Lefse on the griddle
|Place of origin||Norway|
|Main ingredient(s)||milk or cream (or sometimes lard), flour|
Lefse is a traditional soft, Norwegian flatbread. Lefse is made out of flour, and milk or cream (or sometimes lard), and cooked on a griddle. Traditional lefsa does not include potato, but it is commonly added to make a thicker dough that is easier to work with. Special tools are available for lefse baking, including long wooden turning sticks and special rolling pins with deep grooves.
There are many ways of flavoring lefse. The most common is adding butter to the lefse and rolling it up. In Norway, this is known as "lefse-klenning". Other options include adding cinnamon and/or sugar, or spreading jelly or lingonberries upon it. Scandinavian-American variations include rolling it with a thin layer of peanut butter and sugar, with butter and white or brown sugar, with butter and corn syrup, or with ham and eggs. Also eaten with beef, and other savory items like Ribberull and mustard, it is comparable to a thin tortilla. Lefse is a traditional accompaniment to lutefisk, and the fish is often rolled up in the lefse.
There are significant regional variations in Norway in the way lefse is made and eaten, but it generally resembles a flatbread, although in many parts of Norway, especially Valdres, it is far thinner.
Tjukklefse or tykklefse is thicker and often served with coffee as a cake.
Potetlefse (potato lefse) is often used in place of a hot-dog bun and can be used to roll up sausages. This is also known as pølse med lompe in Norway, lompe being the "smaller-cousin" of the potato lefse.
Møsbrømlefse is a variation common to Salten district in Nordland in North Norway. Møsbrømmen consists of half water and half the cheese smooth with flour or corn flour to a half thick sauce that greased the cooled lefse. Lefse is ready when møsbrømmen is warm and the butter is melted.
Another variety, the Hardangerlefse (from Hardanger in Norway), is made from yeast risen Graham flour or a fine ground whole wheat flour (krotekake). The dough is rolled with a conventional rolling pin (and much more flour) until it is thin and does not stick to the surface. It is then cut with a grooved rolling pin in perpendicular directions, cutting a grid into the dough which prevents it from creating air pockets as it cooks. The grid cut can also aid in thinner rolling of the lefse, as the ridges help preserve structural integrity. The lefse is cooked at high temperature (400 °F or 205 °C) until browned, and then left to dry. It can also be freeze dried by repeatedly freezing and thawing.
Dried Hardangerlefse can be stored without refrigeration for six months or more, so long as it is kept dry. It is customarily thought that the bread (along with solefisk) was a staple on the seagoing voyages as far back as Viking times.
The wet lefse is dipped in water, and then placed within a towel which has also been dipped in water and wrung out. Many people maintain that dipping in salted or seawater enhances the flavor. The dry lefse regains its bread-like texture in about 60 minutes. Often that time is used to prepare ingredients such as eggs or herring which are wrapped in the lefse once it has softened.
Lefse in the United States
Lefse is a Scandinavian treat that is especially popular around the holidays. Many Scandinavian-Americans eat lefse primarily around Thanksgiving and Christmas. Family members often gather to cook lefse as a group effort because the process is more enjoyable as a traditional holiday activity. This gathering also provides training to younger generations keeping the tradition alive.
The town of Starbuck, Minnesota is the home of the world's largest lefse. In some parts of the United States, including Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa, Wisconsin, Oregon and Washington, lefse is available in grocery stores. Norsland Lefse, a factory in Rushford, Minnesota, produces about a half million rounds of lefse each year.
Lefse celebrations and festivals
Lefse is celebrated in cities and towns with large Scandinavian populations. Fargo, North Dakota hosts the wildly popular Lobster and Lefse Festival in August each year. Fosston, Minnesota invites area lefse makers to compete for the title of Champion Lefse Maker at its Lefse Fest in November.
- Legwold, Gary (1991) The Last Word on Lefse (Adventure Publication) ISBN 978-0-934860-78-9
- Ojakangas, Beatrice (1999) The Great Scandinavian Baking Book (Univ Of Minnesota Press) ISBN 978-0-8166-3496-5
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