Spud Sunday: The Lefse Challenge

So here goes round 2 of Project Food Blog. Needless to say, I’m hugely grateful for the round 1 votes that got me here. Voting for this round will happen between September 27th and 30th – here’s the handy voting link.

“But I’m not a paper-thin dough kind of girl…”, I protested.

Not that anybody was listening. I was just having one of those internal wrangles with my blog-self.

Still. There it was in 140 characters. A request from Imen for lefse.

Request for lefse

Of course I knew about lefse – the Norwegian potato flatbread – though I’d never eaten it. No great surprise there, given that I’d never been to either Norway or Minnesota, the two places it seemed you were most likely to find it. And I really did want to make lefse – it had been on my list for a long time. Long before Imen had asked.

Lefse

Longed-for Lefse

Except…

…managing the paper thin lefse dough seemed tricky. There was equipment involved. Pastry cloths and grooved rolling pins, lefse turning sticks and griddles, not to mention talk of a pastry sock. Pfft. The only socks I had were the ones I put on my feet.

I got the distinct feeling that it was the kind of thing you needed to learn by watching your Norwegian grandmother. And whaddya know, I didn’t have one of those either.

When I saw the process described as “chaos incarnated“, that had put the final nail in my lefse coffin. Until now, that is.

With a Project Food Blog challenge on my hands, it seemed as good a time as any to resurrect my lefse ambitions.

First, though, I was going to need a good long talk with my blog-self.

“Forget the equipment. The first lefse-makers didn’t have any special equipment”. True enough. I would do what I could with a rolling pin and pancake pan.

“It’s just a mashed potato dough. You’ve made gnocchi, you can make this.”

And, yes, as I set about making the lefse dough, it seemed to have much in common with gnocchi: with less flour better than more; soggy mash a friend to neither; and a grandmother of the appropriate nationality an advantage for both.

Lefse dough

Lefse dough, ready to roll

But making dough is one thing. Rolling it out and cooking it quite another. And in my quest for paper-thinness, the lefse stuck and they tore (and I cursed and I swore). They crumpled. I cried. They burned. I sighed.

But while paper-thin perfection proved elusive, it didn’t matter in the end. My lefse were just as thin as something spread with butter, sugar and cinnamon needed to be.

Lefse stack

Practice makes... a lot of lefse

  Print It

Lefse

Making lefse

This formula for lefse is based, among others, on the recipe found here, which seemed particularly helpful.

The Summary:

  • Makes around 30 x 20cm wide lefse & takes approx. 45 min to prep + several hours for the cooked potatoes to cool completely + 1 hour or more (not to mention a lot of practice) to roll out the dough and cook
You’ll need:
  • 1kg potatoes, preferably a floury variety (I used Irish Queens, in the U.S. try Russets)
  • 50g butter (approx. 3 tblsp)
  • 0.5 tsp salt (plus more for boiling the potatoes)
  • 100ml whipping cream
  • approx. 175g – 300g plain flour
You’ll also need:
  • I’d strongly recommend having a ricer for the potatoes. If you have lefse-making equipment, then use it, though you can use your regular rolling pin to roll the lefse out, use a ruler or other long, slim implement to lift and turn the lefse and, if you don’t have a griddle, then a cast iron frying pan or pancake pan will do the job.
The Mash Steps:
  • Peel your potatoes and cut into roughly even-sized slices, around 1-2cm thick. Rinse under cold water.
  • Bring about 1.25l of water to the boil in a saucepan, add about 1.5 tsp salt and the potato slices.
  • Bring the potatoes back to the boil, then reduce to a simmer. Simmer gently, covered, for around 12-15 minutes or until just fork-tender.
  • Drain the potatoes well and return to the saucepan. Then either let them sit, covered by a tea-towel, for about 5 minutes or place the pan over a low heat and stir gently for a minute or so while they dry out.
  • While the potatoes are drying, melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium-low heat.
  • Put the cooked and still warm potatoes through a potato ricer, then stir in the melted butter. Add the cream and salt and stir to combine.
  • Cover the bowl of mashed potatoes with a tea-towel and place in the fridge for several hours or overnight, allowing the potatoes to cool completely.
The Dough Steps:
  • When you’re ready to make the lefse dough, get your mashed potatoes and knead in about 175g plain flour, adding more flour if necessary to make a stiff dough that’s just slightly sticky and should hold together if you squeeze it.
  • Form the dough into small, evenly sized patties (about 3 tblsp of dough should be enough to make a 20cm wide lefse when it’s rolled out).
  • You can get ready to roll your first lefse now (and, meanwhile, keep the rest of the patties covered in the fridge).
  • Heat your griddle (to 500F if you have a temperature control) or place your ungreased stove top griddle or pan over a high heat.
  • Using a well-floured board, roll the lefse out as thinly as you can. Slide a turning stick or some other long, wide implement under the lefse, lift and transfer to the griddle or pan.
  • Cook for about 30 seconds or until the lefse has started to bubble and develop brown spots on the base. Flip the lefse over and cook briefly, just until the other side develops brown spots.
  • Remove and keep the lefse warm by covering with a towel while you get on with rolling and cooking the rest.
  • Eat warm with butter, sugar and cinnamon or allow to cool completely, fold in quarters and freeze until you’re ready to use them.
The Variations:
  • You can add a tsp or two of sugar to the mashed potato – many recipes do – or you can replace the cream with additional butter.
R☆51
Comments
  • Hi Aoife, Your lefse looks fantastic!! Please freeze a little for me and share when we meet next. Yum, so glad you tried your hand at it….did you likey? x

  • Hey Imen – yes I did likey. I likied a lot :) Have some frozen so will share when we next meet!

  • […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Daily Spud, imenm. imenm said: Love this from Aoife-long live lefse! RT @dailyspud Spud Sunday: The Lefse Challenge – http://is.gd/fuiX2 […]

  • You are a master! I have had lefse and had already decided it was impossible to make and I never even attempted. You are a fearless competitor and well deserved of a spot in the next round. GREG

  • You and your turmoil w/your inner blog self. Hee! I love those little guys–and good for you for not going out and buying some crazy specialty equipment! Good luck in Round 2, DS! :)

  • That’s a totally perfect classic for you to feature for sure! The lefse looks terrific, definitely a winning entry!

  • sippitysup: Thanks Greg! Maybe it was just as well that I had never had lefse, otherwise I might have decided that it was impossible to make myself :)

    Jenni: well, I know how you feel about not going overboard on crazy speciality equipment and such :D Good luck in round 2 yourself, I’ll be rooting for ya!

    Natasha: Thank you! Of course I had to go with something that involved potatoes, how could I not ? :)

  • I am so glad to see a post about something that is european. good job, lovely photographs.

  • Perfect!! I have a Norway obsession and this sounds like something I really need to make. Awesome job and good luck!! :)

  • Wow. I’ve never even heard of this flatbread until this post. I LOVE this PFB. I’m learning so many new things, and meeting so many new cool people like you. I’ve actually always been intimidated by bread dough, and to pull this off is impressive!

  • maybelles mom: thank you so much – I was guessing that there wouldn’t be too many Norwegian entries for PFB round 2 alright :)

    Sues: if you have a Norway obsession, m’dear, then clearly this is something you need to try :D

    sophia: Thanks! Reading other blogs has always been such a great way to find both cool new food and cool new people but PFB just takes that up to another level entirely :)

  • This is a first I’ve heard of these. Mmmm…Definitely something I should try. :)

    Voted for you :)

  • Can’t say I know much about Norwegian cooking, but this look great!

  • As a Norwegian who has eaten a lot of lefse, I must say I’m really impressed! You did quite well without the equipment.
    It’s not that easy to pull off!
    You should try lefse with cooked and mashed apples with sugar and cinnamon. Fantastic!
    And again, congratulations with making lefse. You could certainly serve me :)

    Stine :)

  • Being half Norwegian, I LOVE lefse and am so glad to see lefse as an entry! Great post about it. I’ve heard how difficult it is to make and am glad you succeeded. Good luck! :-)

  • So interesting…I’ve never heard of lefse. I learned a lot by your post. You’ve got one of my votes…best wishes!

  • jenn: Thank you! Definitely something you should try if you ever come across them :)

    janet: to be honest, I don’t know much about Norwegian cooking myself other than this, but if lefse is anything to go by, I should investigate more :)

    Stine: Wow, coming from a native Norwegian that means a lot – thank you! And I can absolutely see how good these would be with cooked and mashed apples – I will definitely have to give that a try.

    Rebecca: thanks so much – I’m glad I took it on, even though I must admit I was a bit nervous about doing it!

    Brandie: very glad to have brought you something new and sincerely appreciative of your vote too :)

  • I was so excited to see your post! I too, am half Norwegian. My second cousin Roger, from Minnesota of course, sends it every Christmas. Our family tradition is lefse with butter and sugar, no cinnamon. The butter has to cover every square inch. Thanks!

  • I think I could perhaps convince my wife to eat one these. Perhaps even a dozen. Wonderful post, Aoife. Bravo!

  • You MUST get a lefse rolling board – no need for a sock! It’s a round cloth-covered board that you coat w/ flour between each round and you will have no sticking and your lefse will never be tough. I use mine and if I could use my 100+ yr old grandma’s I would have — my 80+ yr old aunt’s still using it! We have made lefse in our family for 100s of years and the tradition goes on. Thanks for sharing and resurrecting this fantastic food. GO NORSKE! (to find the round, go to lefsetime.com – a great store in Fountain City, WI)

  • This post made me instantly hungry.

    I’ve been making lefse since I was tiny which I guess is no surprise since I’m from Minnesota and half Norwegian. :)

  • I’ve never heard of anyone wishing for a Norwegian grandmother, but I’ll roll with it. I had no idea this bread even existed, so I’m pretty stoked to do it. I would have butchered a bunch of it as well despite the fact that I bake a lot. You’re right though–they didn’t have special tools back in the day, and as long as it holds cinnamon and sugar, who cares?

  • So, I’m from Minnesota and LOVE that you did lefse! I’ll have to give your recipe a try! There is definitely not much lefse to be found here in Japan… You got my vote!

  • Ben: *bows graciously* – thank you sir!

    Aletta: Thanks so much for the info – glad you liked the post! Having gone through that effort first time ’round, I would be very tempted to get a lefse board – wonder if they ship overseas? :)

    Ashley: you are indeed a prime lefse-loving candidate alright :) thanks for stopping by!

    baking barrister: absolutely – any vehicle for sugar and cinnamon has got to be good :)

    Tokyo Terrace: Thank you! Bizarrely, I now want to visit Minnesota just for the lefse experience. I think the whole experience might have gone to my head :D

  • So you did this recipe on a dare? That makes it that much more impressive. You’ve got our vote! Can’t wait to see what’s next.

    Lick My Spoon

  • WOW! I’m impressed, you had me at lefse! Thanks for stopping by my blog. I’m a new follower, thanks to PFB. There’s just so many great ones out there and you’re one of them! Well done!

  • I love the step-by-step pictures – really captured your experience. I can’t believe how thin you got the lefse! Looks delicious and best of luck getting to the next round.

  • lickmyspoon: I’m still trying to settle on exactly what I’d do for the next round if I get through – it’s a bit of a muddle still (eek!) – will have to see what I can pull out of the bag if it happens!

    jun: so happy to have found your blog too – PFB just makes me want to spend all day reading new, cool and interesting blogs!

    serena: Thanks and best of luck to you too! I’m now wondering if I shouldn’t have just gone ahead and included some pictures of the little lefse disasters on the way – all part of the experience too :)

  • Yum!

  • WOW. They look gorgeous. And never mind that they weren’t as thin as you wanted. I’m sure they were better with a bit of dough-meat on them :)

  • Being Norwegian I always get a bit fascinated about people who are fascinated about Norway, but on the other hand it really should not be any different liking Norwegian cooking than it is strange that I had french onion soup for dinner today.

    And lefse surely is one of the greater outcomes of this country. It seems that you mastered the challenge greatly! Your lefse is thin like my grandmas, and thats something I never managed.

  • I love lefse!!! My boyfriend is Norwegian and he makes it a little differently, but it is definitely a classic dish. Scandinavians have been making it forever, and it is a challenging task if you attempt it for the first time. Great job, good luck! :)

  • Sarah: my thoughts exactly :)

    aoife mc: oh they were still good alright – which is just as well, seeing as I needed to eat quite a lot of them, to make sure they were ok, you understand :D

    Mari: I guess that it’s just that much more of a surprise when someone takes on a Norwegian dish because it’s not so well known outside of its country of origin (unlike french onion soup). In any case, I take it as high praise that my lefse were thin like your Grandma’s!

    The Cilantropist: Thank you – I think I’m only fully appreciating now both (a) what lefse means to Scandanavians and (b) the respect given to good lefse makers. It’s been a real education!

  • Gorgeous post and a great story. I’ll have to try Lefse one of these days, but first I’ll be trying more Irish recipes. So glad I found your site through PFB. Voted for you. Good luck!

  • Love it! You get a vote from me!

  • Gina: So happy to have found you and your blog! I’m looking forward to expanding my repertoire of Mexican potato recipes already :)

    Julie: thank you so much!

  • I love how you managed to stay true to your Spudly self and still make something unfamiliar! Too bad I’m heading out of Minnesota before you could visit – we’d have emptied the state of lefse! (But I hope you’ll continue reading The Heavy Table – such an excellent online ‘zine for Minnesota and Midwestern culinary stories!)

    Congratulations on moving forward in Project Food Blog – I’m rooting for you to go all the way! Just voted!

  • My great grandparents were *VERY* Norwegian and growing up it just wasn’t the holidays without a big batch of lefse. To this day, it’s the only food I request my mom make for Thanksgiving and Christmas. I hate making it. It truly is the world’s most frustrating food to make and I avoided learning how to make it for years and years. A few tricks though: you can use instant mashed potatoes with some flour mixed in (really!), cheesecloth is your best friend (both for rolling on and putting over the rolling pin), and using an electric pan works best.

    Mmmmmm, lefse. My mouth is watering just thinking about it right now!

  • I’ve never heard of these before but they sure look like something I would love! Especially with cinnamon and sugar! Best wishes for this round!

  • Tangled Noodle: Love having someone like you on my side TN! And we truly could have done some serious lefse damage if we had ever rendezvous’ed in Minnesota. Maybe we should just plan on bringing lefse to Manila instead :D

    Kendra: thank you so much for the tips – I’m sure I’ll make lefse again and will be better equipped for the experience second time ’round!

    Reeni: but of course – cinnamon and sugar for a cinnamon, spice and everything nice girl :) best of luck in this round – hope we’ll both be there in the next!

  • Fantastic! Your food, photos and writing are all to be applauded and that is the holy trinity of food blogging. You deserve to win this and I hope you do!

  • So surprised to see these here. We have a very similar flatbread here and we fill it with various fillings and then wrap. These sound fantastic with butter, sugar and cinnamon.Perfect for breakfast!

  • your lefse looks pretty good considering that you used a normal, flat faced rolling pin. our lefse rollers have little squares carved on them that give the finished product a textured look. it holds jams and butters and cinnamon more readily.

    good job for a first timer!

  • Ruby: wow, thank you – that is such a huge compliment – I’m blushing now!

    zerrin: yes, these would be perfect for breakfast (and I know how much you love a good breakfast :))

    Elle: Thank you so much! I would love to try making the lefse with one of those rollers – if for no other reason than I really like the idea that they would hold jam and butter more easily :)

  • After working in two ethnic restaurants- mainly Indian and watching them roll out endless thin crisp fry bread and other breads daily; it seems you have hit the nail on the head, practice makes perfect. They say you can get to Carnegie Hall that way as well.

    Neil Young says “Try try try”, and you have! Now, shall I? Hmmm, well it sounds good, and my friend Rachell may like this too!

  • Just so you know, WI has its fair share of Norweigans also.
    I remember my grandma making this 60 years ago and it was the best tasting treat anyone could imagine. The grandkids would come in while she was making it and eat it. By the time she was done, there was nothing left. This summer I reconnected with a cousin I haven’t seen in 40 years and he remembered Grandma making this wonderful lefsa. At that time she cooked on a wood burning stove and it was made right on the top of the stove. You say there wasn’t specialty equipment before. Sorry but your wrong. I have my husband’s grandmothers groved rolling pin from probably close to a hundred years old. This is the time of year to make it and enjoy!!

  • Chef E: Carnegie Hall here I come :D

    Sharon: Thanks so much for sharing your remembrances and for making sure that the Norwegians of Wisconsin were not overlooked. Regarding the grooved rolling pin of long standing, you now have me curious as to how soon after folks first started making lefse did the first grooved rolling pins appear (assuming that they appeared later, of course) or did what we know now as lefse become what it is with developments such as the grooved rolling pin. It’s a truly fascinating topic and thanks again for your contribution!

  • Hi, Have always enjoyed Lefse. Grew up with my Norwegian Gram making it & eating it with butter & sugar. My guy grew up with it too, but eats it an entirely different way. He butters the warm lefse and puts buttered potatoes (coarsely mashed) and hamburger (made into a patty & fried. He then cuts it into little pieces) in it. Anyone else ever heard of this?

  • Hi Jaci – I have to say that I’ve not heard of having lefse that way. Mind you, I’m a relative newcomer to it and would be interested to know if anyone else reading this has come across it!

  • […] serious Lefse maker. 12 heavy duty tin ricer, comes apart for easy clean up…. Related BlogsNorwegian Lefse Share and […]

  • Hi, I just found your site and I love it. I’m half Japanese and half Norwegian so I do have a Norwegian grandma who use to make Lefse! I think you did a wonderful job, I wish I could have had some..my grandma died 22 years ago and let me tell you, it’s nearly impossible to get good lefse nowadays. I have not been able to make it myself and I usually buy it premade at the grocery. There use to be Norwegian deli’s and bakeries to buy it at, at Christmas time but they seem to all be closing down. I think you should come to Seattle and be my neighbor. :)

  • Hi Liz and thank you for your lovely comment – not to mention the request to move next door :D I’d certainly love to have an excuse to visit Seattle – maybe I should just make some lefse and bring it over!

  • […] a recipe if you want to take this “project” on, but there’s no better way to get the gist […]

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