Old Fashioned Norwegian Lefse Recipe
Norwegian Lefse Prepared With Butter and Brown Sugar. GGA Image ID # 1763e4bc4a
Lefse is a traditional holiday treat of Norwegians and Norwegian-Americans. Non-Norwegians often are not quite sure about tasting it, so if planning to serve Lefse to a wide variety of ethnicities, consider slicing the rolled Lefse into Hors d'Œuvres size servings with a toothpick holding it together.
While most non-Norwegian heritage folks are reluctant to take an entire roll of Lefse, most will sample (and like) the Hors d'Œuvres version. Our family used this recipe for many generations. It is reasonably easy to prepare, and children can be involved in helping with the cooking. They freeze well (up to 6 months), so larger batches are preferable. Enjoy!
List of Ingredients
- 10 Lbs of Red Potatoes
- 1/4 Lb (1 Stick) of soft Butter
- 5 c. White Flour
- Cook 10 lbs. of red potatoes with the skin on, adding about 1 teaspoon salt per quart of water.
- Chill overnight. Potatoes must be cold.
- Peel potatoes.
- Grind potatoes coarsely in a meat grinder or use a potato ricer. Add 1 stick of soft butter and use a masher or mixer to mix.
- Divide dough in half.
- Mix each half of the riced potatoes with 2 1/2 to 3 c. flour. The less flour, the better.
- Knead like bread dough. Divide each half into 2 rolls, 3" in diameter for a total of 4 rolls.
- Refrigerate 2-4 hours and bring out 1 roll at a time.
- Slice into 2" slices and roll as thin as possible, on a cloth-covered and well-floured board, to about an 11" circle. Cover the rolling pin with a well-floured stocking net.
- Use a Lefse stick to lift the Lefse onto the Lefse grill. Roll Lefse off the stick gently so as not to tear the dough.
- Cook on Lefse grill at 475 degrees. Wait until bubbles form. Check underneath with the Lefse stick to see when the bubbles are browning. Turn Lefse and do the same on the other side.
- Remove Lefse with the Lefse stick and place gently between a heavy folded cloth like a linen table cloth, and have this inside a wool blanket to hold the steam in, or the Lefse will dry out.
- When finished cooking, fold into quarters and place 2-6 folded lefse rounds into plastic bags and freeze until ready to use. Leave in the plastic bag to defrost and serve small amounts at a time, so Lefse does not dry out.
To serve: butter; sprinkle with brown sugar (or white sugar) and roll-up. Cut in half for easier handling.
From the Gjenvick-Gjønvik Archives © Larry & Deann Gjenvick
Step 1: Coat One Side With Butter (Softened) and Add Brown Sugar. GGA Image ID # 17642d5910
Step 2: Adding the Brown Sugar (Light Works Best and Some Prefer Regular Sugar). GGA Image ID #
Step 3: Rolling the Lefse With the Layer of Butter and Brown Sugar. GGA Image ID # 17644ecf25
Step Four - Load up a Plateful of Prepared Lefse and Watch It Disappear Quickly. GGA Image ID # 17648ee6c8
NOTE: Lefse, once prepared, will become "Soggy" after about an hour at room temperature. Either keep it refrigerated or refrigerate when the butter starts to discolor the Lefse.
- Prep time: 1 hour 45 minutes
- Cook time: 1 hour 15 minutes
- Total time: 3 hours
- Yield: Approximately 50 Lefse Circles (Pieces)
One can also purchase the precooked lefse online. Some bakeries charge for overnight shipment. I recommend Ingebretsen's Lefse.
The Tradition of Making Lefse
Growing up in Minneapolis, Lefse was quite common, especially around the holiday season. Many Scandinavians and Scandinavian-Americans purchased lefse at the local grocery store, but our tradition was to make lefse at home.
My parents - Mother was of Swedish and Norwegian heritage, Father was of Norwegian and German heritage. However, my grandfather, Ludvig Kristian Gjønvik, immigrated to the United States in 1913, was most prevalent in the foods during Christmas. We made all of the unique bread and pastries at home but purchased the select imported meats and cheese at the local butcher shop.
Our family would gather around the kitchen table around Thanksgiving, where we had two Lefse irons strategically located. One person poured the raw Lefse mixture onto the hot Lefse iron, and two others were responsible for rolling the lefse after it had cooked on one side - a delicate way of flipping the lefse over to cook the other. The lefse was easily placed under heavy cloths once it had reached its golden brown and white speckled color. The heavy cloths kept the lefse from drying out while we continued to grill the batch of lefse.
Some of the Lefse was set aside for the next meal. The remainder was packaged and frozen for future use. We made sure the butter had been sitting out for several hours so that it was quite soft and would spread quickly on the delicate lefse. If the butter is too hard, it will tear the lefse, so this was important. Once we had spread a thin layer of butter on our circle-shaped lefse, we sprinkled brown sugar over the lefse. Next, we rolled the lefse into long, relatively thin rolls and cut them into about six-inch lengths.
It was then ready for the table and enjoyed by all.
When having guests who are not familiar with Lefse, it is best to cut the rolled Lefse into one-inch long strips with a tooth-pick holding the roll together. This way, it is served like an Hors d'Œuvres - with the vast majority of guests will love this Norwegian treat. (See photo above)
- by Paul K. Gjenvick
This lefse is likewise a national food in Norway and about the most primitive of its kind as you will ever meet within the proverbial day's march. It is nothing more than a dough of ﬂour and water, rolled out more or less thinly—and served.
The surface is then coated with butter, or sugar, or treacle, and the dough (rolled up, like a small petition) is held in the hand and eaten as a jam roll is occasionally devoured by our London waifs.
It is a common enough food in the uplands, and I had found it very useful in the pocket when there was any prospect of getting lost among the fjelds, for its staying, or rather intimidatory powers are almost up to the standard of the gjed ost.
But one must not keep it unduly, or it will take unto itself the appearance of old parchment and the consistency of shellac.
-- H. K. Daniels, Home Life in Norway, 1912