It’s hard to say when lefse originated. Maybe the Norse God Odin first had it served to the souls of the slain warriors who occupy Valhalla as a way to fortify them for their final battle. That’s probably just a folk tale given the fact that the potato was introduced to Norway a little over 250 years ago.
The first lefse in Norway didn’t contain potatoes, it was made from flour. Women would travel from house to house, village to village to make lefse to last the winter months. The flour lefse would cook up like a cracker and be able to last through the season. Many households stored their lefse is wooden boxes covered in cloth or just stacked on shelves. When you were ready to enjoy some lefse it was dipped in water and soaked between damp cloth til softened. Like today it was enjoyed with butter and maybe some sugar.
Then the introduction of potatoes, abundant and easy to grow. The potato was incorporated into many Norwegian foods, even lefse! Like Ireland, Norway suffered from the effects of the potato famine in the mid-1800’s, which is about the time that many Norwegians came to the United States. They brought their knowledge and rolling pins. The result is a Norwegian potato bread delicacy that’s part of a special tradition replicated in many Norwegian-American homes for more than 150 years. A tradition that you can be part of once again
- 2/3 cup (150 g) margarine
- 1 Tb (10 g) lard/smult
- 4.2 cups (1 liter) whole milk
- 8.4 cups (1.05 kg) flour
Place the margarine, lard and milk in a saucepan and bring to a small boil. Remove from heat.
In a large bowl or food processor (with dough blade), place the flour and add the warm milk mixture to it. Mix together and knead well until it comes together and forms a nice, smooth dough, a couple of minutes.
Divide the dough into pieces around 140g (0.3 lbs) in weight. Shape into balls and flatten. On a lightly floured surface, roll out each dough very thinly, maintaining the round shape. It works best to roll out from the center, then out again and work around the lefse rather than rolling back and forth. Use as little flour as possible.
Heat up a takke or griddle and cook each lefse on top while hot. Turn the lefse several times until it starts to turn golden brown and bubble a bit. Stack the finished lefse, wrap in a cloth and let rest overnight.
When the lefse is cool, you can smear it with butter and sugar, top with another lefse and cut into large slices. You can also leave the lefse plain.
Lefse with butter and sugar can be served as a treat alongside coffee or tea. Plain lefse goes great paired with soups, fish, trout mousse, and/or topped with the items of your choice. Treat it as you would a tortilla.