If you’re not a good Norwegian, or don’t happen to live among the descendents of good Norwegian immigrants, you likely don’t know what the heck lefse is.
First of all, it’s pronounced like “lef-sa” or maybe more like “lef-seh.” It’s kind of like a cross between a tortilla and a crepe. Except it’s made primarily from potatoes.
Here, among Scandanavian-Americans, it’s often served around Thanksgiving and Christmas time, and is often made as a family tradition and in a large group because it can be a bit labor-intensive. This is what we do.
We get our lefse recipe from the book, The Last Word on Lefse by Gary Legwold.
I took these photos last year (some are even from the year before), intending to share them then, but things were so crazy last year around Christmas time that it just never happened. But it’s sort of funny to look back at my photos from last year. I think my photography has improved some. I hope. 🙂
Here’s what you need:
Potatoes (russet! don’t try to use another variety!), butter, flour, cream, sugar, salt, and hiding behind the potatoes is margarine. Why I didn’t notice last year that the margarine was completely hidden in this photo, I have no idea.
First off, peel your potatoes. The recipe we use calls for 3 cups of mashed potatoes, but we usually make a lot more. My mother-in-law figured out the other measurements for whatever amount of potatoes we end up with, and printed it out on a handy little sheet for us. Last year, I made a 5 lb bag. This year, since my sister and I were making one batch for both of us, we made a 10 lb bag. It’s a lot.
Dice the potatoes.
Boil them until just fork-tender. You really don’t want to overcook them, because then they’ll take on more water. And you really want your potatoes to be as dry as possible. Drain them well.
After they’re drained, you’ll need to rice them. For which you need a ricer, like the one above. And then after you rice them, you rice them again. This is to make sure that there are no lumps, which can’t really be done using other mashing methods.
Then you need to measure them. We keep ours in 1 cup blobs so we can easily see how many cups we have so we don’t lose track. It looks like last year I had about 6 cups. Which is weird, because this year with 10 lbs of potatoes, I had 17 cups. ha.
Melt the butter & margarine
and add it to the potatoes.
You’ll also add a little sugar and some salt,
and flour. Start with the minimum amount listed, then add more as needed. You’ll need to incorporate this well, without over-mixing to keep your dough tender. I find it works best to just use your hands.
Add as little flour as you can, just until the dough doesn’t stick to your hands. Keep the bulk in the refrigerator, and take out small amounts to roll and cook at a time for best results.
Good lefse makers have special tools for making lefse, including a large round griddle and special rolling pins. We’re not that fancy. So we use regular griddles and rolling pins, and we make lefse that is smaller. Traditional lefse is very large, usually around 14″ in diameter. It’s often cut when served. Ours are probably closer to 8″, and we don’t cut them. They’re “personal size.” They need to be rolled as thin as possible, using as little flour as possible to keep them from sticking. We use pastry cloths and rolling-pin socks to help with this.
Lefse is meant to be cooked at about 500° but our griddles only go to 400° so we just cook them as hot as we can.
When you put the lefse on the griddle, cook the first side for only 35-45 seconds, just until there’s a light singe and bubbles start to appear.
Use your lefse stick to turn it to the other side. Lefse sticks are long, thin sticks with one rounded edge and one flat edge, which makes them perfect for sliding underneath the lefse and moving it without causing damage.
Cook on the second side until you get a nice golden color. Like a tortilla.
If you need to, flip it once more to get nice color on the first side. Sometimes the edges cook faster and start to dry out. You can flip them up with the lefse stick so keep them from getting crunchy.
…our lefse looks like this.
We’re not professionals.
The real, Norwegian lefse makers make perfectly round lefse. Maybe someday…
When the lefse is finished cooking, they should be placed between two tea towels to cool a bit, so they don’t dry out.
Once they’re somewhat cool, fold them in half twice, and layer on top of each other with the edges facing inward. This will help the edges stay moist or even re-moisten if they’re a bit dry.
And now, for the best part.
To serve it, we like it spread with butter,
And generously sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar.
We may or may not have a sugar shaker completely dedicated to cinnamon sugar for lefse.
I plead the fifth.
Stick it in the microwave for about 15 seconds to warm it and get the sugar a little melty.
Oh, yum. Seriously.
My batch this year made 140 lefse. It doesn’t last long in the fridge, so we double bag it in ziplock bags with wax paper in between each lefse and freeze it. Then we eat it. All the time. We like to have it for dessert. My in-laws eat it for breakfast. I think I could eat it at every meal.
It’s certainly labor-intensive, but well worth the result. My sister-in-law’s family makes it using instant potatoes. I haven’t tried it yet, but I’m slightly skeptical because I can ALWAYS taste fake potatoes. But it was good enough for my mother-in-law to make it this year. It cuts down on the prep time significantly and you don’t have to rice the potatoes. But I like things from scratch, so I’m not sure if I’ll convert. 🙂
Here are the ingredients to the original recipe:
3 cups boiled and riced potatoes
1/4 cup melted margarine
1 Tbsp melted butter
1/2 tsp salt
1 Tbsp sugar
1/4 cup cream
1 1/4 to 1 1/2 cups flour (use the least amount possible)
Other people enjoy their lefse with brown sugar, or lingonberries, or even some savory things (like lutefisk). You can’t go wrong with lefse!