Broa de Avintes
The secret of broa de Avintes is not only to be found in its complex preparation, but also in the quality of the region’s white corn and of the water of the local springs in northwestern Portugal. The preparation of broa de Avintes has a base of white corn flour and rye flour in equal parts. Spring or well water (65%) is brought to boil to warm up the flours, a process that is slowly carried out for an hour as the dough is stirred. This process helps the formation of starch and keeps the bread together. After it has been boiled, the dough is kneaded for another hour, until it sticks to the fingers. The dough is then covered with a cloth and left to rest for two hours. Yeast is added, made the previous day with corn flour, rye and water, and is briefly mixed to the dough and left to ferment for 20 – 30 minutes. The next phase is the shaping one: this is undoubtedly the most curious and complex of the entire process, a real show that highlights ability and synchronism among four people. The first person cuts a piece of dough and throws it to the next one, who catches it in a wooden bowl sprinkled with rye flour and stirs it several times to give it a round shape before throwing it to the next person. As the next person catches it in another wooden bowl coated with flour, they slowly turn it to give it a conical shape, then placing the broa over paddle from which it is put into the oven by a fourth person. It can take an hour just to place the 500 – 600 breads that are baked daily into the oven. The broa cooks in the oven for 3.5 – 4 hours. During the baking time, the oven iron door is closed and sealed with bread dough in order not to lose heat. As the broas are baked all together, they become tall and slightly squared, with a round top covered in flour and with dark cracks. The crumb is very dense and humid and yellow-brownish in color. Its deep and sweet flavor is a real pleasure for those who eat it. Corn milling was the main activity in Avintes during the 18th century, and this was carried out in the several mills distributed along the Febros River, although it seems that in this city bread production has a long history, dating back to the 12th century. As usual in Portugal, especially in Avintes, women were fundamental to the economic development of the baking activity. Today, however, industrial style baking has replaced artisanal traditions, so traditional products like broa de Avintes are found only in small quantities.