When December rolls around, some folks reach for butter and sugar. Others stock up on potatoes, as thoughts of lefse — the Scandinavian flatbread — dance in their heads.
This month six women from Central Lutheran Church in downtown Minneapolis gathered to prepare for their annual fundraising project by making as much lefse as they could at one time.
It was a good day, a long day, a day filtered through a haze of flour for those who gathered at the kitchen counter of Rebecca Jorgenson Sundquist of Deephaven as they stared down more than 50 pounds of lefse dough. That alone made them laugh. Six hours later, they were still giggling as they stacked the last of the 560-plus pieces of lefse (the numbers would have been much higher, but there had been a fair amount of nibbling).
What does it take to make a lot of lefse? Plenty of butter and cream and, of course, potatoes. And then there's the flour. Not too much, not too little. Lefse recipes vary as much as the cooks do. The version the Central women use comes from Beatrice Ojakangas, the James Beard award-winning Finnish cookbook author from Duluth.
The result, at least in their expert hands, is a lightly dappled lefse so delicate it is almost lace-like.
For more step-by-step photos, go to strib.mn/lefse.
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The effort begins the night before as boiled potatoes are run through a potato ricer or food mill to ensure a smooth texture. No one wants lumps in their lefse.
Then the butter and cream are added. For 50 pounds of potatoes, that means 5 pounds of butter and 2 1/2 quarts of cream, all of which makes "dough" that in reality is a batch of the best mashed potatoes ever.
The potato dough is cooled in the refrigerator overnight, where it's also drying out. The next day, flour is added and the dough is rolled into golf-ball size pieces.
The ball of dough is rolled out on a pastry board with a grooved rolling pin covered in a pastry sleeve. A skillful lefse maker will make sure the dough is thinly rolled into a circle.
º A wooden lefse stick (aka lefse lifter) is slipped under the lefse round and used to put it atop the grill, where it cooks quickly over high heat.
Finished pieces of lefse are stacked and covered with a towel until they cool (although the lefse is also tasty when hot off the griddle).
The lefse is ready for a smear of butter and whatever else family tradition or personal preference dictates: a sprinkle of sugar (brown or white) or dab of preserves.