My father is Norwegian by birth, and so some Norwegian characteristics have come to me naturally. Having hearty tolerance of long winters and cold temperatures has been truly helpful throughout my life. Even so, I have wished on more than one occasion that lefse-making skills were written into my genetic code.
Lefse is a simple delicacy, a potato-flour-sugar-butter is a stick-to-your-ribs fixture of Norwegian holiday meals. My Grammie learned to make krumkake and let me and my Mom in the process, but after living in Norway, she didn’t bring lefse-making home to Canada with her. I am fortunate now to have the opportunity for the lefse making process to be to be passed down from Bjorn’s side of the family who also have Scandinavian heritage. We took Amtrak to Northwestern North Dakota for the first part of our Christmas vacation this year and our first stops upon arrival were at the homes of Bjorn’s Grandmas. Bjorn’s Grandma’s have been welcoming in their kitchens when I’ve asked for lessons and when I buzz around with a camera and ask for family recipes. I have had fun baking with both of them. When we arrived at Grandma Eldrice’s house this Christmas, she was well on her way to rolling out round balls of lefse dough on a round, pastry cloth-topped board with a corrugated rolling-pin. Once rolled, the flat round of dough is carefully wound around a long, slim turning stick, and then unrolled on to the hot lefse griddle. After the lefse has spent a few moments on the griddle, Bjorn was recruited to use a second long, thin stick to carefully turn the thin, bubbled rounds of soft flat bread to allow the second side to cook briefly. From the griddle, the warm lefse is tucked in a stack under kitchen towels to cool, without becoming dry. I’ve had lefse that is so thin it is transparent, both with and without browned bubbles. Both of Bjorn’s Grandma’s roll their lefse very thin, and allow the bubbles to kiss the griddle long enough for brown marks to appear. On Christmas Eve, Eldrice buttered, sugared and rolled each of the lefse circles into skinny rolls, and sliced each roll in half across its middle before piling it on a platter. We all had seconds and some had thirds. Homemade lefse is so very special at Christmas time and so very good.