Icelandic Leaf Bread

With Christmas greetings from Guðrún J. Bachmann, Vísindasmiðjan, the University of Iceland.

Laufabrauð (Leaf bread), is a thin, round and crispy wheat cake or puff pastry that plays an important part in Icelandic Christmas. During the Advent time Icelandic families, relatives and friends, of all ages, gather to cut decorative patterns into the cakes and then fry them, where the children often learn from the elderly. The patterns are either cut by hand or created using a heavy brass roller; the specially made laufabrauðsjárn ("leaf bread iron").

Laufabrauð is an Icelandic delicacy and considered one of the most national dishes. A picture of it is on a unique round stamp issued by the Post office before Christmas 2007.
Currently, the Institute for Icelandic Studies is preparing the nomination of the Icelandic Laufabrauð tradition on the list UNESCO’s (the United nations) intangible cultural heritage.


There are many recipes for Laufabrauð, sometimes the flour is mixed with rye flour or whole wheat. Some people also like adding cumin to the recipe.  

1 kg of flour
30 g sugar
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
5-6 ml milk
1 tbsp. margarine
Frying fat as needed (e.g. tallow, Palmin coconut fat, deep-frying fat or horse fat)

Making the dough

  1. Mix the dry ingredients.  
  2. Bring the milk to a boil and melt the margarine in.  
  3. Add the milk and margarine mixture to the dry ingredients and mix well.  
  4. Knead into dough, make strips and keep under a damp cloth. This needs to be done quickly, as it is best to flatten the dough while it is still warm.
  5. Cut or pinch the dough off the roll and flatten thinly. Sprinkle with flour before flattening and apply flour to the rolling pin. It is considered a good flattening if you can read the headlines on a newspaper through the dough.
  6. Place a plate on top of the flattened dough and cut around it (each cake then being around 15-20 cm in diameter).

If the cakes need to be stored for some time before frying, stack them with baking paper in between each one, and store them in the fridge in a sealed plastic bag (no longer than 1-2 days).

Get the whole family together to cut decorative patterns into the cakes with the specially designed “leaf bread iron” or a knife, and then pick the cakes with the knife tip; if this is not done, bubbles may form in the cakes during frying.


  1. Heat the frying fat in a deep, wide saucepan. The fat is ready when it starts to evaporate.
  2. Put the cakes into the fat, one at a time. It is good to use a frying fork to turn them. Fry for a few seconds and then turn over. Make sure that the cakes do not break.
  3. When the cake is golden brown, it is placed on a thick layer of kitchen paper to let the fat drain from it (it is good to use newspapers and lay kitchen paper on top). Lightly press on top of each cake with a flat plate to make them smooth.
  4. Allow the cakes to cool completely, and store in a closed cookie tin. If puff pastry is stored in a cool and dry place, it can be stored for months.

Laufabrauð goes well with almost any food, traditionally with the Christmas and New Year's Eve dinner, both with and without butter.