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Bread of the Earth: Baking with Lava

Iceland’s Siggi Rafn Hilmarsson specializes in baking a hundreds-of-years-old variety of rye bread—by burying it in the dirt. Yup. For this bread, the oven is the island itself.

Iceland is an incredibly active tectonic hotspot full of volcanic hot springs. Hilmarsson prepares the dough—rye, flour, sugar, salt, baking powder and milk—the same way he learned from his mother and their ancestors. When he buries it in a pot, Mother Nature takes care of the rest. For best results, Hilmarsson recommends burying the pot 16 inches deep for 24 hours. He suggests enjoying it with fresh butter, friends and family, and anyone else who may be around.

There are some risks associated with this technique—if it rains, for example, the ground can cool and the bread won’t bake. For Hilmarsson, this is all part of the process.

“I could put it in the oven,” he says, “but this is much more fun.”

He’s right. When you live in a place where you can actually bake bread with the natural heat from hot springs, it’s worth some difficulty and occasional risk. He’s able to make about 70 loaves a week for his friends, community and the tourists who travel to learn about his famous rye. Most importantly, he’s having fun while carrying on an awesome legacy.

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