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Traditional Icelandic Flatbread

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Traditional Icelandic Flatbread

Watch this audio slideshow on how flatbraud, traditional Icelandic flatbread—the oldest type of Icelandic bread—is made. Flatbread still enjoys widespread popularity in Iceland. It is usually served buttered and/or topped with hangikjöt (smoked lamb), smoked salmon or trout and plays a big part in the upcoming Thorrablót mid-winter festivals.

Photos and narration by Eygló Svala Arnarsdóttir.

Click here to download the slideshow.

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Flatbread (known as flatbraud or flatkökur in Icelandic) is the oldest type of Icelandic bread. The tradition of baking flatbread in Iceland dates back centuries—back to the settlement in 874 AD.

For a long time Icelandic households lacked stoves and so a pot was upturned on the fire to keep the heat in and the bread was baked on top of the embers of sheep dung, which—due to a lack of wood—was used for heating and cooking. Later a metal plate was introduced on which the bread was baked.

It is therefore also known as pottbraud (“pot bread”) or glódabraud (“ember bread”), describing the method of baking.

The original recipe is simple: rye and water. The rye was sometimes supplemented with Iceland moss (fjallagrös) because shortly after the settlement grain farming went out of practice in Iceland.

Flatbread still enjoys widespread popularity in Iceland and can be bought in every grocery store. It is usually served buttered and/or topped with hangikjöt (smoked lamb), smoked salmon or trout.

Flatbread plays a big part in the upcoming Thorrablót mid-winter festivals which will be held across Iceland throughout the month of Thorri, which begins on Husband’s Day, this year on January 21, and ends on Woman’s Day, this year on February 20.

Here is a recipe for flatbread from Uppskriftir Nönnu:

200 grams rye flour 100 grams whole wheat flour ½ teaspoon baking powder ½ teaspoon salt 250-300 milliliters boiling water

Combine the rye flour, whole wheat flour, baking powder and salt and mix together. Gradually add the boiling water until it is possible to knead a ball of dough which is smooth and void of cracks but doesn’t stick to the counter.

Knead the dough firmly and then divide it into pieces. Roll out the pieces until they are 2 millimeters thick. Use a plate the size of a hotplate to cut out round cakes. Pierce them with a fork to prevent air bubbles.

Heat the hotplate and bake each cake at a high temperature either directly on the plate or in an iron pan with a thick bottom until there are black spots on the side facing down. Then flip the cake and bake it on the other side.

As soon as the cakes are removed from the pan or hotplate, dip them quickly into lukewarm water and then stack them underneath a damp tablecloth, otherwise they will dry and harden.

Click here to read more about Icelandic bread and here to watch a slideshow on how laufabraud, the Icelandic Christmas bread is made.

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