Swift: Handful of Germans take their own route to tasty lefseHow many Germans does it take to make lefse? Five, it turns out.
By: Tammy Swift, INFORUM
How many Germans does it take to make lefse?
Five, it turns out.
Three to do the actual hard labor of mixing, rolling and frying. One – who is actually the only Norwegian in the group – to do the sampling and critiquing. And one more to document it all and post it on Facebook.
If you are a Facebook friend of mine, you know which one I did.
It had been a long time since my family had attempted this classically Scandinavian dish. We usually tried it when all the girls were home, so we could set up an efficient assembly-line operation. But during our last Thanksgiving break, Mom had a brilliant suggestion: Let’s make lefse. I was dispatched to the grocery store to buy lard, the Waterloo of the nutrition world. Someone found and dusted off the long-neglected lefse griddle. And then we devoted ourselves to the care and kneading of the beloved Norwegian flatbread.
Now here’s the part that will make the true Norwegians among you gasp in horror and fear. WE DID NOT USE POTATOES. I realize this is blasphemy, just as I realize the fact we used a spatula rather than a stick to turn the lefse as a mortal Scandinavi-sin. But we are German, so we couldn’t really help ourselves. It was like watching a bunch of BMW engineers try to build a Stave church. That is, in some ways we were highly efficient. In others, we were clueless.
And, in our defense, we were actually using a recipe very similar to the one that our own (100 percent) Norwegian grandmother used. She always made an amazing version of “milk lefse,” which was thin as waxed paper and as delicate as a doily. One of life’s pleasures was to sample her lefse right off the grill, after it had been liberally doused in butter, sugar and cinnamon.
But after Grandma died, we found it impossible to replicate her recipe. Oh sure, we found the recipe card, but it contained cryptic notes and measurements that only she could understand. What did “a pan of milk” mean? Or how did you add enough flour “until it is good to roll?”
Thanks to the miracle of the Interwebs, we found a recipe that produced a pretty good approximation of Dorothy Swift’s Milk Lefse. The good news about this type of flatbread is that it saves you from the whole potato-preparation thing. Because let’s face it: Lefse is work. Northern Europeans would not be satisfied with anything that did not take some labor; they would feel like they didn’t deserve it. (Perhaps that explains furniture made by IKEA.)
We plunged right in. Verbena cooked the goo on the stove and kneaded it into a lovely, non-stick dough (rendered pig fat will do that). My biker brother rolled it out so thin that I’m sure Grandma Swift was grinning from the heavens. My mother fried and played amateur dietitian, explaining to all of us that this recipe wasn’t so bad as it “only” contained a half cup of lard. My Dad ate and ate and ate. And I took pictures, because I had been demoted from rolling (“Too thick!”) and had nothing better to do.
The result was a heavenly, warm, lacy creation that was completely consumed by that evening. And because this is the season of giving, I will share it now with you.
German-Built Milk Lefse
2 cups milk
½ cup lard (don’t be ridiculous and try to replace it with something like olive oil)
1 tablespoon salt
4 cups sifted flour
Heat milk, lard and salt on stove over low heat. Add 2 cups of sifted flour, mix thoroughly over low heat until it is reasonably smooth. It will create a very soft, sticky dough.
Sift remaining 2 cups of flour on the countertop. Plunk the dough on there and start working it like you mean it. It will create a really nice, soft dough. Divide the dough into smaller spheres (like the size you’d use to make dinner rolls), place on LIGHTLY floured countertop and roll so thin you can practically see through it. Fry on 425-degree griddle till light brown freckles appear. Flip with a blasphemous spatula.
Lefse rejoice and be glad.
Tammy Swift writes a lifestyle column every Sunday in Variety. Readers can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org