The Joy of Cooking Lefse
My siblings, pictured below, enjoy the baking and cooking rituals taught to us by our parents and grandparents. My sister and I attended Northfield, Minnesota’s St. Olaf College, a Lutheran affiliated bastion of Scandinavians, so we were even more deeply imbued with Norwegian, Swedish, and Danish traditions than our family was. In fact, one of our college fight songs went this way:
“Lutefisk, lefse, rommegrot e sil; we come from St. Olaf, the college on the hill.”
These first four nouns represent traditional Scandinavian dishes. The fish (lutefisk and sil) are not favorites, but I like rommegrot (a kind of porridge) and I love lefse, the ‘potato tortilla’ of my heritage. My grandmothers and mother taught us how to make lefse each Christmas. We have continued the tradition. My sister schooled all her children and grandchildren on the art of making lefse, and one of my brothers continues the tradition.
I’ve had a five-year hiatus from lefse-making, but I yearned for the conviviality as well as the delicious product. So this year I invited a Scandinavian friend who regularly makes lefse and another couple who had never heard of the food. We drank wine and made lefse for an hour, followed by a feast of Swedish meatballs in gravy on noodles. I found out how much I had missed the art and the community effort around lefse-making. And I must say, our product was delicious, so good, I put the recipe below. Happy Holidays and Happy New Year to all!
A Scandinavian flatbread made out of potatoes
3 cups of dry potato flakes for mashed potatoes (Pillsbury, Hungry Jack, Signature)
3 cups water (boiled)
1 cup dry powdered milk
1 Tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. salt
1 stick butter
1 and ½ cups of flour (add the last 1/2 cup gradually…may not need it all)
Bring 3 cups of water to a boil and add 1 stick of butter. Stir until butter melts. Add to dry ingredients. Mix well. Cover and refrigerate overnight or about 6 hours. Add flour, mixing the dough until it is smooth and feels like playdough in texture. Shape into rounds the size of a small apple if you want large lefse; a large golf ball if you want small rounds.
Roll out (with a grooved roller) on a floured surface, turning dough frequently to keep from sticking. Roll as thin as you can without tearing the round.
Push a lefse stick under the middle of the round to lift it off the floured surface. Roll it onto the ungreased fryer. Wait until the raised grids get light brown. Turn…same with the other side.
Fold in fourths and pile cooked lefse under a clean cotton cloth to keep moist. Cool. Freeze or refrigerate. (I like them served warm with butter, sugar, and cinnamon. Ya sure you betcha!)