Corn bread

Corn bread

Brao

By
From
Lisbon
Makes
1 loaf
Photographer
Steven Joyce

This bread, also called pão de milho, is a slightly sweet, firm bread, which goes well with both savoury and sweet dishes. It has a distinctive cracked crust, and once it is slightly stale, makes very good toast (or add it to a migas dish).

Don’t be tempted to tear into it while still hot – if you do so, a lot of the loaf’s moisture will escape as steam and it will dry out more quickly.

Ingredients

Quantity Ingredient
1 tablespoon active dry yeast
100ml tepid water
1 teaspoon sugar
350g fine cornmeal
500ml boiling water, plus more for the oven
2 teaspoons fine salt
400-500 strong white flour, plus more if needed

Method

  1. Activate the yeast by mixing it in a jug or bowl with the just-warm water and sugar. Leave to stand for 10 minutes – it should develop a frothy head.
  2. In a large heatproof bowl, mix the cornmeal with the boiling water and beat until smooth. Leave to cool until tepid, then add the salt, flour and the yeast mixture. You may need to add all the flour, or even slightly more, if you feel the mixture is too wet.
  3. If you have a stand mixer, fit it with the dough hook and knead the dough for around 5 minutes. Alternatively, turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead using floured hands. (It is easier in a mixer, as this dough can be quite sticky.) Place the dough into a clean, lightly oiled bowl and cover with cling film (plastic wrap). Leave in a warm place to rise for 1 hour, or until doubled in size.
  4. Tip the dough out of the bowl onto a floured surface and, with floured hands, knock it back gently. Shape into a round and dust with flour. Leave for 20 minutes or so while the oven heats up: set it to 220°C and place a pizza stone or upturned baking sheet inside to heat up, too.
  5. When ready to cook, boil the kettle. Place a small roasting tin in the bottom of the oven. Remove the stone or sheet from the oven and dust it liberally with flour. Slide the loaf onto the stone (a large fish slice is handy here) and return it to the oven. Working quickly, pour about 150 ml of the freshly boiled water into the hot roasting tin and close the oven door. (The steam from the water helps the loaf rise and develops the crust.)
  6. Bake for 35–40 minutes, until golden brown and cracked across the crust. To check, tap the base – it should sound hollow when tapped.
  7. Leave to cool on a wire rack before cutting into it.
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