Now is the time for all good lefse makers to come to the aid of their culture. It is the pre-Christmas crunch time when demands for lefse—and unmerciful expectations of excellence—are high. Time to step up your lefse game and get on a roll!
So, I will give five tips for making “perfect” lefse. Specifically, I’m talking about making round rounds, as opposed to rounds that look like amoebas. Tip to geography teachers: Use lefse making to help kids learn the states of the US and the continents of the world. It is common for lefse makers to roll rounds that look like Texas, Ohio, Australia, and Africa.
I make a point to discuss the quest of making perfect lefse in my lefse class (only five more Zoom classes before Christmas). I even sing a song to this poem I wrote for in The Last Word on Lefse: Heartwarming Stories—and Recipes Too!
“ISS CALLED LEFSE FOR A PURPOSE”
O Lord it iss hard to make lefse
Dat iss perfect in every vay.
To roll dem so round and so tin
Ha, ha, ha, ho, ho—dat vill be da day!
To know lefse, ya sure, iss to love it
No matter how tick, tough, or dead
And if lefse vas s’pose to be yust right
Ve’d call lefse “yust rigthse” instead.
My point to perfectionists such as myself is to ease up. Yes, go for lefse ecstasy of the round round, but if you don’t get to the promised land, oh well. Keep on rolling.
Given that, if you enjoy the quest for a round round as I do, here are five tips:
- 1. Use King Arthur’s Flour. Or use a high-quality, high-protein flour for making dough and for rolling. It makes for a velvety soft dough, and the edges of the round are much less jagged than when using a cheaper flour. When your edges aren’t jagged, your chances of round rounds go way up.
- 2. Start round, stay round. I spend a lot of time making lefse dough patties that are round and that also do not have cracks at the edges. A little crack in the patty gets to be a big crack in the round. So start with a round round and then take your time to keep it that way as you roll, especially as the round rolls out to be 6 to 8 inches in diameter. That’s the critical time. If the round stays round in these early inches, you have a good shot for a round round when you finish rolling.
- 3. Light on the pin. Do not be a banger or a squisher. Gently place the pin on the patty and let the pin do the work without any help from you. You start squishing that poor round, and suddenly a part of the patty squirts out of whack and you can’t get it back. Easy does it, and rotate the pin often to keep your round round.
- 4. Saw your round free (see opening image). Once you get a round round, you are not home free. You have to get it to the grill without incident. That incident is often sticking. You get drawn into the rapture of rolling a perfect round, and you fail to detect that sticky spot that will become a tear—bringing on tearing and gnashing of teeth. It’s always a good idea to run your turning stick under the finished round and “saw” your way through any sticky spots before lifting the round to the grill.
- 5. Use a pizza cutter.
When all else fails, do what Chuck Ihlen from Pipestone, Minnesota, does to get a round round. He places a grease splatter screen on his finished round and uses a pizza cutter to trim away whatever dough is not in the round area under the screen. And if you turn up your nose at this, consider that Chuck did this in full view of the public and still won the National Lefse Cookoff, which is part of the Potato Days in Barnsville, Minnesota.
Maybe the best tip for making perfect lefse came from Bonnie Jacobs of Jacobs Lefse Bakeri and Gifts in Osakis, Minnesota. I interviewed her for Keep On Rolling: Life on the Lefse Trail and Learning to Get a Round, and she said this: “Here’s my best advice on trying to make perfectly round lefse: Do it more than once a year.”