In the northern Portuguese city of Vila Nova de Gaia, Broa de Avintes (Avintes Cornbread) is bathed in mystery. The story of its appearance and its recipe is not well known and is part of something mysterious, being passed down from generation to generation.
Long before the 18th century, the Avintes area was renowned for milling cereal and breadmaking. During the reign of King Dinis, it was illegal to make bread in the city (to prevent fires), leading to the industry moving to Avintes. The story goes that, during the French invasions, Napoleon’s armies spared Avintes so that it could continue baking bread and the famous cornbread.
Without revealing the secret of this recipe, here are some of the basic ingredients required to make it. It usually takes 5–6 hours to bake in the oven, but at home it should be much quicker (around one hour).
1 250g White Cornflour
1 250g Yellow Cornflour
2 500g Rye Flour
100g Malt Flour
2 500ml Water
50g Raising Agent
Galician Cabbage Leaves
Salt to taste
Prepare the flour to which you will add hot water.
Add the salt to the water and heat to 45C.
Knead the dough and slowly add the water (add less water to make the dough more consistent).
Add the raising agent once the dough is well kneaded and continue to knead.
Leave for 30 minutes to rise.
Separate the dough and roll into 600-800g balls. Extend and knead with some rye flour to prevent it from sticking.
Place the dough on the Galician cabbage leaves and place on the baking tray.
Pre-heat the oven to 260C and bake for around one hour (don’t leave it in much longer or it will get very dry).
After removing it from the oven, place a cloth over it to retain the moisture and leave to cool.
You can dust the finished loaf with white flour if you like.
Photo: Pereira Lopes
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