Broa is a rustic Portuguese cornbread. Unlike more common Midwestern American cornbreads, which are leavened with baking powder or soda and fairly sweet, broa is yeast leavened and savory. It’s great with the addition of cranberries and made into small boules you can scatter about the celebratory table, so everyone can cut or tear off a hunk without waiting for it to be passed! No kneading (but a bit of advanced planning) required.
A rustic yeasted cornbread from Portugal, updated for American Thanksgiving by loading it with cranberries.
Makes two small boules. Can be easily doubled or more, but better to bake more of the smaller loaves, rather than fewer larger ones.
Add the water, yeast, and salt to a large bowl. Stir to dissolve. Add the cornmeal and flour, and stir until all of the flour is fully incorporated. It will be a moderately sticky, firm dough.
Cover the bowl with its lid, a plate, or plastic wrap (but don't seal - it'll just pop off anyway!), and let rise for about two hours. After the dough rises, then flattens out on top (it's ok if it collapses a bit), move it dough to the refrigerator at least overnight, and up to 10 days. A longer time in the fridge will develop more of a sourdough-type flavor. If you keep it in the fridge for a long time, you can seal the lid after two days.
90 minutes before baking
Take the dough out of the fridge. Cut it in half, dust it with flour, and shape into a ball by stretching the top and tucking the ends into the bottom middle. You want to form, but not tear, a "skin," on top.
Dust the dough balls with flour and pat them out until about 1/3 of an inch thick. Sprinkle them with cranberries, then sugar. There is a lot of leeway in the amount of sugar to add. I prefer just a light dusting, but if you like sweet, you can go up to about 2 Tbsp per loaf before it causes problems. Use a microplane to grate the zest of a clementine on each round.
Roll each up like a jelly roll, then shape into a ball again. Put each ball on a piece of parchment paper, cover with a dry towel, and set aside to rise for 90 minutes (they won't rise a lot. Don't worry).
45 minutes before baking
Prepare the oven. If you have a baking stone, put it in the oven. If not, try an upside-down cast iron skillet, a cast iron griddle, or unglazed ceramic or quarry tiles. If all else fails, just use a sheet pan, but you won't get quite the same results. If you aren't simultaneously roasting a turkey or some other thing that adds a lot humidity to the oven, also, add a metal loaf pan, roasting pan, or something similar. Preheat to 450 for 45 minutes for stone to absorb lots of heat (90 minutes of rise time total).
Uncover the bread, dust with cornmeal. Using a lame if you have one, or a sharp knife, give the bread a few slashes, about a 1/2 inch deep. Slide into the oven (use a pizza peel if you have one, the back of a sheet pan if you don't) and if you don't have a moist something else going, carefully pour about a cup of hot water into your waiting metal pan (it'll make a lot of steam very fast - keep your face back!). Quickly close the door, and bake for 18 minutes.
After 18 minutes, remove the parchment paper and rotate the loaves 180 degrees. Continue baking about 15 minutes (will vary widely based on your oven, stone, and what else is going on in the oven) until the crust is deep brown and the loaves sound hollow when you tap them on the bottom.`
Cool on a rack before slicing/tearing. Resist temptation - they're still baking during that time!