This recipe was an attempt to create a food that could have been eaten in the Viking Age. It was an exercise in experimental archaeology undertaken in the context of the Society for Creative Anachronism, Inc.

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Viking Barley Bagels: Unleavened Barley Buns

Copyright © 1993 Carolyn Priest-Dorman.


I designed these buns to enhance the Viking atmosphere at Dofinn-Hallr Morrisson's Laurel vigil at East Kingdom Twelfth Night, A.S. 26 (January 1993). The contents and proportions of the grains are based on analyses of buns found in ninth- and tenth-century graves at Birka, Sweden; the bagel shape is lifted directly from a Migration Era grave find, also Swedish. The technique I adapted from an unleavened barley bread recipe I found in The Tassajara Bread Book, which happily uses flour proportions very like the Viking ones.

The Recipe

In a heavy pan over medium-low heat, roast the barley flour in 1 T. of the oil until it smells good and turns several shades darker but is still off-white; flour should not turn brown. Mix barley and wheat flours with salt and remaining oil in a big bowl, using fingers to rub in oil, until it's of uniform consistency. Add the boiling water all at once and stir up quickly.

Being careful not to scald your hands, take out a small clump of dough and work it between hands until it's uniform, glossy and translucent. Repeat with rest of dough, then work it all together into one smooth lump.

Divide lump into into 24 smallish balls. Shape into bagels; poking a hole through the ball of dough works well. Arrange on oiled sheets (they won't rise much).

Let sit overnight. (Still look just the same, don't they?) Bake in 450 oven 20 minutes, then reduce to 400 and cook until "done," about another 45-60 minutes. They'll have hard, dark brown undersides. There is a fine line between gummy-undercooked and done-but-impossibly-hard; good luck finding it. I recommend testing one every five minutes after they've cooked an hour.

Let cool; if they're "done," they'll soften up a bit and be easier to chew. Slightly sweet and good with butter.

These were unexpectedly popular with people who aren't adventurous about food. Perhaps it was more than just the novelty that they enjoyed.

See this link for more information about food in the Viking Age.

This page was created on 10 April 1997 and last updated on 27 April 1988.

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