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Broa - Portuguese corn bread (50% corn content)

Doc.Dough's picture

Broa - Portuguese corn bread (50% corn content)

A friend asked for some help with a recipe for a Portuguese corn bread known as broa, and the formula she had been given was not working for her and was producing hockey pucks.  So, having not made any corn bread for a long time I decided to try and figure out what it should be.

It turned out to be one of those on-line formulas that was probably never tested as written and was destined to produce pretty good hockey pucks if you followed it.  But it did give some history and I found some photos that were helpful but nothing that seemed to be really authoritative.

The recipe called for about equal weights of corn flour and AP flour but called for almost all of the water to be used to hydrate the corn and almost none allocated to the wheat flour component so there was never going to be any significant gluten development and thus it was going to become a hockey puck.  And there was no fat in it so it was going to quickly become a stale hockey puck.

But after a couple of iterations I got it to work pretty well.  The first issue was what to use for flour.  That was solved by using instant masa for the corn which is quite fine and does not leave you with a sandy/granular mouth feel, though if you don't add a fair amount of water and fat it will still be a hockey puck, and I went to a strong bread flour in place of AP so that I would have the potential capacity to carry the large load of corn without getting the hockey puck effect.

The second issue was process.  How to develop the gluten before incorporating the masa?  I was not sure it would be possible because of the large fraction of corn flour that was called for.  The solution was to use enough boiling water to saturate the masa and to include all of the salt with the masa.  This made the saltiness of the final bread just fine without inhibiting the yeast very much (since the corn does not get mixed in until the yeast is well established). The bread flour then gets some sugar, the IDY, and enough very warm water to yield a 100°F dough after it begins to mix.  I let it sit for 15 min to autolyse then mixed it at high speed long enough to develop the gluten but not to the point where it would not accept the hydrated masa, incorporating 6% solid fat in the process.  The fat would further stabilize the gluten and should improve crumb texture, mouth feel, and staling qualities of the bread.

Now the corn was added and mixed until it was fully incorporated.  The dough got sticky enough to stay on the side of the mixing bowl, but was easy to scrape off with a silicone scraper.  And it had a good degree of extensibility so I thought it would tolerate a short bulk fermentation to get some gas into the dough.

A 30 min BF followed by very gentle shaping into a boule and about 40 min of final proof (about 50% volume increase) was as much as I thought it could take.  So into the combi oven it went:  500°F for 15 min at high fan speed, followed by 15 min at low fan speed while it cooled down to 350°F.  At this point the core temperature was 205°F and I pulled it out to cool. I think that if you bake it in a conventional oven it will certainly take longer but getting it to brown first is important since the corn does not help much with crust color.

After 2 hrs to cool, it was time to test.  Contrary to the first round, this loaf sliced easily and the crumb texture is much more like a conventional loaf of wheat bread than a loaf of corn bread, even though by weight of ingredients there is about 50% corn masa in the mix. The flavor of the corn is totally dominant though you may want to personalize it by adjusting the amount of sugar. Photos below of the crust and the crumb illustrate the reality of iteration two.



202g  instant masa (corn flour)

12g    salt

260g  boiling water (for the masa)


207g  bread flour

28g    sugar

8g      instant dry yeast

168g  130°F water (for the wheat flour dough that contains the yeast)

24g    solid fat

In a bowl, mix the corn flour and salt; add boiling water and stir/fold until evenly moistened; cover and let sit about 30 minutes to fully hydrate. 

Stir together bread flour, sugar, and yeast. Add the 130°F water and mix until it forms a dough; let sit covered for 15 minutes. Mix until gluten is beginning to develop (~4-5 min), add solid fat and continue to mix until fully incorporated.  Add warm wet masa and continue to mix until the wheat flour dough and the corn flour dough are thoroughly combined (~5 min) [when it was fully combined the dough began to stick to the sides of the bowl but could be easily scraped off with a silicone spatula.  Using masa instead of corn meal and extra water make the dough soft and developing the gluten in the wheat flour dough before incorporating the masa assures that the gluten is strong enough to support a 50% corn fraction].

Turn dough out onto the counter and using a bench knife and a little flour to keep it from sticking, shape the dough into a ball about 5 inches in diameter and place in a lightly oiled bowl to bulk ferment.  Leave it covered for ~30 min, then turn it out and fold a few times to tighten up the boule and place it on a Teflon or non-stick pan that has been lightly greased or sprayed with Pam/oil.

Dust the top with rice flour and cover with a kitchen towel. 

Let rise in a warm, draft-free spot until the volume increases by about 50 percent, ~30 -40 min. 

Meanwhile, heat the oven to 500°F with a rack in the middle.  Slash just before oven entry.  There is a lot of yeast in this formulation, but there is also a lot of corn so don't expect a huge oven spring.

Bake the bread for 15 minutes at 500°F.  Reduce to 325°F and continue to bake until deep golden brown, another 15 (with convection) to 30 minutes (without).  Crumb temperature should be 202-210°F when it comes out of the oven.  It will rise another few degrees before it begins to cool just from thermal soak back.  Transfer the bread from the baking sheet to a wire rack and let cool completely, about 2 hours. 



yana's picture

I've recently been making cornbread and it also uses rough equal parts corn flour and AP, I guess the difference is that it's not leavened, and that you're using masa instead of polenta. Unfortunately I can't get masa where I live, so I'm tempted to try this with polenta.

Beautiful scoring pattern btw. How do you do it?

Doc.Dough's picture

The scoring is done with the most simple tool I can craft.  A Starbucks coffee stirrer with a Walmart double edged stainless razor blade sliped on the end. Do five slashes starting at the top center of the loaf.  Then put a half slash in between the longer slashes.

If you make it with polenta, be sure to almost fully develop the gluten in the wheat flour before you add the cooked cornmeal.  Otherwise you will never get the right texture. The end result is likely to be more granular and perhaps a little crunchy because of the coarseness of the corn.  And you probably have to adjust the ratio of wheat to corn, but a few trials should get you to a point you like. 

Be sure to post the result somewhere where we can see it.  It sounds like an interesting variation that should be in the repertoir.

yana's picture

I might try it next week, but probably with sourdough, and I still don't feel very confident about my sourdough skills, I can never quite get the volume and expansion that I want, so if it doesn't turn out well that might be to blame.

rpooley's picture

Perfect!  So glad I found this recipe as I got a request from a friend to make it.

So using regular store masa usually for tortillas is OK?  I do not mean masa harina.  Thanks.

Doc.Dough's picture

I see that this comment is from July 2020 so appologies for not picking it up sooner.

When you say "regular store masa" I trust you are referring to pre-mixed and bagged masa.  I don't know of any commercial market here in California that grinds masa direct from nixtmalized corn but there may be some Hispanic markets that do that.  If you want to try that, check with the folks that make it up as it may already contain some fat (perhaps even lard) which is OK but you will need to delete the fat in this formulation or at least adjust it as well as adjusting the liquid.  For this I did use masa harina straight out of the bag.

Sparkie's picture

I feel I had to add a comment.


Corn flour is just that corn reduced to flour in a mill. Just like wheat.

Corn Masa (flour)  is made with treated, (limed), corn kernals, or pre ground flour.

Corn Meal is a coarse ground kernal

Polenta is ground finer then meal but coarser then flour


THEN there is a precooked corn flour, for making empanadas . It is gelatinzed corn flour, dried, maybe reground (not sure). It has had the work done. I would believe it would work well in this recipe, but adjustments will be needed.


Please do correct or add to this I would love to hear about it. I hardly make Tex Mex or other Spanish foods, so I am no expert at all.  I found this recipe after buying corn flour to make Broa as seen on Milk Street.




Doc.Dough's picture

Thanks for the note.  When I went looking for "corn flour", everything I found was no finer than polenta. So since the particle size of masa is smaller than either plain corn meal or polenta, perhaps because it is ground wet, it became the best choice - and besides masa really carries the corn flavor, better (I think) than corn meal.  To get the texture right you have to have a quite fine corn flour.  It turns out that the original recipe was from Milk Street and apparently was never test baked from the published version so that was what I was trying to fix. I like the notion of using the pre-gelatinized empanada flour (the Mexican version of Tangzhong), but you will have to experiment to get the process flow to give you the gluten development you need to carry the corn without getting too wet (or too dry which will cause it to crack while proofing). As I remember the Milk Street formulation directs you to put the salt in with the wheat flour and the sugar in with the corn flour and that is very much backwards. Timing, temperature, hydration, gelatinization, gluten development, and proofing are all critical to making this work.  It is quite delicate but delicious and very aromatic.

Sparkie's picture

I thought all of their recipes were , like Betty Crocker, Kitchen tested, which like them or neigh, all work.

We will disagree on taste though, to me lyemed corn does not taste as good as regular ground sweet corn, or whatever Indian Head stone Ground meal is. I don't adore hot pepper, or nixtamated corn, and until about 5-6 years ago never would eat food with cilantro in it. The soapy taste was too much. So Tex mex was out, Mexican was out. But over time I got used to both. Still not a huge fan of overly hot dishes, and my innereds are happy for it.


Frankly I must be Mostly from Rome, not Sicily, (oh big bad, here, I don't like fish)  Lent was my worst time of year. till I was old enough to cheat.


We absolutely agree salt in the wheat, and sugar in the corn is a crazy way to do it, and I woulds have reversed it ! I did not know about the cracking situation with over wet products.  But my knowlege on bread is somewhat limited, blame it all on GGrandma from Sicily. She was amazing but a crazy lady, she would never gove a recipe, even to her Grandchildren. She could make any bread from ROMA SOUTH AS WELL AS COOKIES AND PASTRIES, (Famiglia business), but unless you were there everyday wathing and helping, she never ever told you her secrets. So my mom had great skills, and recipes, but not any bread baking, not cannoli, or any other pasteries.


gotta go

Sparkie's picture

I fergit, below is a treatise by Cooks Illustrated regarding the process. Massa Harina flour is Nixtamlated, not necc. gelatanised, P.A.N. flour is pre cooked/geletanized. (pan may also be Nxted as well, I don't remember!



Sparkie's picture



I finaly made it, pretty much what they said on Milk Street. I ditched the rye in favor of more white and added perhaps a tablespoon of white flour when measuring the cup'o'white flour. I did add a teaspoon of honey and a teaspoon and a half of white sugar to the water added (1/4 cup) I added my /4 of white flour (replaced the rye) to the water with the sugars. This rose a solid 1/2 hour but sadly it really did not pick up as much flavor as I was hoping for.  Oh I did add about a tble of butter and another of sunflower oil.

Next batch (2day or tomorrow) I will start my yeast way way earlier to get some extra taste as well as better rise, (more yeasty beasties).


At school Chef Munn taught us a cool trick or two of ryes, including what many here know and I thought I invented. Make a sour, independent of rise yeast. Rye flour is added to the dough much later as a flavor. I figured out many years ago when I was young and thin, rye can only do1 rise. (a big rise for volume). So I started to rise a dough hours before I needed to. Then to make the final dough, I kneaded rye in, and shaped and rose it once. WALLA.

I found years and years later, long after my gut grew and my hair stopped, that most German bakers(at least) make a saur, that ferments for 4 hours or so then they add rise yeast and away they go.

I also found out that after the first rise, the rye breaks down and the enzymes released will actually break my hard earned glutens!!!!


Oh and then of course I knew I invented nothing, I did good, but nothing new to the experienced bakers. I think their version works as shown, I will eventually add the rye. a batch or two from now. It actually makes a very nice sandwich loaf even as an oval or a round. I maybe eventually add an egg, or buttermilk, as well as more honey. And a touch more butter.

What is nice is it really is quick like a bunny to make. not fussy. I am used to making4-6 cup recipes and long multiple rises. My pain de Mie is really nice, in a Pullman loaf pan it is quite nice for sandwhiches. After making it for nearly 50 years I added 2 jumbo eggs,more sugar.  Wow different loaf, as expected closer to brioche.


Chef munn said Pumpernickel is rye bread with corn meal IN it, plus a little molasses. So I do not want that. But eventually who knows.


Thanks to you and others who all have helped.  It takes a village to raise a child and a bakery to raise a village!


gotta go and pitch some yeast.