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If you ever go to Lisbon make sure you visit the restaurant upstairs at the Confeitaria Nacional. They serve good food at good prices in a sophisticated atmosphere. It’s simple food, admittedly – mostly heavy steaks and refreshing salads – but what makes it really worth it is the bread basket at the start of the meal. One bread in particular to be precise – Broa. The Broa at the Confeitaria has a distinctive moist, yet crumbly texture and a golden yellow hue that comes from the cornmeal¬†used to make it. It’s almost halfway between a bread and a cake (a definitional problem furthered by its sweetness). It seems to go well with anything – butter, honey, soup or even just by itself.

Recreating the recipe from scratch wasn’t the easiest thing in the world. In fact, even with fluent Portuguese help I couldn’t find a recipe online that would come close to the Confeitaria product. They were either far too cake-y (with an abundance of eggs – very Portuguese) or too savoury. My starting recipe was Priya’s Portuguese cornbread. It was okay, but it wasn’t what I was aiming for. It was too dense, not at all sweet and not very yellow. From there I looked into what makes bread tick – as an age old art form (sort of), there’s plenty of info about how to make a bread dough do what you want. This guide to bread making was particularly helpful. I still haven’t managed to crack the Confeitaria’s secret, but the recipe below is the closest approximation I could achieve without expert guidance.

Broa

Broa recipe
Ingredients (makes 1 loaf)
250g Plain flour
125g  Cornmeal (quite difficult to find in the UK РWaitrose might have it)
125ml Lukewarm water (2 parts nearly boiling to 1 part cold)
1 tbsp Active dry yest
1/2 tbsp Sugar (for yeast mixture)
3/4 tsp Salt
25g Butter
1 Egg (lightly beaten)
75g Sugar
40ml Milk

  1. Mix the yeast, sugar and salt with the lukewarm water and leave to the side for around 10 mins until a thick foam forms on the surface.
  2. Combine the flour, cornmeal and butter in a large bowl. Pour the yeast mixture in and knead to an elastic, non-stick dough. Add the extra sugar, egg and milk. Knead back to a nice dry dough (you may need to add a little bit more flour).
  3. Lightly coat the inside of the mixing bowl with olive oil, put the dough in the bowl and leave covered in a warm place to rise for one hour.
  4. Punch the dough down, transfer to a baking sheet (or loaf pan if you have one/want a perfect looking loaf) and leave to rise for another 30-45 minutes.
  5. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 190C.
  6. When the dough has doubled in size bake in the oven for around 30 mins. You can tell whether the bread is done if it sounds hollow when you tap the bottom.
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