Photos and narration by Eygló Svala Arnarsdóttir.
Rúgbrauð, dark rye bread, is an inseparable part of Icelandic food culture. It is usually served with boiled fish, potatoes and turnips and smeared with a generous portion of butter.
Traditionally, rúgbrauð is seytt, boiled down on the stove or baked for hours at a low temperature in the ground near a hot spring area (or in the oven in a milk carton), which gives the bread its unmistakable dark color. In such recipes, no yeast is used.
However, rúgbrauð can also be made with yeast and baked at the same temperature as conventional breads, as in the following recipe, which is much simpler and quicker, although it doesn’t taste quite the same.
It comes from Helga Sigurdardóttir’s food bible on traditional Icelandic cuisine, Matur og drykkur. Heat 1 liter milk or skimmed milked and two deciliters of golden syrup in a casserole at a low temperature. Heat until the milk is comfortably hot for drinking—do not let it boil.
Approximately 20 grams of yeast are dissolved in 1 deciliter of water; otherwise it’s just poured into the casserole. Add two teaspoons salt, stir lightly and let the mixture rest for a few minutes.
Put one kilo rye flour, 400 grams of whole grain flour and 250 grams all-purpose flour into a bowl and mix them together. Then, little by little, pour the milk mixture into the bowl and stir until the dough has become too thick for stirring.
Sprinkle an additional 250 grams of flour onto a counter and then knead the dough until it is a firm and shiny ball. Divide into three bread-shaped rolls and put on a baking tray, or divide it into an appropriate number of buttered bread pans.
Cover with a kitchen towel and let it rest for one hour. Then bake for one to two hours at medium heat.
This multimedia slideshow was originally published in March, 2009.