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Lefse

From lodge member David Hofstad

This is a family recipe used by Alice Hofstad, a 4th generation Norwegian-American from Madison, MN, and a descendant of an 1843 immigrant from Nes Parish in Telemark, Norway. Alice’s son, David Hofstad, has over the years made some minor changes to his mother’s recipe.

Baking Utensils Needed:

Lefse turning stick or spatula, pastry board and cloth pastry board cover, electric griddle, rolling pin, cloth rolling pin cover, and two cotton dish towels. Google "lefse equipment" to buy.

Ingredients:

  • 6 cups of Betty Crocker instant potato buds (13.75 oz box)
  • 4 1⁄2 cups boiling water
  • 1⁄2 cup milk
  • 1.25 sticks of butter/margarine 
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 4 tsp sugar 
  • 1 1⁄2 cups white flour.

Preparation and Baking:

  • Pour the instant potato buds into a large metal pot or metal mixing bowl. 
  • Bring a pot of water to a boil.
  • Melt the butter/margarine in 1⁄2 cup milk, but don’t let the milk boil or curdle. 
  • Stir 2 tsp salt and 4 tsp sugar into the butter/margarine and milk.
  • Measure out 41⁄2 cups of boiling water, and combine this boiling water with the butter, salt, sugar, and milk, and then pour this mixture into the pot of potato buds. Stir and mix the potato dough thoroughly. Form the dough into a mound.
  • Cool the dough by refrigerating for 30 minutes, but no more. The dough should still be warm (almost hot) when you add the flour and knead. This makes the dough more manageable.
  • Remove dough from cooling place, and knead 11⁄2 cups of flour into the dough. Knead well. Again, note that the dough should still be warm when you add the flour and knead. (I used to knead 2 cups of flour into the dough, but now I use just 1 1⁄2 cups. An additional bit of flour is added to each individual dough ball just before you roll out the individual pieces. See note #10 below.) Place the remaining flour (in the flour bag) close to the pastry board.
  • Form the dough into the shape of a fifteen-inch baguette, and cut into thirty equal pieces. (Cut the dough into five three-inch pieces, then cut each of the five pieces in two. Now you have ten pieces. Then cut each of those pieces into three equal pieces, and you end up with thirty more-or-less equal pieces.) Then shape each of the pieces into balls with your hands, and smooth out the creases in the dough ball. Again, this helps when you roll them out.
  • Turn on griddle to 400 F and attach cloth pastry cover/cloth to the pastry board. The griddle should be hot enough to brown the lefse quickly but without burning them.
  • Sprinkle some additional white flour on pastry board. Take a piece of lefse dough, drop it into the flour package, and roll it around so the dough ball is completely coated with flour. Then put the dough ball on the pastry board, flatten it with your hand, and shape it into a perfect circle. Take the rolling pin and begin to roll it out, maintaining the circular shape. (If you start with a circle, you hopefully end with a circle.) Sprinkle a bit of additional flour on the rolled-out dough, and then pick up the rolled-out dough with the turning stick, and while holding the turning stick, use the other hand to sprinkle some more flour on the pastry board. Then turn the dough over on the pastry board. (If you don’t want your dough to stick, sprinkle a bit of flour on the pastry board every time you pick up a piece of rolled-out dough.) Turn the dough at least once (and once should be enough), and then continue rolling out the dough on the pastry board before you use the spatula to transfer the piece of dough to the griddle.
  • Turn the lefse on the griddle once to bake each side. As you continue baking, scrape off any congealed dough that may have accumulated on the spatula, or else the lefse will stick to the spatula and tear the piece of lefse as you are trying to turn it. Use the spatula to puncture any bubbles in the lefse as soon as they pop up. The lefse tends to bubble up after you have turned it on the griddle for the first time. (If the lefse does bubble up, that’s a good thing. It means that your lefse has just the right soft consistency. Allow the little bubbles to form, and pop only the big bubbles.)
  • Cover the baked lefse with cotton dish towels to keep them moist. Take two cotton dish towels and lay one on top of the other. Fold them once and lay them on the counter next to the griddle. Place each baked lefse in a pile, one on top of the other, on half of the towel space, and then fold the other half of the towels over the lefse, so that the lefse are completely enshrouded by the dish towels.

Some Comments on the Art of Lefse Baking:

The thinner the lefse, the better. It should be just thick enough to hang together as you use the turning stick/spatula to move it to the griddle.

If you can handle the dough, and your pastry board/rolling surface and griddle are large enough, you can gradually increase the size of your rolled-out lefse.

Some bakers say to allow the potato dough to cool down to room temperature before you begin to knead the flour into the dough. I have found that I have much better luck in rolling out the dough if I add the flour to the potato dough while it is still warm, almost hot.

Try to add only a little flour to the dough during the rolling out process. The lefse will be tastier this way. Over the years, I have cut back on the flour (from 2 cups to 1 1⁄2 cups) that I knead into the dough. But then, before rolling out each dough ball, I drop it into the flour package and roll it around, getting it completely coated with flour. This helps to prevent the dough from sticking to the pastry cloth and the rolling pin as you are rolling the dough ball out. Also, sprinkle a little flour on the covered pasty board every time you turn the lefse over, and again before you begin rolling out another piece of dough.

You can vary the amount of butter/margarine you use. If you want to cut down on the fat, cut the butter amount down to a quarter cup (i.e., 1 stick). On the other hand, if you want softer, tastier lefse, increase the butter to 1.25 sticks.

I aim for a perfectly round piece of lefse every time I roll out a piece of dough. But I keep two sharp knives handy while I’m rolling out the lefse. I use one of them to trim the pieces I have rolled out if they get lopsided or irregular after I roll them out. You may not get a perfect circular lefse every time you roll out the dough. But if you observe #3 above, your will be better able to roll out round lefses. (I use the second knife to scrape off the congealed dough that tends to accumulate on the first knife.)

For many years Alice Hofstad made her lefse from scratch with “real” potatoes. But in later years she found that potato buds (but not flakes) worked equally well, and tasted as good as “real” potatoes. Also, using the Betty Crocker 13.75 oz box of potato buds will enable you to get just the right balance between mashed potatoes and flour. This recipe is designed to get that balance just right (with the 13.75 oz box of potato buds). I would think that if you were boiling and mashing potatoes, you would have to weigh the mashed potatoes to arrive at the desired balance between the potatoes and the flour. Getting the dough just right, I think, is nine-tenths of the secret in making lefse.

Lefse-Baking Supplies: Try lefsetime.com. Order more than one pastry board cover and rolling pin cover, so you can change them (mid-batch) if your dough leaves some stubborn sticky spots on the covers.