Broa de milho de Arcos de Valdevez
The Northern regions of Portugal have never been suitable for wheat growing, due to their high altitude and poor soil. Corn represented a valid alternative to wheat here, and in some farms of the Arcos de Valdevez municipality corn is still used – as it once was – to make broa de milho bread. To prepare the broa de milho four parts of corn and one of buckwheat must be stone milled, sifted and heaped into the wooden masseira (kneading trough). Water and salt is added and slowly and the corn flour is kneaded with a wooden spoon (this requires strong arms as it is very stiff). When the dough has a solid structure the masseria is closed and the dough is left for 30 minutes to rest. The buckwheat flour is then added together with a lump of starter, and after a short knead the dough is marked with the sign of the cross and left to rise for a couple of hours. To bake the bread, a stone oven is fired up with pine and broom wood (occasionally, but hardly ever, also eucalyptus). When it reaches the right temperature, the loaves (which have been shaped in terracotta bowls) are turned onto the oven floor and baked. The oven iron door is sealed with two long strands of bread dough, and when they turn brown the loaves are done. The crust is brown-gold, and the bread smells of toasted corn, warm yeast and caramel. Inside the crumb is solid, crumbly and has a faint yellow-grey color. This old-fashioned heavyweight bread, typical of Arcos de Valdevez, perfectly couples with sardelle or fried stockfish.