First, what is lefse? It's the Scandinavian specialty bread, a round, soft unleavened bread, thin like a French crepe, round like a tortilla, soft like a Swedish pancake. It has the same shape (round) and leavening (no yeast) as what the Indians call chapati or kulcha or roti, the Italians call piadina, the Greeks call pita, the Armenians call lavash and Americans call, well, pancakes. (A fascinating list, this!) And lefse fits on A Veggie Venture, where all recipes start with a vegetables, because lefse dough is made with potatoes!
LeAnne Kruger is a lefse-maker extraordinaire – and lucky her, married to Kim Kruger, a great guy and a much welcome addition to the family. (Did I not yet say? LeAnne and I are cousins! We grew up in Minnesota going to church lefse suppers every Christmas.) Professionally, Kim is a long-time story-teller, television producer and photographer. And aiii, his photography! Check out Kim's work on Winsome Spirit Imagery and Fine Art America. But back to video! Is anyone here a fan of Bath Crashers on television's DIY Network? Kim's the producer!
Awhile back, Kim and his best friend and fellow producer James Massey spent a weekend helping LeAnne document how she makes the most tender, flavorful lefse. It's LeAnne's video debut but I think you'll agree, the camera loves her! She is a natural!
A CHALLENGE FOR THE NEW YEAR Lefse is traditional at Christmas and watching LeAnne make lefse will definitely add to the Christmas spirit. But I've given much thought to this question: Why did LeAnne, Kim and James go to so much effort to produce this beautiful video about making lefse?
Here's why. Many of our traditional foods are being lost, in part because even those who cook are so widely exposed – through our friends, through restaurants, through the internet – to the globe-wide food traditions unrelated to our own heritage. We can take on so many challenges but we don't always stop to get good at any one of them. Personally, I've made Scandinavian lefse (I was terrible, it takes practice!) but I've also tackled Korean kimchi (disaster) and Mexican mole (good) and an entire Alsatian meal (excellent!).
So here's the challenge for the New Year. Is there a special food in your family that's at risk of being lost?
If you know how to make it, make this your year to teach someone else, to pass it on, like this grandmother teaches her grandchildren how to make Homemade Swedish Potato Sausage, documented in my photo essay.
If you don't know how to make a special family food, find someone who does, your mom, an aunt, even a cousin. Learn how, get good. And then pass it on.
ACCEPTING MY OWN CHALLENGE My personal challenge for 2015 is peroghies. I've been writing my food column Kitchen Parade since 2002, writing nigh-on 500 columns. Yet I still haven't shared my Canadian family's recipe for peroghies. That's my challenge. You, what's yours?
So without further adieu, welcome, LeAnne! This A Veggie Venture's first video so if anyone has viewing issues, please let me know. If you love it, let LeAnne know, she and I would both so love to hear from you in the comments!
HOW to MAKE LEFSE
SPECIAL EQUIPMENT for MAKING LEFSE
Stainless-steel potato ricer
A rolling pin with ridges and a cloth cover
A cloth-covered lefse board
A lefse stick or two, preferably two-inches wide
A lefse griddle, preferably non-stick
A lefse cozy, just clean cotton dish towels
Five pounds of potatoes yields about 10 cups of riced potatoes.
5 pounds russet potatoes
LEFSE DOUGH, per BATCH
It's easier to work with smaller volumes of lefse dough so LeAnne makes two batches of lefse dough plus another half batch. This uses up all 10 cups of riced potatoes.
4 cups riced potatoes
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 tablespoons heavy cream
2 teaspoons table salt
1 tablespoon sugar
1 cup all-purpose flour
Extra flour for rolling
Soft butter with a little bit of sugar or brown sugar
Lingonberry jam, optional
COOK THE POTATOES Wash and peel the potatoes, removing any dark spots and eyes. Cut into small chunks (small enough to later fit easily into the potato ricer) and place in a large kettle. Cover with unsalted water. Bring to a boil on medium high, then cook until done, about 15 minutes. The potatoes should be "nice and tender". Drain well in a colander for several minutes to remove excess water.
SET UP STATIONS While the potatoes cook, cover the ridged rolling pin with its cloth cover. Set up three stations, a "rolling station" with the lefse board, the rolling pin and a lefse stick; a "cooking station" with the lefse griddle; and a "cooling station" with a lefse cozy for stacking the just-cooked lefse.
"RICE" THE POTATOES TWICE In batches, press the potato chunks through the potato ricer into a bowl (be sure not to pack the chunks into the ricer, just leave them loose). Run the riced potatoes through the ricer a second time, the potatoes will be easier to rice the second time.
MIX LEFSE DOUGH Measure 4 cups of riced potatoes, lightly not tightly packing when measuring, and move to a mixing bowl. Add the butter, cream, salt and sugar to the potatoes, stir well with a spoon. When well mixed, blend in the flour. The dough will be a bit sticky, don’t handle it too much, don't be tempted to add more flour.
AT THE ROLLING STATION Cover the lefse board and the ridged rolling pin with their respective cloth covers. Vigorously rub plenty of flour into the two covers. Place a pile of extra flour on the side of the lefse board.
Gently roll about 2 tablespoons of dough into a ball and roll the ball in flour. With your palms, gently pat the ball onto the lefse board, flattening it a little and coating both sides with flour. Dust the flattened ball with more flour, top and bottom.
With three or four gentle, even strokes with the rolling pin, roll the lefse dough into a slightly larger round. Turn the dough over (do not turn the dough more than once) and continue rolling, keeping the shape as round as you can. As you roll, lift the rolling pin slightly on the outer edges, this prevents the outer edges from becoming too thin which would become crispy when cooked. Lefse is not crispy!
AT THE COOKING STATION Set the lefse griddle at 400F. Slide the lefse stick under the lefse dough in the center. Gently lift the dough over onto the griddle, putting half on first, using the lefse stick to unroll the other half. Bake the first side until the bottom begins to brown a little and the top forms a few bubbles in the center. Use the lefse stick to gently flip the lefse over to repeat on the second side.
AT THE COOLING STATION With the lefse stick, lift the hot lefse off the griddle onto a lefse cozy to cool and cover with the cozy to prevent drying.
REPEAT, repeat, repeat! Lefse is a both a skill and an art, you'll get better with each batch, with each lefse.
FINALLY, THE EATING STATION It's easy to be good at eating lefse! :-) Spread soft butter on the lefse, either warm or at room temperature, sprinkle with sugar or brown sugar, a little cinnamon if you like, even a thin layer of lingonberry jam. Roll into a cigar shape, enjoy!
Always use russet potatoes, the mealy flesh is drier. Russet potatoes are the rough-skinned baking potatoes, often called Idaho potatoes.
Ricing the potatoes twice is what makes the lefse extra tender. You don't want to use leftover mashed potatoes for lefse.
Lightly pack the riced potatoes to measure the four cups.
Use just one cup of flour in the dough, even if the dough seems a little sticky when mixing. Lots more flour will be added during the rolling process.
You may need to increase the temperature of the lefse griddle after awhile, it seems to have trouble keeping the temperature after a dozen or so.
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CELEBRATE SCANDINAVIAN-STYLE THROUGHOUT THE YEARWINTER
~ Homemade Swedish Potato Sausage ~
(a picture essay of a grandmother passing along a family recipe)
~ Swedish Red Cabbage ~
~ Finnish Carrot Casserole ~
SPRING & SUMMER
~ Finnish Summer Potato Salad ~
~ Swedish Beets ~
from A Veggie Venture
FALL & WINTER
Glöggi: Hot Red Wine 'Mulled' with Winter Spices ~
~ Scandinavian Split-Pea Soup ~
~ Beef Stew with Cranberries ~
~ Finnish Meatballs ~
~ Swedish Rye Bread ~
SPRING & SUMMER
~ Lenten Grass ~
~ Finnish Summer Soup ~
~ Estonian Deviled Eggs
~ Simple Grilled Salmon ~
~ Finnish Fruit Tart ~
~ more Scandinavian recipes ~
from Kitchen Parade, my food column
famous asparagus-to-zucchini Alphabet of Vegetables.
© Copyright Kitchen Parade 2014