Just a little bit about my art and life in general....

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Getting into the spirit of Christmas, making the Lefse!

Yes today is the day we start our lefse! Lefse is a thin soft Norwegian bread that our family enjoys on the evening of Christmas eve. Our family makes a rice pudding and puts a dab of the pudding on the lefse and sprinkles sugar on top. Then we roll up the lefse. We eat it with our hands or at least the kids always have and since I have grown up doing this we continue to do this. For those who don't like rice pudding a little butter on the warmed up lefse with a sprinkle of sugar is yummy too!

My youngest helped me start the Lefse by peeling potatoes with me. Of course we had to do "one potato ... two potato..." to see which potato got peeled next.

The recipe I am following is from The Great Scandinavian Baking Book by Beatrice Ojakangas. I sent her a quick email asking if I could post the recipe here on my blog and she nicely sent me an updated recipe too! She also has Lefse kits for sale on her website for those interested. So here it is:

Lefse Potato Flatbread
Lefse – Norway

2-1/2 pounds Russet potatoes, pared and quartered
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
1/2 cup whipping cream
2 teaspoons sugar
1-1/4 teaspoons salt
1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour

In a medium saucepan over medium heat, cook potatoes in water to cover until they are just tender, not mushy, about 20 minutes. Pour into a colander over a bowl and drain well. (When the steam rises from the potatoes, you will see a floury-white exterior on the potato pieces). I save the potato water for making bread or use it in soup.

Press the dry, hot potatoes through a potato ricer into a large bowl. Mix in the butter, whipping cream, sugar and salt with a potato masher until very well blended. Note that the flour is NOT added now! Smooth the mixture out in the bowl.

Refrigerate (do NOT cover), at least 8 hours or overnight - this is so that the potato mixture will dry out as it chills.

The next day, preheat an ungreased flat grill to 450*F. Place a clean, large terry towel on a large plastic bag. You will place the baked lefse on one end of the towel and fold the other half of the towel and the plastic bag over the lefse as you cook more rounds. The towel will absorb moisture from the lefse as it cools, and the
plastic keeps the moisture in the towel.

For rolling out the lefse, stretch a pastry cloth over a board and using tape, fasten so that it is taut. Cover a regular or grooved lefse rolling pin with a pastry sock and rub flour generously into the sock.

Remove bowl with potato mixture from refrigerator. Wash your hands well. Add the flour and work it in using your hands. Once the flour is added you MUST roll out and cook all of the lefse, or the dough will get soft and sticky.

Using a #13 ice cream scoop (measures 1/3 cup), portion out the potato mixture and shape into balls. Smooth out the balls and dust lightly with additional flour.

Generously flour the pastry cloth and the rolling pin as well. Flatten the ball of dough and begin rolling it out as thin as you can, adding more flour as you go, being careful not to let the dough stick to the pin or the pastry board. Keep everything dry! Loosen the lefse often, using a lefse stick, carefully pushing it between the dough and the board.

When the round is as large and thin as you can make it, use the stick to pick up the round and transfer it to the hot (ungreased) lefse griddle. The griddle should be hot enough that the lefse immediately begins to bubble. When a peek at the grilled side shows a nice surface of brown spots, slide the stick under it and carefully flip
it over. The stick must be dry so that the lefse will not stick to it and tear.

If the edges of the lefse begin to get dry, brown and curl, you are cooking the rounds too long, and if the lefse is not browning well, but remaining light, the griddle temperature is set too low. If the lefse quickly burns, the griddle temperature is too high. Because all griddles vary a little in their temperature, it takes a little bit of practice to get it exactly the right. Place the cooked lefse onto one end of the terry towel and cover with the other half of the towel, covering at the same time with the other half of the large plastic bag.

Continue rolling out rounds and cooking them, stacking them right on top of each ther in the terry towel (no need to separate them).

Allow the stack of lefse to cool 2-3 hours, then carefully peel each round off the pile, fold it into quarters, and stack them in zipper-lock freezer bags. I like to put 6 to 12 in each bag, depending on how many I think we'll be using at a time. Refrigerate the lefse that will be eaten within the next three days. Freeze the rest.

Lefse is delicious spread with butter and sprinkled with a little sugar, or brown sugar or sugar and cinnamon. Some people roll up the sugared lefse tightly and then slice it into 1/2 inch slices and serve right along with cookies on the holiday cookie tray. Lefse is also delicious just buttered and served with a holiday dinner.

Makes about 20 rounds.

A few photos of our process...

The necessary "potato" ricer ...

The first year we tried this we did so without the ricer and it just didn't work as well. Its important that the potatoes be as dry as possible too!

Now the mixture is ready to cool and dry in the refrigerator overnight.

We have been making these for quite a few years now and some of our techniques differ from the updated recipe above. We don't use an ice cream scoop and just try to get the balls all about the same size. I have a ridged lefse rolling pin that I purchased and this works pretty well as long as the dough is well floured and the rolling pin as well. Its a mess if the dough gets stuck in the ridges. Then I have to use a toothpick to clean it up. We no longer have our pancake griddle and just use a flat non-stick pan on the cooktop. I don't really worry about the temperature so much because I can tell if its working well as I cook and can adjust things accordingly. As we cook our lefse we fold a large piece of aluminum foil on a plate. The lefse goes onto this plate and is recovered between cooking each lefse round. Between each lefse round we place a piece of waxed paper. When we are finished cooking we allow it to cool off and then take the pile of stacked lefse from the aluminum foil and put the whole thing into a large ziplock bag. We usually make them the weekend before Christmas and store them in the refrigerator for a week to 10 days. When ready to use them we take the stack out of the plastic bag and place on a plate and in the microwave for about 20 seconds or so to warm them up. We usually serve them slightly warmed. Everyone takes a lefse round and removes the waxpaper that was left in between each slice.

Tomorrow we will roll out and cook the lefse!

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