It is hard to believe that a piece of rye bread was the motivation for a stopover in Iceland. But this was no ordinary bread, it was cooked under sand in a place where the heat from the inside of the earth has pushed to the surface to create hot springs under the lake and the earth.
As we drove to the Laugarvatn Fontana spa and wellness centre we were dazzled by the winter scenery. Vast snow covered expanses of land, mountains in the distance, clutches of Icelandic horses huddled together around a bale of hay. The Laugarvtn Lake became visible and the clouds of steam from the hot springs could be seen from miles away.
There has been hot spring facilities on the site of Laugarvtn Fontana since the 1920’s when locals would come to soak in the hot springs. In 2011 the present building and pools were built in a modern style keeping the tradition of a sod covered flat roof.
Outdoor hot pools of differing temperatures are provided for soaking and are positioned beside the lake. A buffet provides a lunch and dinner of chef prepared, locally sourced food for visitors.
The Bread Tour is given each day at 2:30 to show how bread has been cooked in this area since the early 1860’s. The recipe used by Fontana is an old family recipe cooked by the family of the owner Siguröur Rafn Hilmarsson. He told me that it was cooked on special occasions and served with trout, salmon, lamb, herring and boiled eggs. We trudged down the black sand beach on the lake until we came to three mounds of sand, each with a stone on top, placed like a cherry on a sand sundae. Steam came up from the sand. Our bread guide, started digging with a shovel until he hit the buried treasure – a plastic wrapped large pot. He pulled it out and placed a new pot of rye dough into the hole, covered it with sand and made a rock tipped mound to mark the spot.
This rye bread dough had cooked under in the moist heat of the earth for 24 hours. He removed the wrap and we watched the bread emerge from the pot when back in the restaurant. Dark brown, steaming and moist, the bread was cut into pieces and we sampled our slices with butter.
The bread was warm and sweet tasting and had an extra taste of excellence being an ancient gift baked by the earth’s powerful heat.
I spoke to a guide whose tour had stopped to take the bread tour. She told me that rye flour began to be imported to Iceland only in the mid 1800’s and this is when the locals began to cook the bread under the earth only in places near hot springs
This was a taste of bread history with a difference. Thanks to the Laugarvatn Fontana for continuing the tradition and demonstrating lava baked rye bread.
Here is the recipe used to make the bread.
Hotspring baked rye-bread from Langarvatn Fontana
- 5 cups rye
- 2 cups flour
- 2 cups sugar
- 4 tsp.baking powder
- 1 tsp.salt
- 1 liter milk
- 250 ml.water
- Put the mixture into a bowl and mix together.
- Grease a pot with butter, so the bread will come out easily.
- Put the dough in the pot and wrap the pot thoroughly so the hotspring water won’t get in.
- Dig a hole in the boiling sand and leave the pot there for 24 hours.
For those bakers with no black boiling sand:
I cut this recipe in half and put the dough mixture in a greased metal mixing bowl and placed it in my slow cooker and added some water to create steam. I set the slow cooker for 4 hours. Here are photos of the results.