Lefse Stories

Aunt Sophie’s Mocha Bars

Submitted by Anne Malm-Hossfeld Minnetonka, MN

Hi, Gwen. Thanks for the answer. I do have a family recipe for them, and it’s the history I’ve been trying to track down, because I thought my family invented them (!), but then I heard they’re a genuine Norwegian thing. If you’ve had them, that’s great, because it means others out there are making them too. You might be interested in my story.

I grew up with a recipe for “Aunt Sophie’s” peanut bars. Sopie Quam Shirley was my Norwegian grandmother’s sister and lived in Minot, ND, where she helped out in her husband’s family’s grocery store – Shirley’s Grocery (AKA Sjolie). The recipe I have was written in a cookbook my grandmother wrote for me in which she wrote down some of her own recipes. The recipe is for a sponge cake and a very rich butter frosting. You cut the sheet cake in long pieces or squares, frost all sides, and roll them in chopped, salted Spanish peanuts.

I was at a Duluth antique store last year and was talking to a man who grew up in Minot. I mentioned the Shirley’s grocery store, and he remembered it. I mentioned Sophie who made “her own recipe” for “something called” peanut bars, and at least 3 other people at the counter said, Oh, yes, peanut bars, mocha bars, they’re Norwegian! I’d never heard this. The man from Minot said his son had married a Norwegian woman, and at the wedding in Norway, they served them on the dessert tray, although they were covered in ground almonds, which I guess is more traditional. Another said there was a woman in Two Harbors who used to make them and sell them. So ever since I’ve been trying to track down more information on them.

Then at another antique store, I found a tiny pamphlet from 1955 called “Scandinavian Goodies” with a recipe for Mocha Cake — bake a “one-egg” cake, cut in squares, frost with powdered sugar icing, and roll in ground almonds browned in butter. So they’re real! I don’t know the origin of the name “Mocha” — it can’t be referring to the typical coffee/chocolate flavor.

Anyway, hope this passes on some Norwegian cooking lore to you. I love your website and will be back.

Takk et ha de godt.

2013-09-27T20:12:52+00:00By |

Lefse is for everyone

Submitted by Karen Bratcher, northern Idaho

To my knowledge I have no Norski ancestry. I had never heard of lefse until about ten years ago, when a coworker of Norwegian descent rhapsodized about it and brought in some she had purchased from the Lutheran church, which has a big lefse-making gathering every holiday season. To tell you the truth I was not very impressed with the stuff, it was very bland and as thick and almost as tough as a flour tortilla. I happened to have a wonderful book “Flatbreads and Flavors: A Baker’s Atlas” which contained a lefse recipe among hundreds of other terrific flatbreads and side dishes (I bought the book after reading about and trying the delicious whole wheat pita bread recipe), so I attempted to make some. My first efforts were very frustrating. The dough is so soft and fragile it does take a few batches to develop the technique of rolling, picking up, and cooking. However, they tasted wonderful, in fact my Norwegian friend says they are the best she has ever tasted, and she is impressed with how thin and soft the finished lefse are. I went to her house once to try and teach her how to make lefse herself because nobody in her family makes them, but she became so frustrated trying to roll out the sticky dough that she threw the dough ball against the wall in disgust and gave up!

My first few years making lefse I used a cast iron skillet on the stove, and as I gained speed in rolling I also used a second skillet, with a Teflon finish. Both worked equally well. I picked the rounds up off my rolling area with a pastry scraper and used my fingers to flip them and then remove them from the skillets. I first rolled them on a floured board, then began duct-taping a thin dishtowel to the counter and flouring it to make a better rolling surface. Eventually I purchased a lefse stick and aluminum griddle from Bethany Housewares, and made a hot pad from silver ironing-board-cover fabric and quilt batting to put between the hot griddle and laminate countertop. My rolling surface has evolved to a sanded 24″ circle that I cut from plywood, with a snug cover I made from heavy muslin (first wash and dry on high heat to shrink the material as much as it will go before cutting) with elastic around the edges to hold it in place. Of course this also makes a terrific surface to roll out pie crusts and other pastries… and once you have mastered the art of rolling lefse, no pastry dough will ever give you trouble again! When finished rolling, I shake the excess flour out of the cloth and the rolling pin “sock”, put them in a ziploc and store in the freezer. I only wash them if I have not floured enough and they have a lot of dough ground in.

I just use a regular rolling pin but with a rolling pin cover (I call it a sock) to hold flour. I have read one can even use a clean tube sock for the rolling pin cover — poke a small hole in the toe end to force one handle through, then tack the sock firmly around the other end of the pin. For beginning lefse makers, I would recommend always using a well-floured rolling pin sock and a well-floured cloth to roll on, which will eliminate a lot of frustration with the sticky dough. I also make lefse much smaller than the huge griddle-sized traditional ones, because the dough is so much easier to handle when it is 8″ rather than 15″! Depending on how much time I want to take, I will alternate using real potatoes, or potato flakes.

2013-09-27T20:12:52+00:00By |

Lefse Terror

Submitted by Lise Fleming

Sons of Norway District Six Treasurer LaVonne Kerfoot was going to teach two ‘virgin’ lefse makers (Mary Jo Martinsen and Lise Fleming) how to make lefse from start to finish. We were to meet in the evening on December 22 to prepare the potatoes and then again the next morning to roll and bake the lefse.

Lise had bought a brand new stainless steel, ‘top of the art’ potato ricer plus the entire lefse making implements that she was eager to Christen. Early in the morning Lise’s phone rang, it was LaVonne who said that she was not feeling well so ‘you girls are on your own!’ Sheer terror set in!!!!! How were we going to pull this off without LaVonne there to guide us???

A quick phone call to Mary Jo and we decided to go ahead with the lefse making anyway since we had the recipe and LaVonne was just a phone call away.

We met at 6:00 pm and looked over the recipe, it said to boil the potatoes but we had no clue if they should be peeled before or after the boiling. So here was our first phone call to LaVonne who informed us that we peel the potatoes afterwards because ‘you would not burn your fingers otherwise!’. After boiling the potatoes, peeling them and burning our fingers, we were excited to try out the new shiny potato ricer. In the beginning it was going along fine, we took turns with the ricer. Suddenly it got harder to turn the crank so we took it apart. To our surprise, the brand new ricer had broken. We looked at each other and said, ‘what are we doing now’ since we were only about halfway done ricing the potatoes.

Another phone call to LaVonne. To our relief, she said that she would bundle herself up and bring over her ricer right away. What a pal……. within 10 minutes she dropped off her ricer so we were able to finish up preparing the potatoes. She really saved us!

Mary Jo and Lise met early the next morning to roll out and bake the lefse. The first couple of lefse they rolled out stuck to the board, had odd shapes and burned because the grill was too hot. Another phone call to LaVonne and she gave us tips on what to do.

The flour was flying everywhere, we were a mess but little by little we got the hang of it and pretty soon we felt like pros. The lefse shapes became rounder, they did not stick on to the board and they were baked to perfection. We felt pretty proud of ourselves for mastering the lefse making.

We split the lefse lot 3 ways and we anxiously awaited LaVonne’s verdict on how well we did. She said that we did an excellent job. Not bad for two ‘virgin’ lefse makers!

2013-09-27T20:12:52+00:00By |

Great Lefse Story

This is a photo of Dawn Crawford (left) and Roberta Scott (right) who have been friends since college days. We began our annual lefse making get togethers many years ago, as both are from Scandinavian backgrounds. We both live near Boise, Idaho and Dawn’s Mother is in Ohio. Tradition has it we were always trying to duplicate the lefse we grew up with. Each year Dawn sends a batch of our lefse efforts to her Mother. The first few years our lefse was thick, hard or rubbery with black spots! Initially her mother wondered what it was between the layers of wax paper, but eventually it began to look and taste more and more like lefse! We began by using a cast iron skillet and regular rolling pin with whipped (using beaters) potatoes. Boy – have we evolved over the years!! We added the pastry cloth and rolling pin (Roberta is always the roller) and then the lefse sticks. Dawn has always been the one cooking. Dawn gave Roberta a lefse griddle for Christmas and with all the right tools we are now making delectable lefse! The funny part is year before last (photo above) was the year to try out the new lefse griddle. We also borrowed a German-made heavy duty ricer from my friend Carla. I followed a recipe that came with the griddle and riced the potatoes. The dough was just creamy, soft and wonderful!! When Dawn showed up at my home to begin cooking our lefse, she showed up in near matching outfit to Roberta! How funny! We both had on green courderoy pants and black shirts! With ‘dualing lefse sticks’ we present out photograph that represents a wonderful, long friendship with memories of annual lefse get togethers. Wherever we end up living in the future, I will always take my lefse griddle and head to Dawn’s before Christmas to continue this tradition! Last year’s lefse was nearly perfect to our childhood memories. Dawn’s Mother got her annual batch as usual and now recognizes the improvements that actually looks and tastes like real lefse!! The correct tools and years of practice, along with a fond friendship, makes the finest lefse!

2017-11-13T22:43:32+00:00By |

You want Lefse?

Submitted by Cordell Haugen

Growing up in a Norwegian immigrant family in Northern Minnesota, lefse was always an important ingredient in our lives. Not the small little lefse rounds that are now available in markets and popular with people of all backgrounds who know good food when they taste it, but the big ones that my grandmother used to make. It was in the early 1940s, during World War II, and visits to my paternal grandmother were major outings. Gasoline and other rationed items were in such short supply, that no one went far, or often. Grandma lived on a small farm about seven miles from the little town where we had lived since my father lost our farm during the Great Depression, before I was born. Grandpa had died in 1903, when my father was only eight years old, and Grandma was really a link with the past. Her English was limited to a few phrases, only those most necessary to the hard life to which she had become accustomed.

The one I remember most was ‘You want lefse?’ Yes, she had that sing-song ‘brogue’ that people make fun of today when they joke about Minnesota Norwegians. But to us it was like the voice of an angel. When she asked that question, she was singing our song. My brother Jim and I were the youngest in the family, and we were always less frightened of our grandma with her stern countenance when she made such an offer. We would nod our reply and wait for a sign. She would almost smile, then point to the bedroom, which opened off of the living room. It was our cue.

We’d run the few steps to her bedroom, lift the spread and from under the old frame bed, we would slide out a huge box that kept the treasure. It was cold in there, far from the only stove in the home, and clearly the best place to store the staple. She didn’t have an ice box. We would open the box and there, between sheets of wax paper, were dozens of huge lefse, folded once into half-rounds each about 20-22 inches across.

From her seat next to the old wood stove, on top of which she baked these gems, came Grandma’s voice again. ‘One,’ she said firmly. ‘One,’ she would repeat in a voice as stern and commanding as her facial expression.

We would each take one, cover the top layer again with the wax paper, and fold closed the dish towel made from a flour sack. We’d close up the box and timidly find our way back to the kitchen, where our mother had butter and sugar ready to finish up our treat.

If we ate the whole thing, Grandma would wait for what seemed forever, then ask ‘You want lefse? And we’d repeat the exercise. Usually, two was all we could eat … two each, that is. But, if we were really hungry and she thought we could handle a third, the exercise was repeated. By then, you could see a smile of pleasure on her face.

She knew the way to our hearts. She never hugged us; never kissed us; never told us that she loved us. But we knew. If she didn’t love us, why would she have treated us to her lefse?

2017-11-13T22:43:32+00:00By |
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