The lefse makers
Lefse is a traditional accompaniment to holiday meals, most often serving as a delivery mechanism for butter and cinnamon sugar. Some people like it with a little jam. Others (such as my Dad, brother, and Great Uncle Goodie) will take an unconventional approach and make a little "burrito" with their traditional lutefisk, which is slightly disturbing. :) Me? I take my lefse straight up. So good on its own!
(As a side note - Lefse is really the perfect food for runners as well. It is packed with carbs, light weight, and extremely portable. There is a reason the Fargo Marathon serves this after the race!)
Traditionalists will scoff at the fact that we use instant potatoes. Hey, if you want to peel, boil, and rice nine cups worth of potatoes, be my guest! I've got no problem with using instant potatoes for the following reasons:
1. They are, in fact, real potatoes - only dried
2. Instant potatoes offer greater consistency and reliability - it is much easier to control moisture content, helping to better ensure a tender, fluffy lefse
3. Let's face it - instant potatoes make for much less work
4. If it was good enough for Pearl Johnson, it is good enough for me! :)
Here is the recipe that my Grandma used, and it is the one that Mom and I use. It comes from an older edition of the Norseland Lutheran Church Cookbook, and Pearl Johnson was a friend of my Grandparents.
The recipe, as written - the handwritten notations represent the amounts needed to make a third of the recipe. The full recipe makes a LOT of lefse!
Some tips, and some special equipment that will make the job easier:
1. Ideally, you should have at least two people helping - one to roll, and one to cook. This would be a lot of work for one person, and it helps to get an assembly line process going (back in my Mom's hometown, that is exactly how the ladies of the church would do it in preparation for the lutefisk supper!). Recruit your kids to help and make it your own holiday tradition!
2. Mom says to keep your dough as cool as possible, as it is mostly potatoes with a smaller ratio of flour. The dough is very soft. Mom takes little pieces of dough and rolls them into a ball. She adds them to a well floured bowl and keeps them in the fridge until ready to roll out.
Lefse dough, ready to roll out
3. Roll your lefse out on a well-floured pastry cloth board. I noted earlier how soft he dough is, and it will be much easier to roll on a cloth surface. It also helps to have a cloth covering the rolling pin.
4. It is not called for in the recipe, but Mom always sprinkles a little whole wheat flour over the top of her lefse dough when rolling it out. That is because it adds some taste and texture, and because that is what her Grandma used to do. And who can argue with Grandma? :)
5. Use a lefse stick. This stick, similar to a tapered ruler, will make it easy to remove the lefse from the pastry cloth board, and to turn on the griddle when cooking.
6. Cook them on a griddle (or lefse grill if you are a purist) just until some brown spots develop. It doesn't take long, just a minute or so on each side.
Lefse on the griddle
7. Cover the lefse with kitchen towels to let them cool. If you let them air dry, they will become hard as a board, and that is not what we are after. Lefse should be very pliable and soft.
Lefse plated up for Thanksgiving dinner
So that is a little bit about the lefse Mom and I make. It is really good stuff, and if you have never had lefse, there is no way you wouldn't like it. And I can't wait to make another batch of this at Christmas. The batch I brought home with me is going fast!