“Carb Season”—or Christmas, or the winter holidays, or whatever you’d like to call it— is fast approaching. It’s time for laufabrauð, or Icelandic “leaf bread,” to do a Jesus-esque comeback and remind Icelandic homes that it is once again time for frantic consumerism and way too much family time.
Much tradition surrounds the making of these deep-fried bread disks. In December, families all around Iceland get together to make the thin cakes that are then sliced and carved with sometimes intricate patterns—think paper snowflakes—and deep-fried in sunflower oil or, more traditionally, lamb fat.
Though the patterns decorating the seasonal delicacy can resemble tree leaves, that is not the source of the bread’s name. The leaf bread is actually named after its thickness, or more appropriately, its thinness.
The first references to laufabrauð are from the 18th century, a time when the average Icelandic had very little access to flour, salt, or sugar, especially during the winter. Therefore, in order to stretch what they had the furthest they could—literally and figuratively—the Icelanders made the bread very thin so that they could cook as many leaf bread as possible. Truly, an incredible miracle of multiplication.
So if you’re in Iceland for the holidays and a foreigner, like me, make sure to drop in on your closest Icelandic family for a cooking session. From my research, I’ve found that the most important ingredient in laufabrauð is love and care.
Or just buy it at your local bakery.
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