North Dakota, the Roughrider State, celebrates its Northern European influences, especially anything Norwegian. A third of its residents are of Norwegian descent, the highest percentage of any state in the country. Immigration from Norway began around 1870 and these Henriks and Heddas brought the two Ls — lutefisk and lefse.
We’ll leave lutefisk for another day, but lefse is nothing more than a potato crepe. Or maybe it’s a potato tortilla? Either way, they are thin and speckled brown from the skillet and are delicious served warm with a bit of cream cheese and jelly or simpler still, with butter and sugar.
Lefse take a bit of effort, but don’t all good things? Start by peeling and cutting up the potatoes and boiling them until they are quite soft, almost falling apart when pierced by a fork. Let the potatoes cool and then put them through a potato ricer. Lumps are fine for mashed potatoes but the consistency here needs to be finer, no lumps allowed. Add the butter, milk and salt and pepper to taste and then refrigerate until the potatoes are cold. You can do this step the day before if you’d like.
When you are ready to make the lefse, add two cups of the potatoes with one cup of the flour. You’ll probably have some potatoes leftover, a bonus as you can eat them for lunch the next day. The mixture will gradually come together and you’ll have a dough that looks like this.
Divide this dough ball into 16 equal portions.
Now the real fun begins: Rolling the lefse out. Add a cup of flour to a clean mixing bowl. Drop one dough ball into the flour, dusting the dough. Take it out and then gently roll it out with a rolling pin onto a well-floured surface. This might take a few tries until you get the amount of flour needed and how much pressure to apply with the rolling pin. Don’t get frustrated, if the dough is too sticky or holes form while rolling, just form the dough back into a ball, and try again after adding a bit more flour. You’ll want to roll these babies out as thin as possible, 1/8 of an inch or less so that the dough is almost translucent when held up to the light. Gently lift lefse off of surface with a spatula or pastry scraper.
Place onto a heated skillet and cook two to three minutes on each side until golden brown spots appear.
Serve them warm, spread with your favorite topping.
Channel your inner Viking and visit the Norsk Hostfest in Minot ND, September 30-October 4, 2014.
- 1 lb. baking potatoes
- 4 tablespoons butter or margarine
- 1/4 cup milk or cream
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1-2 cups flour
- Vegetable oil
- Jam with cream cheese, or butter with granulated sugar, for serving
Peel and cut potatoes into uniform pieces. Place into a large pot of cold water, with potatoes completely covered. Bring potatoes to a gentle boil until they are soft, about ten minutes. Drain and let cool. Press potatoes through a potato ricer. Add butter, milk and salt and pepper. Mix until ingredients are completely absorbed, adding more salt and pepper if necessary. Refrigerate mixture until cold.
When ready to make the lefse, mix two cups of the potatoes with one cup of flour. The mixture will be grainy at first but will slowly become a ball of dough as you mix. Turn onto a well-floured surface and knead a few times. Divide dough into 16 equal portions. Roll each portion into a little dough ball. Cover dough balls with a clean tea towel and keep covered as you work.
Heat a non-stick pan or a cast iron skillet to medium heat. Add a cup of flour to a clean mixing bowl. Drop one dough ball into the flour, dusting the dough. Remove, then roll out gently with a rolling pin onto a well-floured surface (if dough is too sticky or holes form while rolling, form back into a ball, and add more flour). Roll as thin as possible, 1/8 of an inch or less so that the dough is almost translucent when held up to the light. Gently lift lefse off of surface with a spatula and place onto skillet. Cook 2-3 minutes each side until golden brown spots appear. Transfer onto a plate and cover with a clean tea towel. Repeat with remaining dough balls, rolling out one lesfe as one cooks. If lefse start to stick to pan while cooking, brush the pan with a small amount of vegetable oil.
To serve, spread with your topping of choice and then roll up. Lefse will keep for one week in the fridge or three weeks frozen.