Broa (cornbread) has always been part of my childhood memories: I remember my grandfather making it, just for us, when we came on holidays to Portugal, as a special treat. Broa hadn't been made on a weekly basis since over 30 years ago, when industrial bakeries took over the bread making tradition. The firewood oven became a deposit for junk and all the wooden utensils were put away.
Being in Viana for the month of August, I was determind to bake broa once again despite everyone opposing me with all sorts of arguments: you can't find cornflour; the oven it's working properly; it takes too long to heat; you don't know how to make it, etc.; etc.
I asked around for cornflour, tested the oven, cleaned out the utensils and convinced my aunt to help me out. The last time she baked broa was in fact over 30 years ago before she moved to Canada and had to make an effort to remember how it was made.
At local mill I bought cornflour (not the best quality) and the yeast came from a local bakery (the next time I'll use my homemade starter). We couldn't use the maceira, because it wasn't in very good conditions, so instead we mixed the dough in a large clay bowl used to season chouriços.
The oven heated very quickly and acelerated the bulk rise process.
Before baking broa, our grandfather would always bake bolinhas: small sized cornbread where he would mark small holes according to our age. So my aunt and I did the same!
These bolinhas are baked before the broa, when the oven is extremely hot and it doesn't require a closed oven door. They bake in about 10 minutes are are best eaten straight out of the oven.
My aunt shaped the broa herself and tossed each loaf very carefully into the oven which was then sealed with clay to in-hold the heat during the baking.
The loaves were removed from the oven only 1h30 later, distributed between my family that was so thankful for my persistence and, of course, my aunt and I were proud of our delicious accomplishment!