uppskrift fyrir rúgbrauð/recipe for sweet icelandic rye bread

After my last post, I had a couple requests for my rúgbrauð recipe, so here it is, with the disclaimer that I’ve only made it once and there is undoubtedly room for improvement.  If you try it, make sure you leave a comment and let me know how it turned out!


Adapted from Almar Grímsson’s recipe,

with help from Nanna Rögnvaldardóttir’s Icelandic Food and Cookery



2 cups rye flour

2 cups whole wheat flour

2 cups white flour

3 tsp. active dry yeast

2 tsp. salt

2 tsp. baking soda

1 ½ cups molasses

4 cups buttermilk



Preheat oven to 350-375 (I did about 360).

Proof the yeast by adding it to 1/3 cup warm water and 1 tsp. white sugar. Stir until dissolved, then let sit about 10 minutes or until frothy.

Stir together flours, salt, and baking soda; set aside.

Blend together molasses and buttermilk; add yeast mixture and stir.

Gradually add dry ingredients to the buttermilk mixture, blending well by hand or with a stand mixer. Mixture will be fairly thin, more like a cake batter than a bread dough.

Pour batter into lightly greased pan(s). Find a large baking dish with sides at least 2 inches high that your pans will fit in (I used a 9×13). Place your pans in the large baking dish and put it in the oven. Use a pitcher or measuring glass to fill the baking dish about half full of water.

Bake, uncovered, for about an hour or until a knife inserted in the middle comes out clean. Run a knife around the edges to loosen, let sit for just a couple minutes, then turn over onto a cooling rack.


Note: this is the first time I made rúgbrauð, and it was a bit of an experiment, having to combine ingredients from one recipe with directions from another, but what I’ve written here is what I did and it turned out quite well. Playing around with the baking method and temperature may improve the results. I cut the above recipe in half and ended up with two short loaves (I filled two large loaf pans half-full); a full recipe would probably make 4 short loaves or 2 full ones.



One of my favorite Icelandic foods is rúgbrauð, a dense, dark rye bread sweetened with molasses (actually very similar to Boston brown bread).  Nothing better than a big slice smeared with smjör.  Mmm.  A couple weeks ago, a friend of mine gave me a recipe – but it was in Icelandic.  With the help of an Icelandic dictionary, I translated the ingredients, as well as enough of the directions to realize they weren’t going to work for me.  See, traditionally, rúgbrauð is baked by placing the dough in a covered container and burying it in the ground near a hot spring.  Unfortunately, my neighborhood is running low on hot springs, and since I didn’t feel like taking a road trip to Yellowstone just to make a loaf of bread, I decided to improvise.  I mixed up the dough more or less according to directions (substituting buttermilk for súrmjólk, a thin yogurt-like product unavailable here).  Then I poured it into two loaf pans, set those in a 9 x 13 casserole dish, and filled it halfway with water (I’ve heard that a water bath can help recreate the steaming process).  I totally guessed at the oven temperature and baking time, but miracle of miracles, it turned out, and it was actually really good!

I’d call that a success… notice the already half-eaten loaf in the background…

What Icelandic recipe should I tackle next?

Recap: Edible Oddities Consumed in Iceland, plus What’s On the Menu Next Time

Soon after I returned to the States, I joined some friends at my church’s family camp.  Everyone was excited to see me and hear stories from my trip, and apparently people had been reading my blog, because more than one person asked me about/applauded me for all the interesting (and often disgusting) foods I tried.  I think I have written about everything I tried, but they’re spread out over several blog entries, so I thought it might be interesting to compile the list now.  So, without further ado, I present to you the list of…

Edible Oddities I Consumed in Iceland

(Plus several non-oddities…)


Kjöt, Fiskur, og Egg (Meat, Fish, and Eggs)

  • puffin – Yes, the cute little black-and-white bird.  Can’t say I enjoyed it much; it’s very strong, almost gamey, and I wasn’t feeling well the day I ate it anyway, but if/when I marry Helgi, I suppose I’ll have to get used to it.

  • sviðasulta (sheep’s head jam) – This is what happens when you scrape out all the ooey gooey bits and pieces from inside a sheep’s head and smoosh it together into a gelatinous cube.  Just about as terrible as it sounds/looks.

  • harðfiskur – Unsalted fish, dried to a straw-like crisp in the sun and wind.

  • hákarl – The infamous putrefied Greenland shark.  (Disclaimer: I didn’t actually swallow it, but considering that Gordon Ramsay threw it up and Anthony Bourdain described it as the single worst food he’s ever eaten, I think that even keeping it in my mouth for 5 seconds counts as a success.)

  • horse meat sausage – I don’t think it was entirely horse meat; it actually tasted like lamb to me.  Anyway, I didn’t know it contained horse meat until after I had eaten it.  It was really quite good, although I’m still not much of a red meat person.

  • pylsa – Icelandic hot dog made with lamb, topped with crunchy fried onions, raw onions, ketchup, mustard, and remoulade.

  • lamb – I know this isn’t exactly an exotic food, but I don’t normally eat red meat and actually I don’t think I had ever eaten lamb before.
  • hangikjöt – Smoked lamb, thinly sliced and served with flatbrauð and smjör.  Not bad, but a little too smokey for my taste.
  • lax – I tried smoked and cured varieties, but they were both too raw for me.  I’ll stick to cooked smoked salmon.
  • this weird egg – I don’t remember what kind of bird this is from, but my host parents insisted they are SO much better than hen eggs.  That might be true, but I was too disturbed by the translucent white and the too-orange yolk to really register the taste.

  • súrsaðir hrútspungar – Soured ram’s testicles.  Actually one of the least heinous of the disgusting-sounding traditional foods.  Just a little sour.

  • fiskibollur – Like meatballs made of fish.  Not bad, not good.  I don’t think fish should be quite that chewy.
  • fiskbúðingur (fish pudding) – I could have translated the ingredients on the can (yes, it comes in a can), but I figured it was safer not to know.  It comes out of the can in one big cylinder, then is sliced and pan-fried.  Like the fiskibollur, it was a little too chewy for comfort…
  • steinbítur, ýsa, karfi, og meira fiskar – I ate a LOT of fish, and I didn’t always know what kind it was.  I do know that I loved the steinbítur and karfi, but found the monkfish rather questionable.


Brauð (Bread)

  • rúgbrauð – A dense, dark, sweet rye bread made with molasses.  One of my favorites.  I need to find a recipe.
  • pönnukökur – Icelandic pancakes.  Basically a crepe.  Served with rhubarb jam and whipped cream or simply with sugar. I need to attempt these at home.

  • hveitikökurFlat white bread, similar to pita bread.  I ate it for breakfast with smjör and cheese.  Mmm.
  • flatbrauð – Not sure how to describe this.  As the name suggests, it’s very flat, it has a mildly sweet taste, and it’s often paired with smjör and hangikjöt.


Sykur (Sugary Treats)

  • rababarasulta – Rhubarb jam.  I don’t usually like rhubarb jam in the States, but I think it’s the official jam of Iceland, and it’s very good.  Seems to be served with just about anything, from pönnukökur to meatballs.
  • hjónabandssæla (‘happy marriage cake’) – Oatmeal cake with jam filling.  I tried some from a bakarí in Reykjavík, enjoyed the one Ásta made in Hvolsvöllur, and ordered some on my flight home (the flight attendant was extremely impressed that I could pronounce it correctly).
  • hrísgrjónagrautur (rice pudding) – I tried three versions of this.  One was already prepared and just had to be heated on the stove; one was homemade by Hrafnhildur, and one came in a little individual-serving container with a side of caramel sauce (hrísmjólk með karamellusósu).  They were all magical.

  • Prince Polo bars – Okay, so they’re actually Polish, but they are well-loved in Iceland, and I can see why; they’re pretty tasty.  Too bad they’re made by Kraft.

  • skyr – A thick dairy product, similar to Greek yogurt.  Love love love it!

  • Nói Síríus chocolate – Yum yum, although I much prefer the dark varieties (which you have to find in the baking section; apparently your average Icelander thinks chocolate over 45% cacao content is not suitable for direct consumption).
  • black licorice – Eh.  I tried the sweet kind and the salty kind and the in-between kind and while it no longer makes me want to gag, it’s far from my favorite.


Drykkir (Drinks)

  • Icelandic moss tea –  Mild flavor; nothing too exciting.
  • kaffi kaffi kaffi – Mmm.  Icelanders don’t know what weak coffee is, and that’s exactly how it should be.
  • Egils appelsín (orange soda) – Not much of a soda drinker, but this was pretty good.  It was also good in combination with maltextrakt (the mix is known as jólaöl).


Although that is quite the list and I am certainly proud of it, I did miss out on a few important items of Icelandic cuisine.  Oh darn. Guess I’ll have to go back.


On the Menu for Next Time:

  • whale meat – I actually had the chance to try this but I didn’t take a piece in time and then it was all gone.  One of my few regrets.
  • svið (sheep’s head) – I could have tried this at our Taste of Iceland dinner, but I refrained, which was good, because as it turns out, our particular sheep’s heads had not been cooked…

  • ástarpungar – A round doughnut-like pastry with raisins.
  • brennivín – Icelandic schnapps.  The name literally means ‘burning wine.’
  • Icelandic moss soup – I don’t think this is exactly common dinner faire any more, but I’m assuming you can find it in some tourist-serving restaurants…

That’s all I can come up with.  Can you think of anything else I missed that I should add to my list?