Did you know that rye is so easy to grow that in Washington it is classified as a Class C noxious weed? That’s because it pops up in fields where it hasn’t been planted. Not surprisingly, its virtue lies in its ability to grow in marginal soil. Think of some place like, well, Iceland.
Not only does it grow well there, but it is exceptionally nutritious as a result of the long periods of daylight in the short and cool summers. So it makes sense that the Icelanders would bake and eat a lot of rye bread. And while I’m not a big fan of what is considered “rye” bread here in the States (such as the kind you would find in a Jewish deli, a sort of sourish white loaf with a wee bit of rye flour, a cornmeal coated crust and some caraway seed), I do love a dense brick of a Nordic style rye loaf every once in a while. Therefore you can imagine when I found a recipe for a “geothermally baked 8 hour Icelandic dark rye bread” I was very excited.
This bread was originally baked in the ground for twelve hours using geothermal steams, but all of the modern recipes I’ve seen use the oven at low temperatures and bake it for many hours. Making rye bread ideally requires a different technique than wheat or other flour breads, because there is very little gluten in rye, and it’s a different type of gluten, so the bread doesn’t rise like wheat bread. The only gluten development is from the starch’s baking process in certain (low) temperatures.
What I love about this bread is not only its flavor and texture — it has a slightly sweet, molasses-ey undertone, and is super dense and moist — but also for its ease of preparation. The dough takes less than 5 minutes to make, there’s no butter or yeast or kneading, and you stick it in a 200F oven when you go to bed, and 8 hours later, you’ve got dreamy hot steamy fresh bread!
Traditionally this type of bread is served with cured fish, potatoes, turnips and a smear of butter, but we had it with just butter and just nothing, and both of those ways were delicious too! My husband went CRAZY for this bread, it’s a keeper.
A delicious easy to make old recipe for Icelandic dark rye bread, which traditionally was baked in the earth and therefore known as “geothermal bread.” This version is for the home cook – the loaves bake while you sleep, 8 hours at 200 degrees!
- 3 cups of rye flour (preferably dark rye flour)
- 1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
- 4 tsp. baking powder
- 2 tsp salt
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 2 cups buttermilk
- 1/2 cup honey (I used raw buckwheat honey)
- 1/2 cup light maple syrup (the recipe originally called for “golden syrup”, which I did not want to use, nor did I want to substitute corn syrup)
- Mix together flours and other dry ingredients
- Form a well in the flour mixture and pour in buttermilk
- Add honey and maple syrup
- Mix together until dry ingredients are fully incorporated
- Pour into two loaf pans and bake at 200F for 8 hours
- Allow loaves to cool for at least 24 for hours before slicing into them
Try baking in one loaf pan – you will get a taller loaf, but you will need to cool for at least 32 hours before slicing. These loaves do not rise much therefore sometimes it is nice to have a bigger, taller loaf.
To all my friends at Fiesta Friday #42, thank you for coming and have a wonderful weekend!!!