Bread in Saxon Staffordshire
In Anglo-Saxon times, written records of bread making do not exist. Archaeological evidence shows that the main grains being used were Emmer wheat, Barley, Oats and Rye. Millet, peas and beans were also being grown and may have been used in bread making. Flax (Linseed) was also grown as a weaving fibre and to make the blue dye - woad. The seeds of this plant are often found in association with food remains.
Vikings from the same period of history and other people across northern Europe were making very similar types of bred to each other. This is shown in archaeological sited in Norway, Sweden, Germany and the Shetland Islands. The recipes for Viking Fladbrød and skårbrød are known and the recipe for what is now called Blaanda bread has also been worked out from archaeological evidence.
A bread called haverbread was recorded in Yorkshire and this may derive from the Norse for Hafrecreed – oat porridge. This is a thick oatcake cooked on a griddle.
These types of bread would have been the local food in Staffordshire and across northern Europe. Other bread would also have been baked, but finding evidence for that is difficult. It is clear that open fire cooking was common and many bread types would have been baked on iron griddles over an open fire. There are few ovens seen from this time, but it is thought that ovens would have been in common use and the evidence has been obliterated by modern developments and changes in land use.
A typical flatbread would be baked in the style of Blaanda bread.
• Mix wholemeal wheat and wholemeal barley flour in a bowl.
• Rub in a small amount of unsalted butter and add a spoonful of bruised flax seeds (brown linseed).
• Mix into a stiff dough using milk and yeast solution, or ale.
• Roll into small balls and flatted to give a flatbread that is 1cm deep and about 10-15cm wide.
• Rest the dough for 30 minutes to allow the dough to rise a little.
• Bake on a warm griddle (too hot will burn the outside and leave the centre uncooked).
To make a savoury bread, substitute the barley flour for rye flour. You can also use wheat and oat flour for a different texture.
The exact ingredients of bread in Saxon times would have varied depending upon what grain and other ingredients were available. Food resources were seasonal and when supplies ran out, alternatives would have to be used.