Sunday, January 31, 2010

Lefse, A Great Scandanavian Treat

As with all Norwegian-Americans, me and my family love lefse (pronounced lefsa).

Lefse tastes great and you can add any flavorful treat to it or simply eat it plain. Some like it with butter or butter and sugar on it, some wrap meats in it and some spread jelly or preserves on it and roll it up. Any way you go, your tastebuds will welcome lefse.

On the farm and usually in the fall, many of the ladies in the family and/or neighboring farms used to get together and cook up large batches of lefse and divide it up when it was done. It would be enough lefse to last several months for their families. It was also quite fun for the ladies.

In the old country, it is made often but now days in the US, it is mostly a holiday treat because it is a bit of work, espceially when you are serving quite a few people.

Lefse recipe:

4 cups riced potatoes
1/4 cup butter
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
2 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups flour

Peel the potatoes and cut them into at least 4 pieces. Place potatoes into a large pot of salt water and boil until tender.

Drain the water off of the potatoes. Rice the potatoes. Place 4 cups into another large bowl (don't smash them down into the cup when measuring).

Slice 1/4 cup butter into pats and add it to the potatoes. Stir a couple of times but don't mash into the potatoes so the butter mixes in. The next step is to allow your potatoes to cool completely. The potatoes should not be more than room temperature but cooler than that is even better. If you leave them in the refrigerator overnight really is best.

Once the potatoes are cooled, mix in whipping cream, flour, sugar and salt. Stir until the flour is mixed in evenly. Knead the dough about 10 times.

Now you need to make the patties for your lefse, keep in mind the size of your griddle. Place the mix on a cookie sheet and form into patties. Allow the patties rest for about 5 minutes before rolling. Now is the time to turn your griddle/lefse griddle on and set the temperature to 500 degrees.

Spread about 1 cup of flour into a circle on your rolling surface. Also sprinkle flour onto the surface between each lefse you roll to prevent sticking. You should also flour your rolling pin well.

Lay your patty in the center of the floured surface and gently roll it out so that is a small oval. Then turn the surface a bit or change the angle you are rolling it if you can not move the surface and roll it again. Continue this so that your lefse becomes round and until the size of lefse is what you are looking for.

Use the lefse stick to transfer the lefse from the surface to the lefse griddle. Just slide the stick gently under the lefse and run through the center until the stick is completely under the lefse. Use caution not to tear your left so it comes out beautiful. Place it on the griddle so it's nice and flat with no curled edges.

Cook for 30 seconds or so (the lefse should bubble a bit and the side on the griddle should be lightly browned in spots - not evenly). Then you need to flip the lefse to the other side with your lefse stick. The same process is used for this side. Place your lefse on a cooling rack when it is done so that it can cool. You can stack the lefsa about 10 high but should start a new stack at 10. This allows it to cool better.

Once the lefse is completely cooled, fold it as you would like to serve it. Most fold it in half, then half again. It can be stored in ziplock freezer bags. They will keep in the freezer for 6 months or more.

NOTE: If you have an older stove with a griddle in the top section of it, you can use that griddle rather than using a lefse griddle. In fact, any griddle will work but it will also control the size of your lefse. When using a large griddle, a clean, sharpened yardstick works well as a lefse stick.

It is usually recommended to use a rolling pin with large grooves that go around it to prevent sticking but you can also do it with a well floured, regular rolling pin.

Below is a video that explains making lefse. It's easy to follow. The video shows most of the mixing being done after the potatoes have been cooled. I have never tried it that way but it appears to work well.

Often done differently than the video and the above instructions, is the ricing of the potatoes. We have gone to simply mashing the potatoes because we didn't have a ricer available. Mashing works just as well as ricing. So if you don't have a ricer, you can still have great tasting lefse!

Lefse History

Lefse is a traditional soft Norwegian flatbread. Tjukklefse or tykklefse (thick lefse) is thicker, and often served with coffee as a cake. Lefse is made out of potato, milk or cream (or sometimes lard) and flour, and cooked on a griddle. Special tools are available for lefse baking, including long wooden turning sticks and special rolling pins with deep grooves.

There are significant regional variations in Norway in the way lefse is made and eaten, but it generally resembles a flatbread, although in many parts of Norway, especially Valdres, it is far thinner. In central Norway, a variation called tynnlefse (thin lefse) is made, which is rolled up with butter, sugar and cinnamon (or with butter and brown sugar), and eaten as a cake.

Potetlefse (potato lefse) is often used in place of a hot-dog bun and can be used to roll up sausages. This is also known as pølse med lompe in Norway, lompe being the "smaller-cousin" of the potato lefse.

In some parts of the United States, including Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, northern and central Iowa, Wisconsin, Oregon and Washington, lefse is available in grocery stores. One Minnesota tortilla factory makes a run of lefse once a month on its tortilla equipment.

There are many ways of flavoring lefse. The most common is adding butter to the lefse and rolling it up. In Norwegian, this is known as "lefse-klenning". Other options include adding cinnamon, or spreading jelly or lingonberries upon it. Scandinavian-American variations include rolling it with a thin layer of peanut butter and sugar, with butter and white or brown sugar, with butter and corn syrup, or with ham and eggs. Also quite good with beef, and other savory items, it is comparable to a thin tortilla. Lefse is a traditional accompanyment to lutefisk, and the fish is often rolled up in the lefse.

Many Norwegian-Americans eat lefse primarily around Thanksgiving and Christmas. Family members often gather to cook lefse as a group effort because the process is more enjoyable as a traditional holiday activity. This gathering also provides training to younger generations keeping the tradition alive.

The town of Starbuck, Minnesota, is the home of the world's largest lefse


Another variety, the Hardangerlefse (from Hardanger in Norway) is made from yeast risen Graham flour or a fine ground whole wheat flour (krotekaker). The dough is rolled with a conventional rolling pin (and much more flour) until it is thin and does not stick to the surface. It is then cut with a grooved rolling pin in perpendicular directions, cutting a grid into the dough which prevents it from creating air pockets as it cooks. The grid cut can also aid in thinner rolling of the lefse, as the ridges help preserve structural integrity. The lefse is cooked at high temperature (400F.) until browned, and then left to dry. It can also be freeze dried by repeatedly freezing and thawing.

Dried Hardangerlefse can be stored without refrigeration for six months or more, so long as it is kept dry. It is customarily thought that the bread (along with solefisk) was a staple on the seagoing voyages as far back as Viking times.

The wet lefse is dipped in water, and then placed within a towel which has also been dipped in water and wrung out. Many people maintain that dipping in salted or seawater enhances the flavor. The dry lefse regains its bread-like texture in about 60 minutes. Often that time is used to prepare ingredients such as eggs or herring which are wrapped in the lefse once it has softened.

History Source: Wikipedia

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