Lefse: A First Try

LefseHappy New Year! And happy post-holiday binging! If you’re anything like us, you have a fridge stocked with various leftovers that should theoretically last weeks. And they may in fact last weeks, but that doesn’t mean that we won’t be cooking up and sharing some exciting recipes in these first days of 2015. Get ready, because here goes our renewed commitment to cooking and blogging!

Admittedly, it’s been a while since you last heard from us – and me in particular. All I can claim is that things get busy when finishing up a PhD. Yes, that’s right, I’m finished! Dr. Forrest is official! [takes a bow] That also means that we are now “6 Degrees of Preparation.” Well, that seems lame, but Kevin Bacon has nothing on us… except maybe Footloose. All this extra time on my hands should mean I get to share more thoughts (crumbs if you will) from the kitchen. I’ll let Melissa catch you up to speed on some of her accomplishments over the last few months…

Lefse 1During the holidays, it’s traditional in the Midwest for those of Scandinavian origin to make what amounts to a potato crepe or flatbread called lefse. While I can’t claim to be a Midwesterner myself, I have fond memories of receiving a package of holiday goodies each year from my grandparents in Minnesota. This invariably included pfeffernusse, trail mix, fudge, and lefse. It may seem odd that a potato crepe is included in a box of sweets, but once you realize that it is traditionally served brushed with melted butter and generously sprinkled with brown sugar, the fit is obvious. I have some great memories of chomping down on sugary folds of lefse at holiday time – but only while the 4-5 pieces lasted. It’s been a while since I got one of these care packages… after all it does Lefse 2take some serious effort. So in deference to my grandma, this year I bought a lefse griddle for my mom and we gave it a test after Christmas. It has been said that making lefse is a challenge, and that is true – but don’t let it be an obstacle. Treat it as an adventure and you will be rewarded!

I’ve titled this “A First Try” with the intent of providing some helpful hints toward a better process and an update in December. I realize that is a long time to wait, but hey, I now understand why lefse is only made with some extra time and helping hands.

Lefse
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Ingredients
  1. 5 lbs. russet potatoes
  2. Pinch of salt
  3. 1/2 cup butter, softened
  4. 1/2 cup half and half
  5. 2 1/2 cups flour + more for dusting
Equipment
  1. Lefse or crepe stick (a ~12 inch wooden stick with a tapered edge)
  2. Large griddle (one that can get to 500 C)
  3. Rolling pin (specifically the style for lefse or a regular one covered in cloth)
Instructions
  1. Peel and de-eye potatoes. Boil the potatoes until just tender (about 12-15 min), strain them and put them through a ricer. (In this round, I mashed the potatoes by hand with a pastry cutter which works. However, you will never be able to get rid of all of the potato lumps which is an issue when you try to roll out the dough later. I highly recommend a ricer and will use one in the next batch.)
  2. Cut softened butter into the potatoes. Add a few pinches of salt. Stir in half and half and refrigerate the potato mixture for a few hours or overnight to cool. (If you can't continue the next day, the potatoes will keep for a couple of days).
  3. When ready, remove potatoes from the fridge and stir in flour about 1/2 cup at a time. With all the flour added, knead the dough several times to bring it together. It should be neither sticky nor crumbly.
  4. Pre-heat lefse griddle to 500 C. (While we had a designated non-stick lefse griddle, I don't see why one couldn't cook over a large skillet as long as it was evenly heated at a very high temperature. If someone tries this, I would be keen to know how well it works.)
  5. Shape batter into balls about the size of fat golf balls, place on a baking sheet with wax paper and refrigerate while you roll and cook one lefse at a time. Flour a flat rolling surface liberally. (This is essential. The hardest part of the entire process is rolling out the dough thin and getting it to release onto the lefse stick while not tearing.) Remove one ball from the fridge and press it into a disk on the floured surface. Lift and re-flour the surface. Using a rolling pin covered with a tube cloth (and floured) start rolling the disk into a pancake about 6-7 inches in diameter. Lift it off with your hands and re-flour the surface again. (This was the most important step for me in achieving the final liftoff.) Continue rolling until thin (nearly transparent) and about 10 inches in diameter. (If you can get it even thinner without tearing, more power to you!)
  6. Transfer the lefse from the rolling surface to the grill. To do this, flour your crepe or lefse stick and insert it gently around the edges. One trick is to lift and lower the stick repeatedly to get the dough to release in a certain area then move closer to the center and work around the edges. After loosening all around, insert the stick under the center of the dough. Gently but quickly lift the lefse into the griddle. Flop it half way, then roll the stick to get the rest of the lefse flat.
  7. Wait till the dough bubbles and looks a little dry on the edges, then flip - about 2-3 min per side or until browned. Since the dough is no longer sticky after cooking, it will be easier to flip using the lefse stick. Lift lefse off the griddle and place onto a dish towel to cool. Cover with another dish towel.
  8. Continue by re-flouring the rolling surface and grabbing another ball of dough from the refrigerator. Repeat above steps.
  9. For eating, melt butter in a small pan and spread liberally over the lefse surface. Sprinkle brown sugar on top of the butter the fold the lefse in half then in quarters. You could also spread jam or marmalade instead. Enjoy the fruits of your labor!
Notes
  1. Enjoy immediately, keep in the refrigerator for a few days, or freeze. It freezes well for a few weeks, but will get moldy in the refrigerator if left for too long. Use a microwave to warm up frozen or cooled lefse.
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