Rúgbrauð – Icelandic Lava Bread


Dense and sweet, this rye bread is perfect with a cup of tea and tons of butter. # 94: Rúgbrauð – Icelandic Lava Bread



I’m having a serious take-me-back-to-Iceland moment. Endless waterfalls, hikes, horses and the best fish stew I’ve ever had. And this strange but yummy rye bread! We stopped off at a horse farm on the last day of our roadtrip and they offered us some fresh-baked lava bread. It was super close-textured and sweeter than expected.


It’s traditionally baked in the ground next to a hot spring, so the steam can cook it thoroughly. On an island with 130 volcanoes and countless hot springs, this baking technique is totally plausible. In my California kitchen? Not so much.

Luckily, I’m not the only person without a backyard hot spring who’s wanted to make this. Two of the alternate cooking methods are:

  • In a slowcooker on high heat (typically 300 F)
  • In an oven at a low temperature (275 F or 300 F)


I tried them both (mostly because of logistical issues: I couldn’t fit three ramekins into my slowcooker!) The most important part with either is the water bath to create the necessary steam.



This is Kristofer and he was in charge of overseeing the correct baking technique.



You are supposed to make this bread with dark rye flour, giving the loaf a deep rich color. I happened to have light rye on hand so I strayed from the recipe a little bit. Light rye doesn’t have the bran or germ in it so it creates paler loaves.


Molasses and brown sugar give it a lovely sweetness. They also helped to give it a darker caramel color in the absence of dark rye flour.


I was skeptical, but it all came together in the end. It was a very tough dough that didn’t enjoy being kneaded.



All tented and ready for a steam bath! I went for ramekins for a cute round shape. Next time, I’ll make it in a regular bread pan so it’s more easily sliced.



I was surprised that it didn’t fill out the gaps in the ramekins. They just stayed stubbornly the same weird shape that they were when I placed them in. I might omit a tiny bit of the flour next time so they are easier to shape.



They did rise though! The baking powder gave them the smallest bit of height while baking. They’re lack of yeast means that they are still endearingly stumpy, like Kristofer.



Happy munching!


PS – here’s an awesome video about the way it’s baked in Iceland!


Recipe from:

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