
  • 15 gm (~ 2 Tbsp) white corn flour ³
  • 10 gm (~1¾ tsp) sea salt
  • corn flour, for dusting
  1. About an hour before mixing the dough, put the cornmeal (finely ground meal from dried corn, aka maize) and honey into a large mixing bowl. Pour in boiling water and stir well. Set aside to cool until just warm (do the baby bottle test on your wrist to test)
  2. When the cornmeal has cooled, pour lukewarm water into a small bowl; add yeast and whisk well. Set aside.
  3. Add the corn flour, wholewheat flour, 275 gm (~1¾ c) all-purpose flour and salt to the cornmeal mixture (you’ll use some or all of the remaining flour for kneading). Stir well. Check the temperature again to make sure it isn’t hot. Stir in the yeast mixture. The dough should be pulling away from the side of the bowl. Don’t worry if it’s somewhat sticky. Don’t be surprised if it’s down right sloppy.
  4. Kneading: Sprinkle a little of the extra all-purpose flour onto the board. Plop the dough out.
  5. Hand wash and dry the mixing bowl. (Yes, this step is important. It prepares the rising bowl, gets your hands nice and clean AND allows the dough to rest a little.)
  6. Knead the dough until smooth and shiny by hand about 10 minutes 4. Use your dough scraper to keep the board clean . Add a tiny bit more flour if the dough seems sticky but try not to add too much – the dough should be soft (you don’t have to use up all the extra half cup of all-purpose flour).
  7. Proofing: As best you can, form the dough into a ball and plop it into the clean bowl (there is NO need to oil the bowl!!) and cover the bowl with a plate. Don’t worry if the dough doesn’t seem to be all that smooth. Cover the bowl and leave in a non-drafty area of the kitchen for 20 minutes.
  8. After 20 minutes has passed, very lightly sprinkle the work surface with flour. Carefully turn the dough out. If necessary, gently spread the dough out (try not to disturb any bubbles). Using the dough scraper and still trying not to disturb any bubbles, fold the sloppy left side into the center, then the top into the center, then the right side, then the bottom. As you lift it into the bowl, fold it in half once more. Try to place it in the bowl smooth side up. Cover the bowl. Let it ferment at room temperature for 20 minutes again. Repeat this step two more times. (This step is done at 20 minutes, 40 minutes, 60 minutes after the first kneading.) It may not be until the third time that the dough will look like the smooth soft pillow that is described in books. The amount of dusting flour used in those three maneuvres is not more than a couple of tablespoons in all and probably much less (I have never actually measured). It’s the merest dusting.
  9. After the final folding maneuver, cover the bowl again and let rise in a no-draft place on the counter (or in the cold oven with only the light turned on), until it has doubled in size. Depending on the temperature of your kitchen, this can take anywhere from 1 to 4 hours – if your kitchen is around 21C (72F) it will take about an hour. A good way to tell if the dough has doubled is to dip your finger in cold water and poke a hole in the top of the dough. If the hole fills up, it hasn’t risen enough. If there is a whoosh of air and the dough deflates a little, it has risen too much. If the hole stays in exactly the same configuration and the dough remains otherwise intact, it is ju-u-st right.
  10. Shaping: Turn the dough out onto a floured board. Press the dough into a rectangle. Fold the left side into the center, then the top, then the right side then the bottom. Turn it over. Continue to fold it underneath itself to form an even tight ball without actually deflating the dough. Place it seam side down on parchment papered peel or cookie tray. Cover with a clean tea towel followed by any old large plastic bag and allow to the bread to rise in the same no-drafty area of the counter until is has about doubled. To test, flour your finger and press gently on the edge – it should very slowly spring back. For comparison, try pressing early on to see how it quickly springs back when the dough has not risen enough. (1 to 4 hours, depending on the temperature of the kitchen). 5
  11. Preparing the oven: About fifteen minutes before baking the bread, make sure there is a rack on the second to the top shelf. Preheat the oven to 400F.
  12. Baking: Spray the loaf liberally with water then sprinkle with cornflour. Slide the bread onto the stone if using (the parchment paper can go onto the stone) and bake the bread at 400F for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes, turn the oven down to 375F and turn the bread around at the same time to allow for uneven heat in the oven (remove the parchment paper if the bread is on a stone). Bake a further 15 minutes until the bottom sounds hollow when knocked or the internal temperature is between 200F and 210F.
  13. When the bread is done, remove to cool on a footed rack. Wait until the bread is completely cool before cutting it (it’s still not finished baking inside when it’s hot out of the oven). 6


1.) Water: Tap water is fine to use – just make sure that it has stood for at least 12 hours so that the chlorine has dissipated. Under no circumstances should you use water from the hot water tap. Of course, saying that it is unsafe to use water from the hot water tap might be an urban myth, but why tempt fate? Heat the water in a kettle or microwave and add cold water until it is the correct temperature, (use the baby bottle test on the back of your wrist – your fingers have no idea of temperature!) Or you can use a thermometer. The temperature should be BELOW 120F because yeast begins to die when the temperature is higher than 120F.

finely ground white cornmeal 2.) and 3.) Corn meal vs Corn Flour Corn meal is what is used to make polenta. Corn flour should NOT be confused with “corn starch”; it is dried corn that has been finely milled to look just like flour. I’m guessing that potato flour would be a not unreasonable substitute for corn flour if it’s too difficult to find corn flour.

4.) Kneading slack dough by hand isn’t as terrifying as it might seem. Here is a little tutorial on how I knead slack dough by hand. Of course, if you prefer to use your electric mixer, you should do that. (It can’t be nearly as exhiliarating though ;-)) Unfortunately, because I do not own an electric mixer, I cannot give an idea of how long to knead.

5.) When to Shape: The bread can shaped in the evening, covered with a clean tea towel and placed in the fridge overnight to be baked the next morning. Even if your kitchen is warmish and the bread will likely be ready to bake on the same day it’s mixed, I do recommend shaping in the evening and leaving the shaped bread in the fridge overnight. I don’t know for sure that the flavour is better but I must say that I’m quite pleased whenever I do this.

6.) If you want warm bread If you wish to serve warm bread, reheat it after the loaf has cooled completely. To reheat UNsliced bread, turn the oven to 500F for 5 minutes or so. Turn the oven OFF. Put the bread in the hot oven directly on a rack for ten minutes. If the bread happens to be is a little stale, put it into a paper bag first. Spray the bag liberally with water and place it in the hot oven until the bag is dry (about 10 minutes).

Elisabeth Luard suggests storing left over bread in a cotton bag and hanging it in a well ventilated area. This will, of course, dry the bread rather than let it become covered in mold. Dried bread can be used to make bread crumbs or in dishes that call for dried bread (bread soup, bread pudding, dressing for turkey).

Portuguese Corn Bread (bbb) The bread is delicious!! And T said he loved it and I should make it any time. We had it toasted for breakfast (delicious with butter, goat’s cheese and honey) and then for dinner we had it with freshly hot smoked mackerel. We were going to grill it and drizzle it with olive oil but the weather was a little chilly, it was getting dark early and we weren’t absolutely certain that we wouldn’t run out of barbecue gas. So we chose to lightly toast the slices of bread.

Once it was toasted, we then broke up the fish and put the pieces onto each piece of toast (to act as a plate), drizzled the fish with olive oil, caramelized garlic and capers and garnished with lots of fresh herbs. It was fabulous!!

Then, to stay in the Portuguese theme, we had sweet Portuguese bread for dessert (as cinnamon toast) with ice cream. MMMMMmmmmmmmmm :-)

I will definitely be making Broa again (we have a LOT of corn flour and corn meal now) and perhaps I’ll manage to use the right proportions every time. (Can you see me rolling my eyes?)

Thank you, thank you, thank you, Jane, for posting your recipe for Pao de Milho. Even though it’s not quite the same as the Brazil Bakery bread, we couldn’t be happier. We think your bread is better!

Bread Baking Babes
Bread Baking Babes: Broa  - Portuguese Corn Bread (BBB October 2010)

I really cannot thank the BBBabes enough for inviting me into this lovely group. At last we can have our Portuguese corn bread and eat it too.

I hope that you too will want to bake along so you can have this bread and eat it too. I also hope that nobody has too much difficulty finding the cornmeal and corn flour. Good luck!!!

To receive a Baking Buddy Badge to display on your site, bake the Broa and post about it before the 29 October 2010. Either email me with your name and a link to your post (please type “BBB October bread” in the subject heading) OR leave a comment on this post that you have baked the bread, leaving a link back to your post.

For complete details about the BBB, please read:

Please take a look at the other Babes’ results:

edit 30 October 2010: Also see the Bread Baking Buddies‘ Broa.


BBBabes’ Anniversary

Please remember that the BBBabes’ anniversary is coming up in February. We’d like you to pick the Anniversary Bread recipe for February 2011.

  • What’s your favorite bread?
  • What bread haven’t you ever been able to get to turn out the way you want?
  • What bread scares you the most?
  • What’s the bread recipe you’ve baked the most?
  • What bread do you dream about baking?
  • What bread do you…?

Scour your bread-baking cookbooks, recipe boxes and bread-baking sites to make your choice. We’ll ask you to submit your desired recipe in November. And in December, after we’ve narrowed the list down to a manageable number of choices, we’ll ask you to vote on one for us to bake and post for our anniversary in February.


Yeastspotting - every Friday ( image)

Each week, Susan (Wild Yeast) compiles a list of many bread-specific recipes from across the web. For complete details on how to be included in the YeastSpotting round up, please read the following:


World Bread Day (2010)

World Bread Day 2010 Coinciding with World Food Day, Zorra (1x umrühren bitte) is once again hosting World Bread Day. She wrote:

Let’s bake and talk about bread on this day again! Anybody is cordially invited to participate. Lots of people stopping by this blog that weren’t around last year, I encourage both old and new friends to join in. And please spread the word!

The theme is open, just bake a bread with or without yeast, use sourdough, experiment with different flours, add some seeds… It’s up to you!

– Zorra,

For more information and complete details on how to participate in World Bread Day, please read the following:


World Food Day

World Food Day - 16 October World Food Day is a yearly event put together by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) to raise funds to feed the world’s chronically hungry.

[T]here have never been so many hungry people in the world.

– Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations

This year’s World Food Day theme is “United against Hunger”.

There are an unprecedented number of people in the world who do not have the luxury of being able to choose what kind of bread to bake today or trot off to various stores in search of just the right kind of flours.

As you are kneading, slicing, toasting and/or baking your bread today (and every day this year), please do more than just think about those who are in grievous need. If each one of us takes action (even if it’s in the smallest way), collectively, we can end hunger.

Please read more about what YOU can do to take your part in World Food Day:


Bloggers Against Hunger
Working together with the
World Food Programme
to prevent hunger

(As always, if you have something to add or say about ending world hunger, please remember to post your thoughts and ideas on your blog, facebook, at work, etc. etc.)

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17 responses to “Broa – Portuguese Corn Bread (BBB October 2010)

  1. Elle

    Excellent choice dear Kitchen of the Month Elizabeth! Perhaps next time I’ll use regular corn meal and not polenta…that could make my dough as beautifully slack as yours was. Thanks for doing such a great job gathering the Babes around your kitchen table.

  2. hobby baker

    This was yummy, though my rendition doesn’t quite qualify as “corn” bread. :) I think it ended up looking like your first loaf. Tastes fabulous toasted, yum! I’m going to try it again this weekend. Happy baking!

    I’m so glad you liked the bread. Thank you for baking along with us! And if you use the British definition of corn, then yours can still be labelled corn bread. Here’s what The Little Oxford Dictionary says: “grain or seed of cereal plant; (collect) cereals (esp. wheat) in growth, their seed after threshing; (U.S.) maize” – ejm

  3. azélias kitchen

    As you know Elizabeth I’m trying to track down my Gran’s Broa or at least attempting to make one that reminds me of her loaf, which I don’t think had wheat flour like yours here. I suspect your recipe with wheat flour is far lighter than my Gran’s loaf, hers was dense. After searching a little I’m going to attempt a cornmeal loaf with some rye flour as that was common from my Gran’s area. I shall be reading your post here a few times in detail and try and come up with a recipe.

  4. ejm Post author

    Lien and Elle, I’m so glad to hear that the loaves turned out, in spite of some ingredients being difficult to get. Thank you, Babes!!

    Katie, do try making this! A half recipe should turn out a nice small loaf. Or you could make it into rolls and stick them in the freezer to be eaten one at a time.

    Natashya and Azélia, this particular bread is supposed to be quite dense. Or at least it should be. I’ll be really interested to hear about your experiments searching for your grandmother’s recipe, Azélia. (Before the language barrier stopped me dead, I managed to get an answer about the flours at the Brazil bakery and they were quite clear that their Broa dough was a mixture of wheat and white corn.)

    But I gather that “broa” just means “bread”? So, of course, it’s entirely possible that your grandmother’s recipe is completely different form this one….


  5. Susan/Wild Yeast

    Wonderful choice this month, Elizabeth! This is definitely the most corn-y of the yeasted cornbreads i have tried, and I will be making it again.

  6. veena

    This is a wonderful bread and i loved baking it, Elizabeth. I baked this for the BBB buddies badge :)
    Thanks for sharing t he recipe. Here is my link

    Thank you for baking along with us! I’m so happy that you liked the bread. Good idea to serve it with salsa! – Elizabeth

  7. Breadmaker Bettie

    I have no idea what I did wrong but the first time I tried this the loaf turned out looking horrible (My husband still ate it though). Second time around it was perfect!!

  8. Maurine

    I needed to thank you for this very good read!! I absolutely enjoyed every bit of it. I have you bookmarked to check out new things you post…

  9. Elaine Brown

    I have made this loaf twice this week. It’s delicious–I plan to make this often for family, friends and neighbours. This recipe allowed me to practise my “scoring” skills (which need of improvement). Since I like to sprinkle cornflour on top prior to baking, I think a nice stencil (maybe a corn stalk) would be fitting.

    Thank you for sharing.

    1. Elizabeth Post author

      Thank you!

      That’s great that this bread is working so well for you, Elaine. I’m so glad. And what a cool idea to put a stencil on top – a cornstalk would be fitting.

        1. Elizabeth Post author

          I’d love to see a photo of your bread, Elaine! Alas, as far as I know, this program here does not allow you to attach a photo. The closest thing you can do is to upload the photo to something like Instagram or Flickr and then post a link to the image in the comments.

          (Here are some photo upload options: )


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