Wednesday 5 September 2012

{Ratio Rally} Norwegian potato lefse

Having lived in the Midwest, I'm pretty familiar with the food stereotypes of the region...several of which can probably be traced back to the areas with a lot of Scandinavian influence. And while anyone who's spent time in that region (or listened to A Prairie Home Companion) has likely heard jokes about the ubiquitous cream-of-something-soup casseroles and the notoriously-polarizing lutefisk, it seems some of the best foods are virtually unknown in most other parts of the country! Lefse is one of those foods, and when I saw that Brooke had chosen "Tortillas and Wraps" for this month's theme, it's exactly what came to mind.

For all two of you reading this who have heard of lefse, the title of this post probably seems a bit redundant. (Norwegian potato lefse? As opposed to....?) For the rest of you, though, let me introduce you to a new, very versatile traditional flatbread/wrap...made in a decidedly untraditional manner. 

You see, lefse is generally made by peeling, boiling, and mashing starchy potatoes with cream and butter, letting the potato mixture cool completely, then incorporating flour. As with anything "traditional," of course, every family recipe I found was different - many use just those ingredients, but others insist milk is essential, while still others add a little sugar. Even the consistency of the dough is not universally agreed upon; in fact, I was pretty surprised by just how widely the ratio of flour to potato could vary. Additionally, some people have re-worked their family recipes by making the mashed potatoes from instant potato flakes, then proceeding as usual. It saves the work and time of peeling all those potatoes, but still, most of those recipes instruct to refrigerate the mash overnight before making the dough. 

I decided to make things even lazier easier and faster - I simply used the appropriate amount of potato flour along with the rest of my dry ingredients, then mixed in the wet ingredients, and the dough is ready to go! (Potato flour is just dried potato, like instant mashed potatoes; in one batch I did try reconstituting the potato flour separately and then adding the other flours, but I couldn't tell a difference in taste or texture, and the dough was much more difficult to work with.) Whether it tastes all that different compared to the traditional method, well, I can't really remember - I haven't had "real" lefse in several years, and Jon (who is not gluten-free, and therefore is responsible for taste-testing my recipes for authenticity) has never tried it at all. However, he did think this bread tastes like naan - with its nice chewy texture and griddle-blistered surface, I can't say I disagree. 

I think it tastes pretty close to what I remember, though. Either way, I do know that this is a quick, very satisfying wrap bread, with a slightly sweet, hearty potato taste that complements all kinds of fillings. Unlike many gluten-free wraps, it is soft enough to roll up around a filling, and won't fall apart. Try it as a snack spread with butter and cinnamon sugar, or for lunch wrapped around cheese and lettuce, or even rolled up with peanut butter and jelly. (Yes, I used to take that last one to school for lunch. And got some funny looks for it. But I didn't care, because it was delicious.)

As I mentioned above, every recipe I found for lefse was a bit different, because every family has a slightly different version of the same food. The recipe below just happens to be a balance I like: not too floury or dry, a little bit buttery, moist yet not too heavy. My ratio, if I count the dried potato as part of the flour, is 6 parts flour:4 parts liquid:1 part fat

I calculated my ratio based on how many total grams of fat, rather than how many grams of butter and cream, went into it. Hopefully this will make substitution more successful for those of you who need to avoid dairy. If you try making a dairy-free version, let me know how it goes!

Lefse (the lazy way)
Makes 8 wrap-sized flatbreads

70g potato flour (not potato starch!)
70g white rice flour
55g potato starch, plus more for rolling out dough
15g buckwheat flour
2 tsp psyllium husk
1/4 tsp Pomona's citrus pectin
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp sugar

2 T butter, melted (this contributes about 22 grams of fat) 
35 g cream (approximately 13 grams of this weight come from fat, for a total of 35 g of fat; roughly 20 grams remaining counts as liquid) 
190 g water (this plus the ~20 grams from the cream equals about 210 g liquid)

Blend all dry ingredients together in a bowl. Mix in cream, melted butter, & water, knead until dough forms a ball. --At this point I recommend putting the dough in the refrigerator for about half an hour - the dough is much easier to work with if it's cold.-- When the dough is chilled, flour your work surface and rolling pin with some starch, and heat a heavy griddle over medium heat. Divide the dough into eight balls. To roll out, press each ball flat with your hand, making sure there is plenty of starch on both sides, and gently roll as thin as you can without tearing. Picture yourself using the rolling pin to stretch the dough outwards, rather than pressing downwards on it. (If it does tear, use damp fingers to repair it - just make sure to dust extra starch on that spot so it doesn't stick to the rolling pin. Also, don't worry if they're not perfect - it takes practice, and they'll still taste just as good!) To cook, roll the round of dough up onto/around the rolling pin - so it is draped over the rolling pin - then carefully "roll" it off onto the hot griddle. It should start to bubble up after about a minute, at most - if it doesn't, turn up the heat a little more. Cook for a couple of minutes on each side. Place the lefse between folded dish towels to cool (this keeps them soft). 

Leftover lefse should be frozen for best texture (not refrigerated). Keep them in a freezer bag and thaw in the microwave as needed.

~Check out all of this month's recipes for tortillas & wraps, hosted by Brooke of B & the Boy!~


  1. I bet they are delicious, I look forward to trying them. Thank you for your interesting story too.

  2. Very cool, I had never heard of this type of flatbread before! It looks and sounds quite tasty!

  3. I really enjoyed reading this, Meg. I'm also from the Midwest, so I'm familiar with the stereotypes. These look yummy - if I make them dairy-free, I will be sure to let you know. Thanks for sharing!

  4. Thanks for sharing...I have some potato flour that I didn't know what to do with, so this may be perfect for it!

  5. I loved eating lefse at my Grandmothers house growing up. Spread on some butter and sprinkle with sugar and that's all you need yumm.I can't wait to try it out.

  6. Yet another vehicle to get pb & j into the Monkey who likes banana bread and chocolate waffles in addition to plain bread for this meal. Can't wait to try them. Thanks so much for participating!

  7. Uff da! Still living in the Midwest and growing up in a family of Norwegian cooks, I can relate. On my sister-in-law's first holiday visit to my family, she pulled me aside and whispered "I'm in Lake Wobegon!" That was right before my aunt unmolded the shrimp dip from the jello mold (another story.) Anyway, depending on what part of Norway your family was from, you did or did not use potatoes in lefse. My grandmother never sneered at anything except potato lefse. Oh, and the only thing you served on lefse was butter (NOT margarine) and white sugar. Making lefse still is an all-day production. Thanks for the memories. Maybe I'll try potato flour in spite of my upbringing.

  8. I just made these and ate 2 with butter. THIS is my new favorite bread. Simple,griddled, yeast free. thank you, you're a genius.

  9. Hi,
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  10. Hi, just came across your blog while doing some research for an article. Your recipes look fab and I've promoted them on my FB page.

    However...being from over the pond, I'm a bit flummoxed by Pomona's citrus pectin. I've found Pomona's universal pectin on sale in the uk ( will that do the same job??!

    Thanks for your help and great recipes, all power to you!

    Pig x

  11. I'm on the hunt for a gluten free lefse recipe so I'm glad I found your site. I have a question though--in the picture, the lefse is much thicker than traditional lefse, which is to be rolled out as thin as possible. Have you found that you need to roll the gluten free lefse thicker so that it doesn't fall apart? In your picture, it does look more like naan than any lefse I've ever had (as a native North Dakotan), so I'm just wondering. Looks yummy though!