Old Fashioned Norwegian Lefse Recipe

Lefse Prepared with Butter and Brown Sugar

Lefse is a traditional holiday treat of Norwegians and Norwegian-Americans. Non-Norwegians often aren't quite sure about tasting it, so if you're 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 folks of non-Norwegian heritage are reluctant to take an entire roll of Lefse, most will sample (and like) the Hors d'Œuvres version. This recipe was used by my family for many generations. It's fairly easy to prepare and you can involve the kids in helping with the cooking. They freeze well, so larger batches are preferable. Enjoy!

List of Ingredients

  • 10 Lbs of Red Potatoes
  • 1/4 Lb (1 Stick) of soft Butter
  • 2-1/2 to 3 c. White Flour

Cook 10 lbs. of red potatoes with the jackets on using the same amount of salt as for regular potatoes. Chill overnight. Potatoes must be cold. Peel potatoes. Grind coarsely in a meat grinder or use a potato ricer. Add 1 stick soft butter and use masher or mixer to mix. Divide dough in half.

Mix each 1/2 of the potatoes with 2-1/2 to 3 c. flour. The less flour the better. Knead as you would bread dough. Make each 1/2 into 2 rolls, 3" in diameter. Refrigerate 2-4 hours and bring out 1 roll at a time. Slice into 1/2-2" slices and roll as thin as possible, on a cloth covered and well floured board, to about an 11" circle. The rolling pin should be covered with a stocking net and well floured.

Use a Lefse stick to lift the Lefse onto the Lefse iron. Roll Lefse off the stick gently so as not to tear dough. Bake on Lefse plate at 575 degrees. Wait until bubbles form. Check underneath with the Lefse stick to see when the bubbles are browning. Turn Lefse and do 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 through baking, fold into quarters and place 2-6 in plastic bags and freeze until used. Leave in plastic bag to defrost and serve small amounts at a time so Lefse does not dry out.

To serve: butter; sprinkle with brown sugar and roll up. Cut in half for easier handling.

From the Gjenvick-Gjønvik Archives © Larry & Deann Gjenvick

Preparing Lefse

Step 1: Coat one side with butter (softened) and add brown sugar

Step One, Butter and Brown Sugar

Step One, Butter and Brown Sugar

Step 2: Adding the Brown Sugar (Light works best and some prefer regular sugar)

Adding Brown Sugar to Lefse

Adding Brown Sugar to Lefse

Step 3: Rolling the Lefse

Rolling the Lefse

Step Four - Load up a plateful of prepared Lefse

And watch it disappear quickly.

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: 1:45
  • Cook time: 1:15
  • Total time: 3:00
  • Yield: Approximately 50 Lefse Circles (Pieces)

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, but the influence of my grandfather, Ludvig Kristian Gjønvik, who immigrated to the United States in 1913, was most prevalent in the foods during Christmas. We made all of the breads and pastries at home but purchased the special imported meats and cheese at the local butcher shop.

My parents, myself and two siblings would gather around the kitchen table around Thanksgiving where we had two Lefse irons strategically located. One person poured the raw Lefse mixture on to 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. Once it had reached its golden brown and white speckled color, it was quickly placed under the heavy cloths that 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 and the rest 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 easily on the delicate Lefse. If the butter was too hard, it would 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 rather thin rolls, and cut them into about six inch lengths.

It was then ready for the table and enjoyed by all.

Lefse being served Hor d'Ourve Style

If you are having guests that 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 guest will absolutely love this Norwegian treat. (See photo at right)

- by Paul K. Gjenvick

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