Viking Bread not Stone
Try as I might, I can’t find the history of this Viking Bread not Stone Age Bread.
The PBS special many years ago called it “Viking bread” and I instantly added to my “must make list.” What’s not to like, all those nuts and seeds?
Finally, I got around to it this year and found the recipe on google. All I remembered was that it was made entirely of seeds and nuts and an egg to bind it together. And it looked just like it did on TV, too. Except that I remember using one egg, and all of the recipes said 5 eggs! When you make it, you might want to experiment by starting with one and adding more if needed.
Making it is also incredibly easy. There is no cutting involved. All nuts and seeds are added whole. Then eggs, salt and olive oil and you’re done.
I love this bread. It is solid, dense and great for a snack, plain or with cheese. Or actually with peanut butter, in case you don’t have enough nuts with the bread! You can eat it plain or top it with pretty much anything. Since there is nothing sweet added to it, even jam or honey would work.
It would be great to carry as a travel snack or when hiking instead of an energy bar. It doesn’t get any more pure and natural than this. And obviously, it is gluten-free and lactose-free.
Some people refer to this as Nordic “Stone Age” Bread because it contains only ingredients that were available in the Stone Age.
But, given that it contains nuts and seeds not indigenous to Scandinavia, trade was obviously a requirement, so calling it Stone Age bread is not quite right since the Vikings didn’t start their raiding and trading until late in the 8th century when they became quite extraordinary traders with what became one of the largest trading routes in the world.
Viking Bread is all about Nuts and Seeds
So where did these ingredients come from – walnuts, almonds, flaxseed, sesame seeds, olive oil, sunflower seeds?
First, we follow the journeys first of the seeds and nuts, and then of the Vikings to see how they came together.
Like so many other things mentioned in previous posts, let’s start with the Fertile Valley. It was the original source of walnuts, almonds, flaxseed. In fact, humans first domesticated flax in the Fertile Crescent region. Humans of course spread them along the shores of the Mediterranean, along with the sesame seeds that came from African.
As we know, the ancient Romans loved desserts and particularly liked walnuts and almonds used in various ways, including eating them whole. These were all used by the ancient Romans in their sweets and are still used today in countries of the Mediterranean Sea. The difference is that in the Mediterranean, they use a lot of honey, making them sweet desserts. The Vikings forgot the sweet part.
Sesame seeds originated in India where it was the earliest plant to be used as a source of edible oil. And again, we know that the Romans used sesame seeds in their sweets.
The Maurading Vikings
And given where the Romans ventured and conquered, how far did those seeds and nuts go? Did they travel with them to England, where they might have been encountered by the Vikings with their first major raid in 1793 on the Holy Island of Lindisfarne just off the coast of Northern Britain?
The Viking as Traders
But the Vikings developed an extraordinary trading empire. Imagine the Vikings and their ships, going down the Volga and the Dneiper Rivers in Russia, all the way to the Black Sea, and even onto Constantinople and into Asia. They even occupied Normandy and southern Sicily.
In Turkey, Asia and Italy, they would have encountered all of these ingredients as well as the recipes that used them. So it is quite likely that they took them back to Viking land (Scandinavia) and some creative person who had not had the experience of eating the sweetened desserts of the Mediterranean, mixed them together with some eggs to hold them together. This would be more in keeping with their palate.
In the early 11thcentury, The decline of the Viking Age declined, and along with it the trade routes that formed the backbone of the Scandinavian and global economies started to come to an end.
The Sunflower Mystery
The last missing ingredient is sunflower seeds, which come from North America. When and how did they make it into Viking Bread? Did the Vikings come across the sunflowers as part of their trading empire that included America? Or did they get added in at some future time?
Bottom line is that we don’t know when these ingredients all came together to give us this tasty bread. I prefer the romance of thinking that it happened during the height of the Viking Age, between 700 and 100. Or it could have happened in a health food craze in the 1960s! Any Viking ancestors reading this can fill in the info, please!!
Recipe: Viking Bread
1 cup each of raw almonds, walnuts, flaxseed, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds and sesame seeds (or use half pecans and half walnuts)
1⁄3 cup olive oil
1 1⁄2 teaspoons kosher salt
5 eggs (As mentioned above, try with one egg. It should be enough to hold everything together, but not be goopy. If one egg is not enough, add as many as you think up to 5.)
Combine all nuts and seeds in a large bowl.
Mix salt, olive oil and eggs together in a bowl and add to seeds and nuts.
Stir well to combine.
Spoon into parchment-lined loaf pan; pressing down and flattening the top.
Bake at 325 F for one hour.
Slice and enjoy with any topping or dip.