Rúgbrauð (Icelandic dark rye bread)

icelandic bread 2 (8 of 10)

Did you know that rye is so easy to grow that in Washington it is classified as a Class C noxious weed?  That’s  because it pops up in fields where it hasn’t been planted.   Not surprisingly, its virtue lies in its ability to grow in marginal soil.  Think of some place like, well, Iceland.  Not only does it grow well there, but it is exceptionally nutritious as a result of the long periods of daylight in the short and cool summers.  So it makes sense that the Icelanders would bake and eat a lot of rye bread.  And while I’m not a big fan of what is considered “rye” bread   here in the States (such as the kind you would find in a Jewish deli, a sort of sourish white loaf with a wee bit of rye flour, a cornmeal coated crust and some caraway seed), I do love a dense brick of a Nordic style rye loaf every once in a while.  Therefore you can imagine when I found a recipe for a “geothermally baked 8 hour Icelandic dark rye bread” I was very excited.

This bread was originally baked in the ground for twelve hours using geothermal steams, but all of the modern recipes I’ve seen use the oven at low temperatures and bake it for many hours.  Making rye bread ideally requires a different technique than wheat or other flour breads, because there is very little gluten in rye, and it’s a different type of gluten, so the bread doesn’t rise like wheat bread.  The only gluten development is from the starch’s baking process in certain (low) temperatures.

What I love about this bread is not only its flavor and texture — it has a slightly sweet, molasses-ey undertone, and is super dense and moist — but also for its ease of preparation.  The dough takes less than 5 minutes to make, there’s no butter or yeast or kneading, and you stick it in a 200F oven when you go to bed, and 8 hours later, you’ve got dreamy hot steamy fresh bread!

Traditionally this type of bread is served with cured fish, potatoes, turnips and a smear of butter, but we had it with just butter and just nothing, and both of those ways were delicious too!  My husband went CRAZY for this bread, it’s a keeper.

icelandic bread (1 of 3)

The loaf initially rose to above the loaf pan level after 1/2 hour of baking, but in the morning it had “fallen” a little


icelandic bread (2 of 3)

icelandic bread (3 of 3)

icelandic bread 2 (6 of 10)

icelandic bread 2 (7 of 10)

icelandic bread 2 (10 of 10)

For two loaves:

Mix 3 cups of rye flour (preferably dark rye flour) with 1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour, 4 tsp. baking powder, 2 tsp salt, and 1 tsp baking soda.  Add 2 cups buttermilk, 1/2 cup honey (I used raw buckwheat honey) and 1/2 cup light maple syrup (the recipe originally called for “golden syrup”, which I did not want to use, nor did I want to substitute corn syrup), mix well and pour dough into two loaf pans.  Bake at 200F for 8 hours.  That’s it!

To all my friends at Fiesta Friday #42, thank you for coming and have a wonderful weekend!!!



48 Comments on “Rúgbrauð (Icelandic dark rye bread)

  1. Yes, this ICELANDIC RUGBRAUD was tremendously delicious…warm with butter and jam or as you arranged in photos with salmon etc. This bread is uniquely European and so good for the winter holidays. A very bold and dense Nordic loaf of “rugbraud” goodness!

    • Yes, as we agreed it is best eaten on a motorcycle when you’re wearing leiderhosen and yodeling while drinking beer

  2. Sue, I LOOVVEEE this!! And how interesting rye as a weed in Washington… neat! And how delicious with the salmon and capers! I’m drooling… and I’m definitely trying! My husband will probably go nuts for this bread too! Thanks so much for sharing! Happy Fiesta Friday! 😀

    • Thanks Tracy and you could scratch it by grinding your own rye berries into flour, same with the wheat for the wheat flour, making your own buttermilk simply by souring milk with lemon and voila! Scratched rye bread!

      • I like the way you think, Sue! A mill is on our wish-list so we can make our own flour! And buttermilk has been on the list to make for awhile! All together to make this amazing rye… sold! 🙂

  3. Now THAT looks like delicious bread! No wonder your husband loved it, who wouldn’t?! I need to do more bread-making. Perhaps I’ll start here! 🙂 Happy Fiesta Friday!

    • Thanks Steph and thank you also for hosting this week with one of my favorite people Tracy . . . you should start with a bread like this because it’s soooo easy!!!

      • Alright………. I think I’m convinced now because I love the word easy when it comes to bread!! Tracy’s one of my favs too!!!!

  4. Oh my you crack me up, motorcycle, lederhosen, LOL! Well this is serious bread, dense and delicious your photo’s are perfection and I think serving with smoked salmon is just how it should be. Beautiful Sue.

    • Thanks Suzanne, that comment thread is between me and husband! He likes to write funny things to me and then I write ridiculous things back. So glad to be at the party, now I’m going to wander around and see who’s here! Have a great weekend!

  5. This is gorgeous, love to learn new things on FF, and this bread certainly is new to me. Always love your pictures, how do you get your light so bright in the kitchen?

    • Hi Loretta, I take most of my photos on the dining room table that is surrounded by a wall of windows on one side and I put a black unused bookcase shelf behind my subjects! Ha! I shoot at about 8-11 in the morning in indirect natural light. Just got lucky with the house configuration!!!

      • I have the same set up Sue, loads of windows and natural light. But sometimes when I’m cooking at night, the pictures aren’t quite the same, so I tried messing with the ISO, aperture and shutter speed, and it did make a difference on my recent post, which was taken in the kitchen. Your pictures are lovely, Ive heard of a light background in the back, but I rather like your bookcase idea 🙂

  6. Rugbrød is a staple here in Denmark, though I have to admit, the only way I will eat it is in a smørrebrod, with loads of delicious toppings, my favorite being what you have up there: creme fraiche & lax 😀 Awesome that you made your own ryebread Sue! And your pictures are truly wonderful 🙂

    • Thank you! This bread is a little sweet so it tastes great with all kinds of things, and even nothing! It’s probably not as rye as the traditional, but I love it!!

  7. This sounds like a recipe we all should try. Pop in the oven and it is done 8 hours later. I use my bread machine a lot and hope to make some bread in a slow cooker (however Nancy told me hers did not turn out and you know what a good cook she is) but I am going to try anyways 🙂

  8. I made your delicious bread & loved it so much! Mmmmmmmm! Toasted it is greatvtoo, smeared with butter & local honey! 👍

  9. My goodness, geothermally baked 8 hour Icelandic dark rye bread sounds complicated 🙂 The bread looks amazing. I have to admit I don’t know much about rye breads but when I was in NY one morning we had a pumpernickel bagel. We had no idea what pumpernickel was (I was guessing it was some kind of weird fruit or vegetable) and so just 2 days ago we remembered and investigated about it. Yep, its a kind of rye bread. Perhaps one day I’ll be brave enough to make one 😉
    I’m still getting over this baking for 8 hours shock…

    • PS we asked the waitress what pumpernickel was and she had noooo idea, she just knew thats what it said on the menu and the bagel she had to give when someone asked about it, ugghhh…

    • Yes. Now this bread was easy and it’s totally my husband’s favorite…pretty dense though!!

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