You Bet We Will Have Lefse

Lefse by Lance Fisher (], via Wikimedia Commons

We of Norwegian descent get teased a lot about our accents, our white and brown food and our verbal expressions. Yah, sure, meat, potatoes and gravy were menu mainstays in many Scandinavian homes. And, you bet, the vegetables usually were creamed. Even the colorful gelatin salads were topped with whipped cream or marshmallows.

It could be worse.

Growing up, our family looked forward to the holidays when Mom pulled out the yellowed recipe cards and traditional Scandinavian foods made an appearance. She made fruit soup or “sot suppe” with dried fruit, tapioca and cinnamon sticks. I especially liked “rommegrot,” a thick porridge made with cream and flour, and flat bread, a crackerlike bread.

Pressing sandbakkel dough into tiny pans took a long time, but devouring the tiny tarts took seconds. Golden brown rosettes were made with a thin batter, deep-fried crisp and dipped in sugar. I never quite mastered making the elaborately twisted kringle cookies, but I was the family spritz cookie maker. I liked using the cookie press.

And, uff da, there was lutefisk, cod fish soaked in an alkaline brine. However, lutefisk wasn’t welcome on my plate no matter how much butter was drizzled on top.

I did eat my share of the usual companion to lutefisk, lefse, a potato-based bread. Lefse is available in many grocery stores, but making it at home is worth a try. Making lefse is somewhat of an art. The trick is to keep the dough very cold and avoid adding too much flour or kneading the dough too much.

Lefse, which usually is buttered, sugared and rolled, often is served with a meal or as a dessert. The amount of calories and fat it contains also depends on how much butter and sugar you add. A teaspoon of butter adds about 35 calories and 4 grams of fat. A teaspoon of sugar adds about 15 calories.

Eating extra treats without doing extra physical activity could add an extra layer of permanent insulation to your frame. You may want to top off your exploration of Norwegian delicacies and other treats with some physical activity such as ice skating or sledding.

Here’s a lefse recipe from a Hawley, Minn., cookbook. It might start a tradition in your family, regardless of your heritage. 

Old Fashioned Lefse

4 c. mashed or riced white potatoes
1/3 c. margarine (not the reduced-fat type)
1 Tbsp. sugar
1 1/4 c. milk
1 1/4 tsp. salt
1 1/4 to 1 1/2 c. flour

Mix first five ingredients. Refrigerate until thoroughly cool. Add flour gradually and knead smooth. Depending on the size of your pan or lefse grill, take a small handful (about 1/3 cup) and roll paper thin on a floured surface. Bake on hot griddle until golden spots form. Turn and bake on second side. Place flat on clean towel and cover with another towel. Place several sheets of lefse on top of each other. When cool, cut into quarters and place in plastic bags to preserve freshness. Note: Be sure dough remains cold until you are ready to roll it out. Makes 15 large lefse.

A serving of lefse (about half a large round, or 1.5 ounces or about 1/30 of this recipe) contains about 75 calories and 3 grams of fat, which is similar to the nutrition profile of a slice of bread.