Portuguese Corn Bread


Preparation info

  • Difficulty


  • Makes


    giant loaf

Appears in

Although maize is not native to Europe, it was adopted with great enthusiasm by many communities as soon as it was introduced to them by the explorers of the New World. Sometimes it reached them by circuitous routes - not simply off the boat from Panama - so it goes under names like ‘Turkey corn’, the new consumers thinking it came from the east, not the west.

Maize was especially valuable to those regions where wheat was not the grain of first recourse, where, for instance, rye and barley, or rice, had been adopted either for reasons of climate, or agricultural preference. Thus is it found on the margins: the north-eastern corner of Italy, or in northern Portugal and Galicia, the region of north western Spain around Santiago de Compostela, where the country is washed by Atlantic rain.

Broa is from north Portugal, the Galicians make a corn and barley bread. This broa is a hearty loaf, eat it with soups and stews and other strong-tasting foods. It can be made with finely ground cornmeal, or you can use polenta if something more crunchy is enjoyed. Although some recipes for cornbread suggest you make a porridge of corn and water - as if making polenta - before combining it with yeast and wheat flour, this method is more direct.

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  • 300 g/10 oz yellow cornmeal
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 25 g/¾ oz fresh yeast
  • 175 ml/6 fl oz tepid milk
  • 300 ml/10 fl oz tepid water
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 600 g/ lb unbleached white plain flour


  1. Mix the cornmeal with the salt. Cream the yeast in the milk and water and add to the cornmeal. Add the olive oil. Beat in the flour gradually until you have a pliable dough.
  2. Turn the dough on to a floured work surface and knead it for 5 minutes. Leave it to rise in a bowl covered with oiled clingfilm in a warm place (26°C/80°F) for about 1½ hours, until doubled in size.
  3. Turn out on to the lightly floured work surface and knock back vigorously. Form it into a large ball.
  4. Place the ball join side downwards on an oiled baking tray. Cover the dough with oiled clingfilm and leave it to prove in a warm place for about 1 hour, until it has doubled in size. Meanwhile, heat the oven to 190°C/375°C/gas 5.
  5. Bake the loaf for 35-45 minutes, until uniformly brown and sounding hollow when tapped on the bottom. Cool on a wire rack.