Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Norwegian Lefse

To a certain extent our Christmas baking, at least the Norwegian part of it, is a mild Sequence. (If you are unaware of Sequences, you need to find a copy of Patrick McManus' book The Night the Bear Ate Goombaw and educate yourself.) We need 1/4 c. of Whole Milk to make Potato Cakes. Nobody sells milk in 1/4 c. containers, and so we are left with nearly a half gallon of milk that no one in this household will drink. So there is nothing to do but make Lefse with it.

What is Lefse, you ask? It's a Scandinavian tortilla that you fill with Salt Cod, potatoes and melted butter for Beitas on Christmas Eve. Or spread them with butter and dust with sugar like the potato cakes. Are you beginning to sense a theme here? You can do what you like with them, as long it involves Butter. You get bonus points if you include potatoes with the butter.

In order to make Lefse, you will need some special equipment, as follows:
  • A Lefse Grill--an oversized electric griddle. Lefse griddles are larger. They also have no sides.
  • A specialized rolling pin--the surface is carved into tiny squares. (mine is only parallel lines, not squares, but I can live with that.)
  • A Lefse Stick--Every Norwegian community seems to have stories floating around about Somebody's Great Grandmother using the stick out of the bottom of a roller shade when the real thing wasn't available.
  • Extra large new pizza boxes--Pizza boxes?! Of course. You have to store the Lefse in something when it's finished.

The recipe:
Four, Two and a stick. Well, that 's how I learned it anyway. Let me 'splain.

4 c. flour
2 c. whole milk
a stick of butter (this should be no surprise by now)

I should note that there is also Potato Lefse, but that's a different recipe. We'll do basics first.

Measure flour into a large bowl. In a heavy saucepan, heat milk and better until it begins to steam. Turn off heat and pour milk over flour. Mix with a spoon until combined and then knead with your hands until smooth. It will be very hot, so be careful. (Actually, this is my favorite part. By the time I make the Lefse, I've usually already done quite a lot and the heat feels good on my aching hands.) Form into a 13" log, wrap in plastic wrap and set aside.
Taking one inch at a time, roll out on a lightly floured surface with the Lefse rolling pin until you have a large circle (Much heated discussion has taken place over the merits of circle vs. square Lefse. Essentially, circles are prettier, but squares are more functional. Mine tend to look more like the continent of Africa.) You want it thin enough to be able to read through...almost. As you roll, alternate the direction of your motion, so that the pattern on the rolling pin goes every which way. You will also want to flip and re....

Oh, forget it. The only way you're going to learn how to do this properly is to come to my house and let me teach you. I'm pretty sure that if I haven't lost you yet, I certainly would when we got to the part about hanging it on the stick. And I'd never be able to digitally translate how to soak them.

Det blir alltid plass til ein velkommen gjest.
So when are you coming?


  1. I think I may be able to glean the proper technique if you just send me the finished product. Pizza boxes mail, right? :-P

  2. You know you can get whole milk in a 1 pint container at a convenience store. Usually sold as a 'chugger' or with the other individual size drinks, such as YooHoo, Quik and iced teas. But then you'd have no excuse to make Lefse!


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