by Cat, Sept 2007 – Nov 2011 (Photo, right, by Cat)
Lefse is a Norwegian and Swedish flatbread made with potatoes, and cooked on a hot, dry griddle. It resembles a flour tortilla, but is thinner, lighter and more moist. It is a must with Lutefisk at Christmastime. Some lefse is sweet, but most is slightly salty. To eat, you butter it with soft butter and roll it up. You can sprinkle with cinnamon sugar or spread it with jam, but I prefer it just with butter.
My Dad was the bread and lefse master. Having been a Norwegian bachelor farmer until the age of 55 (when he married my Mom), he had mastered the craft, making it for himself. He didn’t have a written recipe, just made it by memory and feel. My Mom learned from him and never wrote it down until I was in my early 30s and asked for the recipe. She used instant mashed potatoes because, she said, it was easier to control the moisture. Now that I’m trying to avoid processed foods, I use real potatoes, which, of course, come with the problem of each potato behaving differently from the next.
In my quest to make the perfect lefse, I tried several different recipes, which I include here for reference. My final, tried and true recipe, adapted from My Dad’s Lefse Recipe (below) can be found at Lefse – Potato Flatbread from Scandinavia on this site.
- Includes: 1. My Dad’s recipe; 2. Adelaide Fystorm’s recipe; 3. Son’s of Norway recipe; 4. Lefse-Time recipe; 5. Testing
My Dad’s Original Lefse Recipe
This makes about 24 lefse, plus a couple ‘test’ lefse. NOTE: these lefse are about half-size of regular lefse, because my Dad’s griddle (now mine) is small. If you made full-size lefse, you would get only 12.
The last few years of his life, Dad used instant mash potatoes, using more butter and salt, and less liquid than called for in the instructions. While it may be easier to control the amount of moisture in the potatoes this way, I prefer to use real potatoes and take my chances. Dad never had a written recipe; this is my Mom’s version to the best of my memory, and adjusted to use russet potatoes instead of instant mash.
This recipe uses less cream and flour for the same amount of potatoes, than the Son’s of Norway recipe. See Lefse – Potato Flatbread from Scandinavia for my finished adaptation of this recipe, and instructions for making the lefse.
Dad’s list of ingredients
- 4 cups of quartered, boiled, peeled, and riced russet (baking) potatoes
- 4-6 Tbsp soft but not melted butter
- 2 Tbsp real cream (or rich milk)
- 2 1/2 tsp salt (table salt or fine-grain unrefined sea salt)
- 1/3 – 1/2 cup unbleached wheat flour, plus more for rolling 9the actual amount depends on the moisture in the potatoes, and varies from batch to batch.
Adelaide Fystrom’s Recipe
Adelaide was a teacher at Bigfork Elementary where I went to school, and a member of the local Lutheran church. This recipe, from her book Put on the Coffee Ma! (1) is double my Dad’s recipe, above; you may wish to cut it in half.
Uses less cream & butter than Son’s of Norway recipe, and more cream than Dad’s recipe.
Adelaide’s list of ingredients
- 7 cups of peeled, quartered, boiled, dried and riced russet potatoes
- 1/2 cup (1/4 pound) soft but not melted butter
- 1/4 cup cream (or real half and half)
- 1 Tbsp table salt (or more, to taste)
- 2 – 3 cups unbleached wheat flour, plus more for rolling.
Son’s of Norway Recipe
The Son’s of Norway here in the Flathead Valley is quite active, and used to offer classes in making lefse, taught by “Donna.” Cooked on my small griddle, the full recipe (2) makes 4 dozen lefse; the half recipe makes about 2 dozen. (The full recipe is double my Dad’s recipe; you may wish to cut it in half, as shown).
This has less salt than my Dad’s recipe and I’m inclined to prefer more salt. It also uses evaporated milk (rather than cream), with more of it as well as flour for the same amount of potatoes than Dad’s recipe.
NOTE about salt: use table salt or fine-grain unrefined sea salt when preparing the potatoes, but use regular (not iodized) salt if more is needed, because you’ll be able to taste the salt right away, whereas sea salt needs to rest in the dough before you can taste how salty it is.
Son’s of Norway List of Ingredients,
- Full recipe for 48 lefse
- 8 cups of peeled, boiled, dried and riced Yukon gold or russet potatoes
- 3/4 cup soft but not melted butter
- 3/4 cup cream (or canned milk, but not condensed milk)
- 1 – 1 1/2 Tbsp table salt (to taste)
- 1 Tbsp sugar (optional)
- 2 – 3 1/2 cups unbleached wheat flour, plus more for rolling.
- Half recipe for 24 lefse
- 4 cups of peeled, quartered, boiled, dried and riced Yukon gold or russet potatoes
- 6 Tbsp soft but not melted butter
- 3/8 cup cream (or canned milk, but not condensed milk)
- 1 1/2 – 2 tsp table salt (to taste)
- 1/2 Tbsp sugar (optional)
- 1 – 1 1/2 cups unbleached wheat flour, plus more for rolling.
I’ve not altered the ingredients in this recipe, from LefseTime.com (3, 4), other than to clarify. Makes 24 lefse on my small griddle.
- 4 cups (lightly packed) riced potatoes (russets)
- 1/4 cup (4 Tbsp) butter
- 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream (or raw cream)
- 2 tsp sugar (I consider this optional)
- 1 tsp salt (see note, below)
- 1 1/2 cups flour (unbleached white flour)
NOTE about salt: use table salt or fine-grain unrefined sea salt when preparing the potatoes, but use regular (not iodized) salt if more is needed, because you’ll be able to taste the salt right away, whereas sea salt needs to rest in the dough before you can taste how salty it is).
Testing & Learnings
12/24/07: This was a couple weeks after my class with Donna of Son’s of Norway, using Son’s of Norway recipe as a half-recipe, with no sugar. The potatoes dried nicely; when mixed with butter and cream, the texture seemed good. It seemed to need about 1 1/2 cups flour (not counting the flour for rolling) not to feel sticky, but the resultant taste was too floury. Also I think I worked the gluten a bit too much, as it was hard to roll them out–they kept pulling back. Next time, not so much flour (and thus not so much kneading), and I think it could use a little more salt, perhaps a shy Tbsp for a half-recipe.
12/23-24/09: Again tested Son’s of Norway half-recipe with no sugar. Used russets and raw cream, and 2 tsp salt. When I mixed up the potatoes with butter and cream, my sense was they were nicely dry. but the next day it took way more flour to get the right texture. I split the potatoes in half, and it took about 1 cup flour (thus 2 cups for a complete half-recipe). And they taste a bit floury, but they cooked OK. I only made up that half and will try the other half later.
12/23-24/10: Tested 1/4 recipe since it’s just me this year, but beginning to move towards my Dad’s recipe. Used Lefsetime.com and Scandi-Style tutorials as guides. Used 1.25 lb russet potatoes (2 spuds), peeled and quartered. Placed in cold water and brought to boil. Added salt and cooked 15 minutes. Drained and let cool just a few minutes while I got the ricer ready. Stirred in 3 Tbsp soft butter, then 2 1/2 Tbsp raw cream and 3/4 tsp salt. No sugar. Measured 2 cups potatoes (set remaining 1/2 cup aside for another use). Covered with cloth and placed in fridge to cool. I’m crossing my fingers that they won’t be too damp.
OOPS: had “heart attack” and spent 12/24-27 in hospital (turned out to be a false heart attack, caused by spams in artery muscles from lack of sufficient magnesium, so I’m OK – no surgery/bypass needed). Potatoes went bad and could not continue.
12/23-24/11: Repeating 1/4-recipe experiment of last year, following method from Lefsetime.com. Used 1.25 lb russet potatoes (2 spuds), peeled and quartered. Placed in cold water and brought to boil. Added salt and cooked 15 minutes. Drained, then riced right away into empty, warm saucepan, figuring that the ricing process will help them dry a bit. Measured 2 cups riced potatoes (set remaining 1 cup aside for another use). Added 3 Tbsp soft butter to warm riced potatoes and worked with masher until combined. Added 2 Tbsp raw cream and 3/4 tsp salt after they cooled, per instruction in Lefsetime.com (used less cream than 1/4 recipe because potatoes didn’t seem to need that last 1/2 Tbsp). Covered to chill in fridge overnight.
Next day, Tasted for saltiness; not quite, so added another 1/2 tsp salt. Using a fork, I broke up the potatoes into small crumbles, then added 1/4 cup flour. It needed more so added another 2 Tbsp flour, then kneaded in another 2 Tbsp flour, total 1/2 cup added to spuds. Divided into 12 portions plus 1 for test. Floured pastry cloth and pastry sock on the roller, and rolled out the test lefse. It bubbled up and browned nicely, both sides. Spread with butter – delicious. So proceeded, putting cooked lefse between the two sheets of my dampened lefse cozy. After I’d made 6 lefse, I tore off a length of aluminum foil and placed a similar length of waxed paper on top; then transferred the 6 lefse on top of the waxed paper and rolled up the layers (the waxed paper protects from leaching aluminum from the foil, and both keep the moisture just right while stored in the fridge).
Repeated with final 6. probably went through another 3/4 -1 cup flour for rolling out.
Result: They don’t seem to want to get cracker crisp, which is good. They are nicely freckled and roll easily without cracking. Taste is good, too.
12/23-24/12: Repeating 1/4-recipe experiment of last year, following method from Lefsetime.com. forgot to leave peels on potatoes until after cooking. Riced 3 cups spud; set aside 1 cup and added 3 tbsp soft butter to other 2 cups & mixed that in with potato masher. Let cool about 10 minutes, then worked in 2 Tbsp half & half and 3/4 tsp unrefined sea salt; covered bowl and placed in fridge.
Next day, needed to add another 1/2 tsp salt (unrefined) and another scant 1/4 tsp regular salt (not iodized). After mixing that in, I decided it needed to chill again because it wouldn’t break up into small crumbles, but after chilling it wasn’t any better – probably was too wet. Sifted 1/4 cup flour over mashed potatoes, and mixed that in, but it was still very sticky and broke apart when I folded during kneading so added 1 Tbsp flour, but still not enough, so I worked in another 1/4 cup flour (appx), 1 Tbsp at a time, til it felt better. Divided in two and put one half in fridge, then divided remaining half into 6 pieces plus a small taster. The taster was pretty good but a bit cracker-like, so definitely the dough was too moist. The next one broke on way to stove, a sure sign of needing more flour (according to my Mom’s rule). So I worked in a tiny bit of flour to each one b4 rolling. That seemed to help.
I worked in another 2 Tbsp flour to second half, then divided into 6. These were better but my rolling pin sock was sticking, even tho I worked more flour into it. It had gotten too damp from first batch I think. Accidentally burned one when I got distracted. I ate it but it was pretty charred in taste.
12/23/13: was lucky to find 2 small bakers that I steamed, they made just 2 cups when riced. Peeled while hot but noted potato not quite done in spots. Mixed in 3 Tbsp butter and scant 3 Tbsp cream, then remembered I should have let it cool b4 adding cream. Too late, so added rounded 1 tsp unrefined sea salt and then into fridge, covered, overnight. Next day, it worked nicely into crumbles. Sifted 1/4 cup flour over, mixed in with hands then turned out onto floured board to kneed. Added another 1/4 cup flour a bit at a time. Feels pretty good, but maybe a bit moist. Only made 8 plus a tester. Must not have been a full 2 cups potatoes after ricing.
Forgot to flour the rolling pin’s cloth so tester got the cloth wet in one spot. Rubbed in flour and it’s rolling like a dream. Tester was a bit thick but tasty; maybe could use more salt. They puff up nicely in spots, but it’s hard to keep the gas griddle at 450; at one point it got down to 325 and it took forever for the lefse to cook. I try to keep in range 400 – 500 instead, but not always easy. Next year I’ll use the Bethany Lefse grill (electric).
12/22 – 24/14: Repeating ¼ recipe (12 lefse) as before. Started a day too-early by mistake, so mashed spuds will be extra day in fridge. Cooked 2 whole russets (1 ¼ lb) in simmering water with ½ tsp unrefined sea salt 15 min, but not done. Simmered another 18 min, testing at 5 min intervals, to ‘just done’ and peel was just beginning to split at narrow ends (however, the very middle of the larger spud was not quite done, so did not rice that part). Peeled while still hot, then riced and measured 2 cups (set remaining 1 cup aside). Let rest about 3 min; added 3 Tbsp soft butter, mashing with masher; then mashed in ¾ tsp salt and 2 Tbsp cream. Covered bowl and into fridge.
Next day, decided to use the old gas griddle as before, not the Bethany electric. Removed droplets of moisture from potatoes with towel; divided into 2 bowls, adding ¼ tsp salt to each. Fluffed one and mixed in flour, about ¼ cup; rolled into log, cut off small portion for taster and marked remainder in 6 pieces. Cooked taster was cracker-like, indicating too much moisture in the potatoes, but it was too late to resolve that so I rolled & cooked the 6 which weren’t so cracker-like. Repeated with other half of potatoes; its tester was better, so rolled & cooked that 6. Wrapped up in waxed paper and aluminum foil for storage, tho left that on counter until dinner. Result: Pretty darn good, with lots of butter, but I think I used too much flour. Also next time I will steam the spuds as I think that gives better product (less moisture).
- Put on the Coffee Ma! by Adelaide Fystrom
- Donna H., of Son’s of Norway, Kalispell MT