icelandic geothermal bread

The first time we ate Icelandic geothermal spring bread (hverabrauð) was at the Vogafjós Cowshed Cafe near Mývatn in the northeastern part of the island. As a hydrogeologist, I was, of course, absolutely fascinated. This bread is buried and baked amidst geothermal springs, taking advantage of the natural heat underneath Iceland as it roughrides the Mid-Atlantic Rift. The bread is mostly made of rye (although it doesn’t taste like it), is dense, and slightly sweet. It’s often accompanied by butter, jams, and smoked lamb. If the lamb is traditional, it’s poo-smoked lamb: lamb smoked in dried sheep dung (after the Vikings cleared the island’s forests for salt production, dried sheep dung was all that was left).

With the holidays upon us this year and relentless peer pressure to make something for the office holiday party, Thrillest sent me an email with a recipe for Icelandic geothermal bread. “Yes!” I yes’d myself. “I’m gonna make geothermal bread!”

The recipe is simple enough (see below), but getting rye flour is a BEAR. After checking three grocery stores, The Bride found some she bought from Amazon in our pantry for a recipe she ultimately didn’t make. So plan WAY in advance if you want to make this.

The recipe is amazingly easy: (1) Mix the ingredients. (2) Bury the mixture. (3) Come back 24 hours later. One problem: despite evidence of volcanic activity in our area (St. Edwards University sits on top of an ancient volcano), our backyard is not very geothermal. Thankfully, the recipe had an off-the-cuff oven alterative: bake at 200 (or so) for 12 hours.

There is no yeast, and therefore no rising. Mix and bake. The resulting “dough” is oddly soupy, soupy enough to worry me that something had to be wrong. And the 12 hours at 200 to 225 seemed hetchy since the geothermal version requires 24 hours at the same temp. But it all worked out beautifully! Trust the recipe.

My bread came out lighter in color (due to the rye flour), but had the appropriate consistency, heft, and taste. I plan to make more in the future and adjust the recipe (darker and seedier rye, all rye, brown sugar instead of sugar, molasses instead of sugar, less sugar, smaller pan, bake in the horno instead of the oven, bake in the instapot instead of the oven).

Ingredients:

• 4 cups rye flour
• 2 cups regular flour
• 2 cups sugar
• 4 teaspoons baking powder
• 1 teaspoon salt
• 1 liter milk

Directions:

1. Put the ingredients in a bowl and mix them together.

2. Grease a pot (I used a Dutch oven) with butter so the bread will come out easily.

3. Bake between 200 to 250 degrees Fahrenheit for 8 to 10 hours (I baked mine at 200 for 10 hours)

Notes:

  • The Spruce Eats uses brown sugar and molasses
  • The Toothsome Table uses cultured buttermilk and golden syrup
  • The Norwegian American uses all rye, buttermilk, and honey and molasses (and bakes for 2 hours)

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