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This recipe is from the talented Gísli Matt, chef and owner of acclaimed Slippurinn in Vestmannaeyjar (the Westman Islands), Iceland. It is featured in his new cookbook Slippurinn - Recipes and Stories from Iceland, which can be purchased through Gísli Matt directly, or through Phaidon

As Iceland has traditionally lacked wood to fire an oven, bread is often steamed in casks buried under the ground near hot springs. Baking bread is still made this way and it’s called hverabrauð. Gísli does not have access to hot springs on Vestmannaeyjar, so he instead uses the geothermal energy of the volcano that erupted in 1973. His grandmother used to go to the lava fields and would dig a hole and bury the dough inside of a cardboard milk container. She would come back the next day and it would be ready. The temperature used to be much higher back then but there are still a few secret places on the volcano where it reaches to 140°C, and it's in these pockets of geothermal heat that he cooks his rúgbrauð.


  • 500 ml milk
  • 500 ml warm water (about 50°C /122°F)
  • 500 g sugar
  • 500 g all purpose flour
  • 1.5 kg rye flour
  • 3 Tbsp. Saltverk Flaky Sea Salt
  • 3 Tbsp. dry yeast

In a bowl, mix the milk, water and yeast and stir to activate the yeast.   Then add everything else and mix well together.  Divide the dough into two tin boxes, making sure not to fill up more than ⅔ of the way.

The perfect heating for cooking this bread is around 90°C (195°F) for 12 hours. If you are baking it in an oven (like most people will) it’s good to have water in the oven while baking to create steam.

Once cooked, remove the bread from the oven, take them out of the loaf pans and rest on a wire rack at least 1 hour before serving.

Makes 2 big loaves

Image courtesy of Gísli Matt, @gislimatt, and Gunnar Freyr Gunnarsson, @icelandic_explorer


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