As religiously as I have been baking breads from various groups, I have had little time to post them on the blog. Somehow, I have fallen behind. So this time, I decided that I would somehow make it in time. Well, almost in time at least. This month with ‘We Knead to Bake‘ the bread of the month was a very simple Portuguese corn bread–Broa de Milho. Please do not assume it is the corn bread from the southern states of America. This bread is more like the Anandama bread from New England. It uses fine maize or corn flour ( not to be confused with corn starch) which gives it that lovely yellow colour and a crunchy texture.
I for one, am always tempted by any bread with has a little texture. So when this bread was announced, I knew I had to bake it at once. Of course, I did not have a ready stock of maize flour. So a quick run to the store and that was taken care of. The previous night, I had a dream, where in my dream all I did was slash bread. (strange dreams we bread lovers tend to have) I wonder what Freud would have had to say. In all that bread slashing dreams, the good thing is I realised that I was holding the blade all wrong. In my dream, I held it at an angle and gently slit open the surface. And I was ready to try this technique out on this bread.
The bread making process itself was simple enough. After letting the maize flour absorb the warm liquid, it was just a matter of kneading together all the other ingredients to make a soft slightly sticky dough. the dough felt silky and pliable, almost like the semolina dough. I was now excited. I love semolina bread and if this one was going to be anywhere close to that, I would have a winner on my hands. I am getting ahead of myself now. There was still work to be done.
I just lightly coated the dough in olive oil, covered it and left it to its own devices. While I cleared away the bowls, I was still slashing away at my imaginary bread. I was getting to be a real ninja at this. In an hour or so the dough was ready to be formed into a tight boule. In a short while I could test my skills. As the oven preheated, I picked out my razor blade and waited. The boule was now ready to test my skills. This was the moment. I would either really kill the bread or work with the ease I had displayed in my dreams.
I sprinkled a lot more of the maize flour on the surface. This would prevent stickiness and add a lovely crunch. Then it happened, as easily as it did in my dreams. The blade slid easily through the dough creating perfect slashes. As it began to open up I slid it into the oven. The bread baked into a lovely golden brown. The slashes had opened up just enough to let me peek at the insides. I knew I had a winner.
1 cup Fine yellow cornmeal
3/4 cup Very hot water
1/2 to 3/4 cups Warm milk
2 tsp Instant yeast
2 1/2 cups All-purpose flour
1 tsp Salt
1 tbsp Honey
1 tbsp Olive oil
Extra flour for dusting
- Put the cornmeal in a bowl and add the hot water to it. Mix together with a fork and then add 1/2 cup of the warm milk. The cornmeal will absorb the water and become a paste-like dough. Let it sit until the mixture cools a little and becomes lukewarm.
- From here you can knead by hand or machine. Put the cornmeal dough and all the remaining ingredients and mix and knead them together — by hand, mixer or bread machine — to form a smooth, slightly sticky dough. I used a stand mixer.
- Place the dough in an oiled bowl, and turn it around to coat well. Cover loosely and let it rise for about 1 1/2 to 2 hours until it is puffy.
- Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead it lightly a couple of times.
- Shape into a ball and place it on a parchment or lightly floured/ greased baking tray. Cover loosely and let it rise for about an hour till it looks quite puffed up.
- Just before baking, if you choose to, make 3 or 4 slashes about 1/4″ deep on the crust.
- Spritz the top lightly with water and bake the loaf at 230C (450F) for 10 minutes.
- Then turn down the heat to 200C (400F) and let it bake for about 15 to 20 minutes till it is done and golden brown in colour.
- Let it cool. Slice and serve with a hearty soup or simply toast it and crunch into it with a smear of butter.