Iceland: Part 2/ Geothermal Baths and Icelandic Brown Bread (Rugbraud)

Deildartunguhrar Geothermal Spring- Borgarnes, Iceland

Late last winter, when we started to plan our trip to Iceland, the thought of soaking to our heart’s content in a hot thermal pool was the balm that got us through the dark days of the latest omicron wave. And here we finally were, peering into the largest thermal spring in Iceland at the Krauma Baths in Borgarnes, Iceland!

Krauma Thermal Baths is one hour from Reykjavik and next to one of Europe’s most powerful hot springs. With a temperature over 212 F; the water bubbles vigorously up from the earth. In the above picture, my intrepid travel buddy Carol is obscured by steam from the spring.

We walked up a path to the thermal baths and the gracious attendant ushered us into sleek contemporary changing rooms where we showered and changed into our suits. As an added treat, we had reserved fluffy white robes. There were several pools heated to different temperatures; around 39 C / 102F.

At the present moment, during the most recent heat waves and climate change woes, the thought of submerging my body into a hot tub, is not at all appealing! But, stepping outside in a wet bathing suit with an outside temperature of 50 Degrees and a stiff artic wind blowing, it was an amazing feeling to slowly sink into a hot thermal pool; all tension melting slowly away. This was not a touristy site; small groups of hardy North Europeans were enjoying tall glasses of frosty beer while soaking in the pools. After one sip of beer, I believe I would have drowned!

I did make somewhat of a thermal spa faux pas; I saw a smaller pool with no other guests in it and thought the privacy would be nice. I climbed in eagerly and then let out a bit of an uncouth yelp; the water was ice cold. I realized too late that this was the pool to use after exiting from the sauna!

Krauma is open year round; I love this picture of brave souls in the winter enjoying the hot springs! An image that is a good antidote to our current high temperatures!

After we soaked to our heart’s content, I mentioned to Carol that I believed I was “cooked” and ready to return to earth! Our next stop was to our lodging for the night, a charming unspoiled B&B nestled in the hillside; Hotel A, in nearby Kirkjubol, Iceland. We had a lovely dinner, more to come about this in the next blog. The next day at breakfast I noticed a dark brown bread on the bread board and added a slice to my plate along with fresh fruit, a bowl of skyr and smoked salmon. I spread the bread with fresh blueberry jam and it was delicious. The bread was hearty, slightly sweet and full of flavor. I asked the young desk clerk about the bread and he immediately looked it up online for me and printed a recipe. Originally Icelandic Brown Bread was steamed in a thermal pit overnight. When I returned home, I looked at several online recipes and decided to try a recipe from King Arthur Flour. Some recipes require baking the bread all day in a low oven or in a slow cooker. The King Arthur recipe called for 2 hours in the oven. I decided to try this method and modified the amount of sugar. I replaced the honey in the recipe with a small amount of Agave Nectar and used a smaller amount of dark molasses for flavor and color. And, the bread was very easy to make! The recipe calls for baking powder, baking soda and buttermilk and there is no yeast or rising time involved. The texture of the bread improves greatly after a day and was delicious sliced and toasted; spread either with butter or jam. The bread would also be lovely with smoked salmon and dill or other savory toppings.

ENJOY!!

Icelandic Brown Bread

Ingredients

  • 4 1/2 cups stoneground dark rye flour ( I used Bob’s Organic Flour)
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 cups buttermilk
  • 1/4 cup agave nectar
  • 1/8 cup molasses

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 325°F with a rack in the center position. 
  2. Weigh flour or measure it by gently spooning into a cup, then sweeping off any excess. 
  3. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, baking powder, and baking soda.
  4. In a separate bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, honey, and molasses.
  5. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients, stirring to combine.
  6. Transfer the batter to a lightly greased 9 inch loaf pan and smooth the top. Cover tightly with foil. 
  7. Bake the bread for 1 1/2 hours. Turn off the oven and remove the foil from the pan. Leave the loaf in the turned-off oven for another 15 minutes, then remove from the oven and turn out of the pan onto a cooling rack.
  8. Cool completely before slicing thinly and serving with butter or your favorite savory toppings.
  9. Store leftover bread tightly wrapped at room temperature for several days. Freeze for longer storage.

AND: Here is the “Tree of the Week“!

“How long do we have to wait for the Brown Bread??”

STAY COOL AND SAFE!

Author: Judith Dansker

Professional oboist and chamber musician- member of Hevreh Ensemble and Winds in the Wilderness, Professor of Oboe Hofstra University; observer of people, art and nature; passionate food and travel explorer.

2 thoughts on “Iceland: Part 2/ Geothermal Baths and Icelandic Brown Bread (Rugbraud)”

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