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The Woes of Wet Lefse Dough

What do you do when your lefse dough is wet? Well …

Lefse makers tend to find a recipe, often from a loved one in the family, and follow it precisely. I’m the same, or I had been until yesterday. I was in a hurry and got a little loose with my measurements. Actually, I’m kinda proud that I thumbed my nose at perfectionism. My perfectionism is an oppressor, demanding I do it perfect (make lefse, sing, write a book, you name it) or else.

Well, this batch of lefse dough was not done perfectly. I had added too much butter and cream, so the dough turned out wet.

What to do?

Wet lefse dough can mean your lefse rounds will be tough. With wet dough, you think you have to use more flour as you roll in order to prevent sticking. More flour equals tough lefse, and tough lefse, of course, is not your goal. I call tough lefse potato jerky.

To salvage such a batch, I do not use more flour. Instead, I use more time and less pressure on the rolling pin.

I form a patty and then gently press the rolling pin onto the patty. I do this repeatedly, rotating the pin and slowly rolling the dough into a wider and wider circle. Gently is the key word. Squishing the patty creates sticking.

When I get the round to a diameter about half as large as I want the final round to be, I turn the round and move it to another spot on my pastry board. That’s one reason I sell a large pastry board, so I can move the round while rolling and not keep grinding on the same spot, which hastens sticking.

So when you make a wet batch of lefse dough, don’t pitch it and don’t use more flour. Just take more time, turn and move your round at the midway point, and go ever so gently on the rolling pin.

These are the rounds that were rolled from the wet batch of lefse dough.
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Bad Weather, Good Lefse

Oh the weather outside is frightful …

Oh, the weather outside is frightful
But the LEFSE’s so delightful
And since we’ve no place to go
Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow

Modified lyrics from Let It Snow! Let It Snow!Let It Snow! Songwriters: Jule Styne / Sammy Cahn

Lefse is the perfect antidote to the gray November blahs, when snow falls on green leaves, and we hunch over and bow to the lengthening darkness. It can be depressing … until you pull out your lefse grill!

Oh, to stand up to winter and not just sit and take it.

Oh, to boil the potatoes and steam the windows, blotting out whatever’s bad.

Oh, to work the dough and use the hands, quieting a fretting mind.

Oh, to roll and grill, roll and grill, roll and grill — meditation marked with thumping and hissing.

Oh, to watch the pile of lefse grow … soft, unassuming beauty.

Oh, to sit a while with your lefse and tea, savoring the best that’s yet to be.

Oh, let it snow, let it snow, let it snow! There is lefse, indeed!

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Lefse: ‘High, Holy Food in My Family’

Ok, I’ll just say it. I’m tooting my own horn here. Not very Norwegian, but what the heck.

This is an email from Lorelei in California, who wrote this note when she ordered two copies of Final Rounds: On Love, Loss, Life, and Lefse. It made my day, my week, my whatever.

Hi Gary,

Your books are an absolute delight!! I am from Minnesota originally and have been transplanted to California after getting married. Lefse is high holy food in my family. Lutefisk … well that is another story : )

I am not sure how I first stumbled across your books … but I love them. Reading them makes me homesick and happy at the same time. They are food for my soul, especially around the holidays. I love, love, love the stories from The Lefse Trail [in the book Keep On Rolling: Life on the Lefse Trail and Learning to Get a Round]. You have a gift for capturing the essence of the people, the culture of small towns, and the sheer joy/madness of lefse. The various recipes and techniques are very helpful and interesting.

When I saw you wrote a novel, I knew I had to have it. My whole family enjoys your work. Thank you!!!
All the Best,

"Keep On Rolling!" Cover Image
“Keep On Rolling!” Cover Image
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A Moving Response to Final Rounds

About 125 book lovers attended last weekend’s launch of my new novel, Final Rounds. I signed all my books while lefse makers made fresh lefse to the music of an accordion player and a hardanger fiddler. One of my red letter days, indeed.

Last Saturday was one of those days that will forever make me grin. It was snowy and windy and therefore perfect for lefse, but the weather was not enough to stop 125 or so book lovers from coming to the launch of my new novel, Final Rounds: On Love, Loss, Life, and Lefse.

Throughout the book launch party for Final Rounds, Shirley Evenstad and Larry Lafayette rolled lefse and encouraged guests to give it a go as lefse makers.

I signed books for old friends and new, while lefse-making friends made fresh lefse while music from an accordion player and hardanger fiddler filled the air. And then I said a few words about the the writing of Final Rounds, which was followed by a reading from the book by me and my 12-year-old granddaughter, Amaya McIntosh. Amaya is the inspiration for the book and the book’s main character.

It was a great day, but the frosting on the cake came the next morning. I opened my email and read these responses from people who had finished Final Rounds overnight. Karen wrote this:

I just finished reading Final Rounds, which I greatly enjoyed!  Congratulations on this fine book … tender, humorous, and wise.


And then came this most moving email from Pam:

Dear Gary,

Many, many thanks for the gift you gave all of us with your beautiful book Final Rounds.  Well done my Norwegian friend. You have a gift of being able to weave together humor and wit, poetry and prose, loss and the grief it causes.  But the story doesn’t leave us to wallow in grief as we see how writing, working together, and finding comfort in God’s love ease our pain. 

Similar to the theme in Final Rounds is the birthday letter that my oldest granddaughter wrote to my late husband on his birthday.  She was five and half when he died six years ago this month, and is the only one of our six granddaughters who can remember him.  She dated it 2/28/19, which would have been his 73rd birthday.

“Dear Baba, Happy Birthday!  I’m 11 years old now!  I miss you so much. … Love, Elsa”

Ah writing, how it can ease the pain.  Keep on writing, Gary, and making and sharing your wonderful lefse.  I helped myself to plenty of it yesterday. Many thanks for your open house and the chance to meet and greet.  Best wishes, and as my dad often said, “Takk for alt.”


When I wrote Final Rounds, I didn’t really understand why. I just knew I loved the story more and more as I told it. Well, as these responses come in one by one, I better understand the why.

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It’ll Be Fun, They Said

So you would like to teach a group of kids to make lefse? Read this first.

“Have the Youth Group make lefse,” they said. “It’ll be fun,”

OK. Why not?

We polled the kids (grades 7-12) at Granville-Norwich Lutheran Parish, where I am Pastor. We asked the kids in this church in Granville, North Dakota, if they’ d be interested in using their next Youth Group time to do the work of making lefse for the annual church lutefisk dinner. A bit to our surprise, it was met with cheers of enthusiasm. Who knew these kids would be so eager to carry on this tradition generally in the purview of those women in the congregation in their 70s and 80s?

With a few tips from those matriarchs of lefse making and with their tried-and-true recipe in our hands, we gathered grills, flipper sticks, pastry boards, cloths and rolling pins along with the little socks that go on them. Another adult advisor and I prepared the dough, and it was cooled and waiting. We were ready for our big night.

On THE DAY, more than 20 kids showed up in the small church basement. They were excited and ready to roll!

Kids showed up at the church basement pumped to make lefse.

Things appeared to be going smoothly, but soon these same youth who just a week earlier had regaled us with tales of their experience making lefse with their grandmas or aunts now confessed they had been mere spectators to lefse making, or they were simply eaters. Some said they were completely unfamiliar with the process of making lefse.

So it began…

It wasn’t long before flour was everywhere. Rounds of lefse were produced that were as thick as the sole of a shoe and as dry as a cracker. Electrical outlets couldn’t hold the plug for the grills. Of course, there were sword fights with precious, keepsake lefse turners. The rolling pins were annoyingly squeaky. Dough was sticking to the rolling pin socks, pastry cloths, and the bottom of shoes; dough made its way into my car.

Adult advisors became crabby, really crabby.

The yield was about 100 rounds of unusable, almost inedible lefse … and lots of laughter, cooperation, and community building.

“Have the Youth Group make lease,” they said. “It’ll be fun.”

They were right.

Having fun and learning to make lefse one round at a time.

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Rolling Thawed Lefse Dough

As an experiment, I rolled three rounds of lefse dough to half the final width and then froze them. How would they roll weeks later when thawed?

A reader suggested I try rolling lefse rounds to half width and then freeze them. That way I can quickly finish rolling a few rounds of lefse when company is expected, and I’ll have fresh lefse without having to make the dough and roll the rounds the entire final width.

I was intrigued, so I rolled three rounds to half width and froze them in a plastic bag, each separated by parchment paper. But when I thawed them weeks later, it took 30 minutes or so for the dough to thaw. It became gooey and stuck to the paper. I salvaged the round by gently scraping off the dough with a paring knife. I could not roll the round in that condition, so I reshaped it and rolled it. The dough was soft and not leathery, as I had feared, and it rolled well, actually. The round turned out beautiful.

Three rounds that had been frozen and thawed and then rolled. All’s well that ends well.

Don’t think I will roll rounds part way and freeze again, but I will experiment next with freezing dough balls so I can unthaw them and roll fresh lefse in short order. Stay tuned.

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Lefse Song on the Big Stage!

Singer William Florian (left) and I in a glow after singing the lefse song “Keep On Rollin'” on the Reykjavik Hall stage at the 2019 Norsk Hostfest.

I was introduced to a packed crowd of about 500 lefse lovers as “Gary Legwood.” I was standing on the stage of Reykjavik Hall at the 2019 Norsk Hostfest in Minot, North Dakota, with singer William Florian. He was going to play the guitar and provide harmony on the chorus while I sang “Keep On Rollin'”, the lefse song I co-wrote with Erik Sherburne. The song is part of my second lefse book Keep On Rolling: Life on the Lefse Trail and Learning to Get a Round.

We were the warm-up act for the main event, the event that kicks off the Norsk Hosfest each year: the Celebrity Lefse Masters competition. This involves three teams of singers and comedians who compete when not performing their normal act at the Hostfest. The teams were Daniel O’Donnell and Bjoro Haaland, Williams & Ree, and the Nelson Brothers (sons of rock legend Ricky Nelson).

Daniel O’Donnell grabs the mic to coach his lefse-making partner Bjoro Haaland (in cowboy hat), while Terry Ree rips what he deems to be a shoddy lefse round rolled by Haaland.

The crowd comes for the laughs. The rolling tables are on the stage so the audience cannot see the rounds that are shaped like Ireland, as O’Donnell said, or the rounds that get burned. The rolling and the rolling in the aisles go on for about 20 minutes before each team submits its best rounds to the judges. I was one of five judges who chose the Nelson Brothers as the winner for the second year on a row.

When celebrity singers roll lefse in competition each year at the Norsk Hostfest, it draws a crowd in search of some laughs and one — just one — good round of lefse rolled by the celebs.

But back to being part of being the warm-up act for the Celebrity Lefse Masters. I was to sing “Keep On Rollin”, and then William Florian was to sing the lefse classic “Just a Little Lefse” by Stan Boreson. As I said, I was introduced as “Gary Legwood,” and I decided not to let that pass. My thought was if I was going to die up here on the Reykjavik Hall stage, I at least wanted to be wearing the right toe tag.

So I corrected the emcee, and introduced the song, saying I wanted to write lyrics for a song that honors the “noble resiliency” of the old-time lefse makers in their 80s and 90s who just keep on rolling no matter what. I kept my intro short, and then launched into the song.

William and I had gone through the song a couple of times that morning, and he wisely recommended trimming out the intro and the bridge, which I did. My anxiety was sky high and my voice was tired from talking about my books and lefse products all day at my table in the Author’s Corner. But William was wonderful in calming me down and focusing on having fun, which I did.

The video was taken with my phone by a friend standing in the wings. Check it out and leave a comment. How’d I do?

My big finish singing “Keep On Rollin'” while William Florian strums along on the guitar. The video is kinda bad (a last minute thing) but the song is pretty dang good.
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My First Bridal Shower/Lefse Class

Members of my first bridal shower/lefse class were L to R Leslie Pearson, Lulu Conner, Katy Best Conner (standing and then the bride to be), June Pearson, Acey Hofflander, and Cynthia Conner.

It was a the first Friday of this month, and Cynthia Conner and Lulu Conner arrived at my house 15 minutes early for the private lefse class. They brought wine and cheese with creative and delicious snacks. It’s not unusual for people to bring these treats for the class. It adds to the fun evening of learning to make lefse. But they also brought gifts in really fancy wrapping and bags—wedding shower gifts to be opened after the class. That was a first.

I didn’t know what to expect, actually. It was the end of a workweek and folks were tired from that, plus the wedding was only a week away. Would they all be too distracted to enjoy learning to make lefse?

Uh, no. We had a ball, and the class lingered into the evening long after the last round was rolled. Lefse has a way of adding to any occasion. Not sure if the lefse survived the week and made it into the wedding food offering, but I thanked the group for including lefse in such a big moment for the family. Tradition!

The best dressed person to ever take my lefse class was June Pearson. Classy lady, eh?

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We Talked About Sorrow

I stand between Kathy Herr, left, and Susan McCarty. These friends had lost children recently and were among the first people to purchase Final Rounds.

At the 2019 Potato Days in Barnesville, Minnesota, I rolled out my novel, Final Rounds: On Love, Loss, Life, and Lefse, about how a 12-year-old girl deals with the loss of her lefse-making grandfather. The novel was welcomed into the market very well, which was relieving.

The second day of the festival, two long-time friends were attracted to my street exhibit and to Final Rounds. Kathy Herr of Barnesville, Minnesota, and Susan McCarty, of Franklinville, New Jersey, (shown above) said they each had suffered the tragic loss of a son, and they were curious about why I wrote a novel about grief after years of writing non-fiction books about lefse and lutefisk.

I answered that Final Rounds is a fictional projection of what could happen when I die. How might my 12-year-old granddaughter handle it? I taught her to make lefse, among other things, and the novel reveals just how strong grief can be when that special loved one who taught you to make lefse passes on.

Time stopped on the street that day as I listened to Kathy and Susan talk about their loss. It was the kind of conversation I expected when the book came out late last month, and I was honored that they shared their stories. I was grateful that Final Rounds had brought Kathy, Susan, and me together, and I only hope the novel helps ease the pain.

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Want Perfectly Round Lefse? Easy!

Chuck Ihlen from Pipestone, Minnesota, demonstrates a winning way to get lefse perfectly round.

Congratulations to Chris and Chuck Ihlen from Pipestone, Minnesota, for winning the 2019 National Lefse Cook-off at the recent Potato Days in Barnesville, Minnesota!

The contestants roll for one hour and submit their best round to judges in a separate room. I judged two years ago, and it was an honor. But it was also hard to do because all the lefse submitted was great!

As I watched this year’s batch of contestants, a tool that I had never seen before for lefse making caught my eye: a grease-splatter screen. Chuck used it after rolling each round. He admitted he cannot roll round lefse, so he cuts the round with a pizza cutter moving around the grease-splatter screen. Not for everybody but a very cool idea! I love that kind of innovation!