The most tactical bread ever
King Charles XII tried to invade Norway once before, in 1716. It did not go well, and part of this was that it was almost impossible to sustain the army.
To succeed the King figured out that provisions needed to be stored and transported out to the Army. This might seem like an obvious thing, but in that time it was a rather revolutionary idea. The common practise was to feed the army of what one could procure from the area it operated in.
The king decided of a sort of bread he had seen the Russians use. 1716 he ordered a series of testbakings to start in Uddevalla. They found out that they should use coarse flour. This is because too much flour was lost in sifting it, according to Field marshal Mörner, head of the baking.
The king was heavily involved in this on a personal basis and wrote several letters about how the bread was to be made, that only this bread and nothing else should be baked. and all sorts of things concerning the bread. As the war drew closer the baking of the bread was centred at Frösö redoubt in Jämtland under Majorgeneral Fitinghof. By the turn of the year 1717-1718 the stores in Jämtland held bread enough for 9000 men for nine months. Three years after the campaign it was reported that of the bread that was left only very small amounts had been damaged.
By the recipe of the king
The king wrote down how the bread should be baked. The translation below is made by me, and if it is a bit odd, I have tried to keep the feel and the way of the text, but cleared some things that was hard to translate directly.
Description of Sucaris bread how it should be rightly baked and dried
- It will be of ordinary well kneaded ad set to sour, as is usual here in the country, but the dough shall stand in sour 16 hours and for all becomes well sour.
- When the dough has stood and become well sour it is worked a lot, and flour kneaded well into, before it is made into bread.
- The dough is baked in long round or square loafs of 10 or 12 marks heavy/long and one hand breath hight, which is well baked through.
- The bread, after it is baked, stands and cool before it is cut small, at least 4, 6 or 8 days, so that the bread with less loss and more easy is cut
- When it has become cold and hard, it is first cut in slices and then in dices so big that when they are dried they should be 2-3 inches in cubic.
- Then these little cut dices is put into a warm enough oven, making sure it is not to hot, so that the bread is not burnt and the power of it dried away, which soon easily can happen in a very hot owen, being that when the bread is all burnt it is totally hurtful for the people, wherefore this must be taken into serious account, so that it is dried in a warn and not hot owen, and it must during the drying be often and readily stirred
- In this bread there is no salt, since the bread from that draws up moist and turns bad.
In the original there is sometimes alternative words added when the scriptclercs did not know exactly what the king had said. The reason being that they were terrified to write wrongly.
Now, I will let Victoria tell you all about how she went about making the bread.
Making bread, Viktoria Arvidsson
To make the Succariebread i used to different sources, both in Swedish,
I did not make as much as the recipes suggests, because that would be too much for this small experiment and I did not have the time to make such a big batch. Time was at the essence because the bread needs to rest a lot and for many days and then dry for many more.
I made one small batch and followed the suggestions on the sourdough package for the ratio of water and flour. That to was a time-saving part, I did not make the sourdough myself but bought it from the store. It was supposed to be a lot of flour in the dough so I poured in a lot and then some more, until I could not knead it with the spoon any more. Only three ingredients were used, sourdough, water and rye flour, the more coarse kind. No salt or anything else to make the bread taste something. Then after the kneading the bread had to rest for around 16 hours. The long rest makes the dough go sour and that makes the bread taste something at least.
After the rest the bread is shaped, I made it in to a small loaf like shape. Then it is baked for a long time in a rather low temperature, around 125 degrees Celsius. Because of the small size of my loaf the baking time was only 5 hours. After that the bread needed to rest again, preferably a week or more, for the bread to set and not crumble when cut in to pieces. My loaf rested for 7 days. After the long rest the bread was supposed to be cut in small cubes, easier said than done! If it was possible to cut it crumbled, if it was impossible to cut, you had to use more force. After a smaller bloodshed the bread was cut in pieces, though not in the neat 2×2 cm kind.
After that the bread pieces where ready for drying, I used a modern oven, because again it is faster and more convenient. The bread pieces were dried at a low temperature, around 60 degrees Celsius, for a long long time, until they were completely dry and where more similar to wood than bread. Now the bread is ready for storing and eating.
Before any attempt to eat the succariebread it must be soaked! Otherwise your teeth are at
risk. One source suggests soaking the bread in brandy, and because we are reenactors and want to try such experiements we tried, but the results were not so good. The bread took a really long time to get moist enough to chew and the brandy tasted rye after a while.
Then we tried grinding the bread in to crumbs and soaking it in vodka, more ordinary soldier-style, but still the bread took a long time soaking and the vodka
tasted rye. None of these methods where fast enough to make in a small break on a march.
But on the nest occasion out in the field with the succariebread there was hot liquid at our disposal, this was a more effective way of soaking the bread, the time needed was only one half of that needed in the liquor. I can imagine that letting the bread pieces boil with the rest of the food would be the most effective way to use the bread, and that way you get croutons in your soup 18th century style. Another way to consume the bread pieces is go around soaking them in your mouth, gently chewing, like candy, this can be done during work or marching to keep the hunger away.
Our daily bread
Despite the kings intentions of a breadbased campaign, the soldier did not only get succariebread to eat. The ration was, under good cirumstances, quite good.
In daily ration the soldier got:
- Bread; 6.3 hekto (1.3 lbs)
- Grits; 3 decilitre (1.2 cups) (probably barley, but it is not specified)
- Meat; 2,3 hekto (0.5 lbs)
- Also; Salt, Dricka (a kind of very weak beer.. think weak small beer), Vodka and tobacco.
They where also supposed to get 1.7 hekto (0.3 lbs) butter or pork, but this was very scarce so they usually received well under their allotment
This is actually what we usually eat when we are out. Frying up the meat (and an onion) then boiling the barely with the meat and the fat from it. Some salt (or broth if we have) and then its quite good and you keep for a long while. Mix in some Succariebread and you have it all!
Thank you Viktoria for supplementing your experiences to this article.