I have a deep love of traditional foods, recipes that have been handed down through generations and stood the test of time for good reason. Often served topped with smoked salmon or lamb, rúgbrauð is a classic Icelandic bread commonly found in cafes and homes throughout the country.
This is the perfect bread for non-bakers – no yeast, no kneading, just mix it all together. My Icelandic grandmother introduced me to some of her childhood favorites through the local Jólabasar, Christmas market, and Þorrablót, mid-winter festival. Open-faced rúgbrauð sandwiches are a staple and I knew I had to bake some myself when I found the impossibly simple recipe.
Back in the day, this dough used to be formed in empty milk cartons. The carton was buried near the natural hot springs and left all day to bake by the geothermal currents in the ground. Iceland has amazing renewable resources, with two-thirds of their energy coming from geothermal.
While the milk cartons have mostly been upgraded to sealed tins, quite a few families and some local cafes still bake their bread this way. The traditional origin leads to the long and slow baking time in an oven. It’s a labor of love for a day spent at home, or even better overnight so it’s fresh out of the oven for breakfast.
Rye has very little gluten compared to other flours, which produces the moist, dense texture. Modern recipes often include some whole wheat flour to make it a little softer and less crumbly.
For the full experience, rúgbrauð is truly delicious topped with smoked salmon or lamb, but I love it smeared thickly with butter.
Rúgbrauð Icelandic Rye Bread
- 2 1/3 cups dark rye flour (300 g)
- 1 cup whole wheat flour (120 g)
- 3 t. baking powder (14 g)
- 1/2 t. baking soda (3 g)
- 1 1/2 t. salt (3 g)
- 1 1/2 cups buttermilk (370 g)
- 3/4 cup golden syrup (250 g)
- Preheat oven to 200°F/93°C.
- Combine dry ingredients thoroughly.
- Slowly add buttermilk and syrup. Dough will be very wet and sticky; stir only until combined.
- Pour dough in a greased loaf pan and cover tightly with aluminum foil.
- Bake at 200°F/93°C for 8 hours.
- Turn the warm loaf onto a kitchen towel and wrap until cooled, so a hard crust doesn’t form.
- Slice thinly and serve with lots of butter.