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Broa (Portuguese Corn Bread)


Description

From Artisan Bread in Five Minutes A Day by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoë François


Ingredients

  • 3 cups lukewarm water
  • T. granulated yeasts ( packets)
  • T. kosher or other coarse salt
  • 1½ cups stone-ground or standard cornmeal
  • 5 cups (22.5 oz.) unsifted, unbleached, all-purpose white flour, measured with the scoop-and-sweep method

Instructions

Mixing and Storing the Dough

  1. Mix the yeast and salt with the water in a five-quart bowl, or preferably, in a resealable, lidded (not airtight) plastic food container or food-grade bucket. Don’t worry about getting it all to dissolve. (I added the yeast, then the flour and then the salt on top of the flour to avoid killing any of the yeast, but apparently this is unnecessary.)
  2. Mix in the cornmeal and flour. Mix with a wooden spoon. If necessary, reach into your mixing vessel with very wet hands and press the mixture together. Don’t knead! It isn’t necessary.
  3. Allow to rise: Cover with a lid (not airtight) and allow the mixture to rise at room temperature until it begins to collapse (or at least flattens on the top), approximately two hours. You can use a portion of the dough any time after this period, but fully refrigerated dough is less sticky and is easier to work with. So, the first time you try this method, it’s best to refrigerate the dough overnight before shaping a loaf.

On Baking Day:

  1. Sprinkle the surface of your refrigerated dough with flour. Pull up and cut off a 1-pound (grapefruit-size) piece, using a serrated knife. Hold the mass of dough in your hands and add a little more flour as needed so it won’t stick to your hands. Gently stretch the surface of the dough around to the bottom on all four sides, rotating the ball a quarter-turn as you go. The correctly shaped final product will be smooth and cohesive. The entire process should take no more than 30 to 60 seconds.

  2. Place the shaped ball on a cornmeal-covered pizza peel. (If you aren’t planning on baking the bread on a pizza stone, just let the dough rest on a cornmeal covered cutting board.) Allow the loaf (uncovered) to rest on the peel for about 40 minutes.

  3. Twenty minutes before baking, preheat the oven to 450ºF, with a baking stone placed on the lowest rack. (If you don’t have a stone, don’t worry.) Place an empty broiler tray for holding water on any other shelf that won’t interfere with the rising bread. (This helps to make the crust crispy, but you’re bread will still be delicious if you omit this step.)

  4. Dust the top of the loaf liberally with flour, which will allow the slashing knife to pass without sticking. Make several ¼-inch-deep slashes across the bread. (Again, an uncritical step.)

  5. With a quick forward jerking motion of the wrist, slide the loaf off the pizza peel and onto the preheated stone. (Alternatively, butter a Pyrex dish or baking pan and place the bread in the pan.) Quickly but carefully pour about one cup of hot tap water into the broiler tray and close the oven door to trap the steam. Bake for about 30 minutes, or until the crust is nicely browned and firm to the touch. Allow to cool completely, preferably on a wire rack.