This Norwegian flat bread looks a bit like a very big flour tortilla.
There are many different varieties: sweet, plain, thin, thick, and made with or without potatoes in the dough.
In Norway, the potato version of Lefse is most popular in the Telemark region. Most people outside Norway, in particular Americans of Norwegian descent, think there is only the version with potato in it, and are very surprised when they learn that in the homeland, it is just one variation (they might also be surprised to learn that in Norway, Lefse can also be called “Lompe.”) For some reason, only the potato version of Lefse seemed to become the most popular one in areas such as Minnesota and North Dakota with the Norwegian immigrants.
For these people, the debate rages over whether to rice or mash the potato. Some bypass the whole thing and leave both sides gasping by using instant mashed potato flakes. It’s probably best not to tell any of them, perhaps, that traditionally potatoes would not have been available at all in Norway, let alone white flour.
When potatoes are used, floury potatoes are best. You cook the potatoes up first, and then mash or rice them, and stir in butter and / or cream, and then mix the flour into the potato mixture just before making the bread.
Balls of the dough are rolled out flat and round with a special Lefse rolling pin (some people make the shape square.) Practised makers can roll out huge, thin sheets.
On the work surface, you then roll up the Lefse loosely around a flat stick called a “Lefse stick,” then move the stick to an ungreased Lefse griddle and unroll it from the stick onto the Lefse griddle.
Each side of the Lefse will need to cook for about 2 to 3 minutes, turning it over with the Lefse stick when the first side starts to brown. Each side should end up with small brown spots.
When done, cool, fold and store.
The Lefse can be served as a snack with butter and cinnamon sugar on it
Most people in Norway get them store-bought now. You can also get Lefse in stores in America wherever there is a high percentage of people with Norwegian ancestry: Minnesota, North Dakota, Seattle, etc.
Only store Lefse when they are completely cooled, or condensed moisture will turn them soggy. Once cool, store in a plastic bag, or wrapped up in plastic film or tin foil.
If left out on the counter unwrapped too long, Lefse will get dry and brittle. You can soften Lefse up with a few sprinkles of water and then place in a bag to soften.
If dry, moisten briefly, then give it a quick zap in the microwave.
Lefse was a bread that you could cook without an oven (an oven being an extravagance in a country like Norway that used to be poor.)
Literature & Lore
A folksy wall decoration popular in Minnesota gives the potato version recipe for Lefse, starting off:
“Yew tak yust ten big potatoes
Den yew boil dem till dar done.”
The potato version is also called “potetlomper” in Norwegian.