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Exploring Iceland’s Flourishing Bakery Culture

by Celia

In anticipation of my inaugural journey to Iceland in 2018, I embarked on my customary pre-travel ritual: conducting meticulous research on the country’s culinary delights. Amidst the anticipation of savoring the renowned Icelandic lamb and seafood, and indulging in local delicacies like skyr and pylsur (hot dogs), a friend introduced me to an unexpected gem: a cinnamon bun hailed as the best pastry she had ever tasted.

Melissa’s commendation, coupled with her refined palate cultivated from countless visits to Paris, piqued my curiosity. Thus, with a hint of skepticism, I ventured to Brauð & Co., a bakery renowned for its kanilsnúður (cinnamon buns).

Nestled on the sloping Frakkastígur (French Street) leading to Reykjavik’s iconic Hallgrímskirkja Church, Brauð’s flagship store exudes an inviting aroma of freshly baked goods. Amidst stacks of cinnamon buns, chocolate croissants, and rustic pretzels, bakers meticulously craft pliant heaps of dough—a testament to the artistry and dedication behind every pastry.

Since that initial encounter, I’ve discovered that Iceland boasts a vibrant bakery culture shaped by its rich history and abundant resources. Rooted in Scandinavian influences, Icelandic bakeries have evolved, leveraging local ingredients and traditional techniques to create culinary masterpieces.

At Brauð, Icelandic butter—crafted from pasture-raised cows—takes center stage, enhancing the flavor and texture of their delectable treats. According to Vidar Otto Brink, Brauð’s marketing and brand manager, the secret lies in the meticulous craftsmanship and dedication to quality. “It’s the best ingredients, handmade with no shortcuts,” Brink emphasized, underscoring Brauð’s commitment to excellence.

To fully immerse oneself in Iceland’s bakery scene, a culinary expedition through Reykjavik is essential. From the heavenly cardamom buns and vínarbrauð at BakaBaka to the artisanal breads and seasonal specialties at Sandholt, each bakery offers a unique gastronomic experience.

Bernhoftsbakari, Iceland’s oldest bakery, entices visitors with soft pretzels and elaborate cakes, while Hygge captivates with its inventive croissants and whimsical specials. Sweet Aurora, the country’s first French pâtisserie, elevates traditional French pastries with Icelandic ingredients, showcasing the fusion of culinary traditions.

After indulging in a carb-fueled adventure, a visit to the Blue Lagoon provides a serene conclusion, accompanied by the traditional Icelandic delicacy, kleinur. Ingi Friðriksson, director of food & beverage at Blue Lagoon, extols the virtues of these spiced, fried dough knots, crafted with Icelandic buttermilk—a cherished treat steeped in tradition and nostalgia.

Reflecting on my numerous returns to Iceland, I find solace in the familiarity of Friðriksson’s kleinurs, the vínarbrauð at BakaBaka, and the cinnamon buns at Brauð. Indeed, my devotion to Iceland’s baked goods resonates with many, evidenced by the countless requests for recipes and international shipments received by Brauð.

For now, however, the journey to Iceland remains an essential pilgrimage for enthusiasts of exceptional baked delights.

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