Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Bread from Birka

My apprentice sister Asa in Svarta was recently honored by being selected as a Laurel in the SCA. Since her persona is Viking, we wanted to be sure there were some Viking dishes in the food for her vigil.

(By the way, if you don't understand the above paragraph, contact me privately and I'll explain it more)

I turned to the book "An Early Meal" for inspiration, and found a recipe for "Bread from Birka".  The authors talk about flatbreads in general, and were specifically talking about foodstuffs found in the Birka area in this section of the book.

The recipe called for mixing pea puree with barley flour and salt and then baking it, either on a hot rock or in a frypan.  They also mention that many flatbreads made with barley and oats were found.

I tried the pea mixture, first cooking dried green peas into a puree, then mixing it with ground barley, salt and water.

 This is my flour mill.  It sounds like a jet engine.

This is the barley before it was ground.

And this is what it looked like after being run through the flour mill.

Next, I mixed the flour with the other ingredients.

I mixed it into a smooth dough and then, after letting it rest, rolled out an about one ounce ball into a flat, mostly roundish sort of shape, about a quarter inch thick.

 This is the rolled out flatbread.  Copious amounts of barley flour were needed to prevent sticking.

This is a sample after cooking.  As you can see, it broke apart.  It also did not taste very good.  

Since the taste was not pleasing to me, I decided to explore the barley/oats combination.  I ground up some steel cut oats to go with the barley, mixed up a dough containing 2 parts barley to one part oats added some salt and enough water to make a stiff dough.  I also added 1/8 teaspoon yeast, more for the flavor than any leavening I might get.

I parceled this dough out into 1 oz balls, rolled them out and stored them stacked with wax paper between them. 

At the event, I cooked the flatbreads on a butane stove using a cast iron comal.  I got this in a thrift store quite a while ago, there is no manufactures name, only the number '6' on the bottom.  

Here's a shot of me cooking the flatbreads.  It was a very hot day.

The bread come out very tasty, and many people enjoyed it.  While the challenges of working with low gluten flours without the benefits of modern additives to add structure to the dough was interesting, I'm not sure I'd repeat this, unless asked to do so.  I'm happier baking with wheat.