Since moving to Australia in 2004, Bo Bergstand has baked his own bread – a traditional Danish Dark Rye, just like home. While it was only for himself in the beginning, the extra time and boredom of COVID lockdowns had Bo baking bread for family and friends.
With some encouragement from loved ones, Bo took to Facebook to promote his bread and the community responded. Almost overnight, Bo had set up his business, Viking Bread, and he now supplies his home baked Danish Rye to customers in Ballarat, around Victoria, and several parts of Australia.
“It just took off. I knew five other Danish people in Ballarat but after I posted on Facebook, more emerged. I think during the lockdowns, people were online scrolling for anything new and different. This took their interest. I went from baking five loaves a week to 30.
“Plus, I home deliver, so that made it an appealing option during the lockdowns.”
There are several styles of rye bread readily available on supermarket shelves, however Bo feels most of them have been altered to cater to the Australian palate. Viking Bread makes no such concessions.
“It’s a family recipe that I’ve tweaked. I removed the wheat and use 100% rye meal. It makes for a darker, richer bread, that’s more like a meal than a snack.
“Because it’s made with a sourdough starter, it has a slight sour tang to it, which is another classic characteristic of Danish Rye.
“Finally, and most importantly, it’s packed with seeds. If it doesn’t have seeds, then it’s not a Danish Rye.”
Due to the dense nature of the bread, it’s easy to transport to all corners of Australia, with several “regular Vikings” now in South Australia, Cairns and across the Tasman.
“This style of bread requires 85% hydration, so it can be quite doughy if you eat it from straight the oven. Even professional bakers will recommend putting it in the fridge for two days before you have the first slice. That’s just enough time for it to travel to where it needs to go.
“It’s a long-lasting bread. I’ve kept a loaf in the fridge for two months. It dries out a little but the toaster fixes that. Plus, it takes on a slightly sweeter flavour when toasted, so that adds a whole new element to the bread.”
Nearly two years in operation, Bo has a range of products in regular supply, which includes a light rye, a walnut sourdough, and a light sourdough, which is one of the most popular styles of bread on the market right now.
“As well as being a little different, I think people enjoy the health benefits that come with these types of breads. They’re good for gut health, low GI, high in fibre and because I don’t use wheat in the dark rye, it’s good for people with a gluten intolerance.”
Of course, these are just happy coincidences for Bo, who chooses to eat this bread simply because it’s what he’s always known.
“It’s what I grew up on and it’s what I love. It makes me think of home – of a table laden with food. You have your bread and pile it up with spreads, cold meats, and cheeses, and enjoy it while gathered around with your family.
“We have a term in Danish, Hygge (pronounced “hoo-ga”) which means “coziness”. That’s what this bread represents for me.”
Bo appreciates the sudden success he’s experienced with Viking Bread, but at the core of it all, is the desire to just share good bread with people.
“This is a passion of mine. Its popularity was a pleasant surprise and I know, coming into winter, that I’ll be busy again because it’s comfort food. I want people to feel the hygge.”
For those just starting to venture into the world of rye bread, Bo recommends Viking’s light rye, and though he doesn’t believe in a Danish Rye without seeds, a seedless version can be made on request.
Deliveries are made to suburbs of Ballarat or postage can be arranged. Because of the slow nature of the baking process, orders take a minimum of 48 hours to complete.
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