bread – tastes

June 20, 2012

Another elusive part of the bread are the potential spices and herbs that could have been used to influence the taste of the bread. The finds from the period are fairly limited in this aspect and are more or less limited to flaxseeds, seeds of camelina and some additions of pulses to the flour. But as noted by Liselotte Bergström it is more or less impossible to identify minute additions of some herbs or seeds added for flavour. In traditional breads, both herbs and exotic spices has been used to flavour the bread, (e.g aniseed, fennelseeds, coriander, caraway).

Another strategy in 19th century Sweden to impart flavour to the bread were to store the yeast with some hops which would then impart its fragrance to the bread when it was baked. Although hops would have been rare during the Viking Age, the same strategy could perhaps be done with other herbs.


In several breads descriptions of bread from both from traditional and ancient sources, honey is mentioned to be part of the ingredients. According to Bergström this would also have been next to impossible to identify unless the honey was high in waxcontent. However, unless the bread was made for some exclusicve occasion, I would hold it unlikely that honey were used for bakeing in Scandinavia, as it was considered expensive and was imported from England and the Baltic area long into the medieval period.



The lack of finds from the Viking Age makes it difficult to reach any conclusions to good representative additions, and one would have to look both at what the existing breadfinds can tell as well as the local finds in general. For the Lejre breads I may go in two directions. In the first case I would like to aim for something a bit more festive, but without any added flavours beyond the cereals. In using malt this bread will have a sweet and sour touch to it which might work really well. If I on the other hand go for a more sour bread, most of the taste will be imparted from the sour dough and the use of whey as a baking liquid. However, and without any finds to support this interpretation, I would imagine that the addition of some ramsons to the latter would make the bread really nice and foody without stretching the Viking Age context to far.


4 Responses to “bread – tastes”

  1. Kathleen said

    If honey is scarce, how did mead become so associated with the Norse?

  2. eldrimner said

    Being scarce, made the use of it rather exclusive and as such it was a festive drink in Scandinavia. In medieval accounts one can see that it was generally far more expensive than the more common beer. In the sagas both beer and mead are mentioned although the mead seems to have a bit more mythical role…perhaps because of the festive connotations of the drink. However the strong association between mead and the Norse, mst likely stem from the 19th century movements which can be said to have tried to reenact old Norse feasts…and from which many of the more fanciful notions of the Viking age originates.

    Looking at the remains and written accounts I would hold it more likely that mead should be associated with the Baltic areas, and still in the 16th century Swedish authors mentions Poland as the place to get hold of the best mead.

  3. Daniel Schneider said

    Something to consider about hops as a flavouring is that if you’re brewing with hops and using barm for leavening, there’s going to be a *lot* of hops flavour in your bread. In my leavening experiments with modern (18th century) hopped homebrew, the barm made the bread so bitter that I stopped using fresh barm and switched to washing it before using it in bread-even washed, there’s hops flavour in the bread. This summer I’m going to try using barm from some beer using heather and/or juniper, and see how that works out.

  4. Daniel Schneider said

    oops! and due to the incomplete extraction you’d get with period mashing and sparging techniques, using spent malt in the dough would add a fair bit of sweetness

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