During a trip to the Osakis, Minnesota area I noticed a bakery downtown. The spelling was interesting and caught my eye, Jacobs Lefse Bakeri.
My curiosity, bakery addiction, sweet tooth, or what have you lured me into the little shop. The Bakeri has kitchen gadgets, Scandinavian gifts, lefse mix, and lefse kits for purchase. But the star of the shop is definitely the fresh baked lefse. You have options on the menu: rolled lefse with butter, rolled lefse with butter and sugar, rolled lefse with butter, sugar, and cinnamon; or rolled lefse with lingonberry.
I had no idea what Norwegian Lefse was or how to pronounce it to order a taste. When the baker came out from the back production area I pointed to the sign and said “I will take one!”.
I chose the butter and sugar: I am in the Midwest where tastes run sweet. I was also a little unsure what a lingonberry is.
The baker headed to the back for a few minutes and emerged with two rolled tortilla like flat breads. I happily paid and asked how to pronounce this new found treat. He told me it’s LEF- Sah. I headed out to my truck to take a quick photo and investigate this new baked good.
What is Lefse?
Every region has its preferred baked good to celebrate the holidays. In Mexico Pan de muerto celebrates the Day of the dead. In the USA anything and everything pumpkin spice flavor signals the beginning of fall. Lefse comes to the Midwest via Norwegian families that settled the area and established farms. It was once central to Norwegian baking though it is now mainly a holiday treat.
Lefse is a Norwegian flat bread made with potatoes, flour, butter, sugar, salt and cream. It is cooked on a special lefse grill. It can be used in sweet or savory applications. Every family has their own variation or technique for making lefse which is passed down through the generations. If you are not fortunate enough to be Norwegian or live in the Midwest you can find lefse in the refrigerated or frozen section of grocery stores. If you would rather make it yourself kits containing mixes and tools are available for order online
The lefse I ordered is soft with a wonderful chewy texture. The flavor is buttery, slightly caramelized sugar, a hint of toasted flour, finishing with the taste of a warm griddle. The butter and sugar melt together to make a crunchy sweet and salty center filling. It is comfort food at its best.
I post the find to my Instagram feed, @nomadic_addict, and the likes start pinging in; social media is a wonderful thing! In moments I have entered the niche world of everything lefse and connected with others who love it enough to post pictures.
Lefse is made from: riced potatoes, cream, flour, sugar, salt, and butter. The ingredients are mixed into a dough and shaped into patties. The hot potatoes are riced with the butter placed on top to melt. The potatoes are then fully cooled before being added to the other ingredients. The dough is then formed into rounds called patties. The patties are rolled out using a grooved rolling pin on a round pastry board to 12 or 14 inches, transferred using a lefse stick, and cooked on a lefse grill heated to 500F.
For a great recipe and very thorough tutorial go to Lefse Time.
The tricky part of lefse making is getting the dough consistency correct by controlling the moisture of the potatoes.
Norwegian Lefse – recipe adapted from Lefse Time.
- 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, remove eyes, and rinse 2 ½ pounds of russet potatoes. Cover potatoes with water and cook on stove top until tender.
- Run hot potatoes through a potato ricer. While riced potatoes are still warm place into a large bowl and add pats of butter.
- Once the butter has melted gently stir to blend. Set aside potato and butter mixture to cool completely.
- Mix sugar, salt, and cream together add to cooled potatoes. Stir flour into the potato mixture.
- Pull off pieces of the dough and form into walnut size balls.
- Lightly flour a pastry cloth and roll out lefse balls to 1/8 inch thickness.
- Cook on a 500 F Lefse grill until each side has browned.
- Place on a damp towel to cool slightly and then cover until ready to serve.
- Lefse can be stored in zip top bags in the freezer up to 6 months.
As every baker knows we have a lot of specialty tools in our trade. My favorite part of learning to make a new baked good is learning a little about the tools used to make it. Lefse has some unique tools if you want to expand your kitchen gadget collection.
- Potato ricer – Potatoes are the major ingredient that makes lefse different from a tortilla or crepe. Cooked peeled potatoes are pressed through the ricer to finely mash the potatoes for a creamy consistency.
- Grooved rolling pins (Corrugated pin) – Lefse dough is rolled out to a circle using this type of pin. The wood has grooves that cover the pin. Rolling lefse dough with this type of pin eliminates bubbles and air pockets, makes an even, thin dough; and creates the recognizable square marks typical to the cooked bread.
- Round pastry board covered with pastry cloth – Not really necessary but, the round board will guide your lefse rolling to the perfect circumference. It can also be used for pizza dough, pie crusts, or any circular baked good. What’s one more gadget in your baking arsenal?
- Lefse turning stick – The traditional tool used to lift rolled lefse from the pastry board to the lefse grill. Once the lefse is nicely cooked on one side the turning stick is slid under and used to flip on the round grill. Lefse turning sticks are made of wood, have a long rounded handle with a flat section for sliding under the lefse, and are hand painted. It is traditional; you need one!
- Lefse grill – Since lefse is round and you already have a round pastry board you might as well get the traditional grill. This grill is made of heavy cast aluminum, is 16″ in diameter, and heats from 100 F to 500F.
- Lefse Apron –Lefse aprons with Norwegian sayings such as “UFF DA” and “YOU BETCHA” will add authenticity to your lefse making experience. Go ahead and splurge!
Have you had Lefse? Is it a tradition in your family? How do you like to serve it?
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