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Best Lefse-Making Tip #4

Sticking is a common problem for lefse makers. The blue pastry board cover is the solution.

In my classes — and perhaps in your kitchen — the biggest problem lefse makers have is with sticking. Nothing is more frustrating than to roll a beautifully round and elegantly thin lefse … and then tear the round because it sticks to the rolling surface! Not only does it ruin the round, but it also creates a trouble spot on your rolling surface. That darn spot will cause sticking throughout your lefse-making session.

My solution is to go big and go blue. Use a big 23 1/2-inch Keep On Rolling Pastry Board and cover it with a Blue Pastry Board Cover. With the big board — as opposed to the 19-inch board commonly found on the market — you’ll use less flour and have less sticking. You can use the whole board, rolling at the periphery versus just the center. I instruct my students to start rolling their round until it is about half the size of what they want the final round to be. Then turn the round and move it to a different spot on the board to finish. That way, they are not grinding away at that same spot typically in the center of the board, which will cause sticking sooner or later.

With the bigger board, you simply have more room to not only turn and move the round but also to use less flour — which makes for a cleaner kitchen. You move your round to a spot where you can see there is plenty of flour on the board already. How can you see? The blue cover contrasts with the the white flour (see photo), and you immediately see that the darker spot has potential to be a sticky spot that you avoid. So without re-flouring the board, you move your round to where you can see there is more flour than that dark blue spot. Things are not so obvious when you have a white pastry board cover under white flour.

So go big and go blue for less sticking and more satisfaction in lefse making.

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Best Lefse-Making Tip #3

Don’t skimp on butter and cream when making your lefse dough.

I was watching a YouTube video on making lefse. The recipe called for 6 cups of riced potatoes, which is twice the amount of riced potatoes in my basic recipe. OK, not a problem so far. But the video recipe had half the amount of butter and cream as what I use in my 3 cups of riced potatoes. Twice the potatoes but half the good stuff? They were skimping.

Yes, you can make lefse by skimping, and it will look like lefse and sorta taste like lefse. But why? Cost? Concerns about fat in your diet? Ok, you can save money with less butter and cream in your dough. And yes, you can cut back on the butter fat.

But don’t. Just don’t. Lefse is once or twice a year, and you want to go all in on making the best-tasting lefse you can. And when you consider the butter fat content per round, it’s not much at all. If anything, go a little strong with the butter and cream to not only bring out a richness in the flavor, but also to make the lefse tender and moist.

I recently switched to Kemps Simply Crafted Heavy Whipping Cream (pictured). It has 20% saturated fat, more saturated fat than the cream I was using previously. I immediately noticed a difference in the tenderness and taste of my lefse, and I am sticking with this cream. You may not have this brand in your stores, but I highly recommend going with a cream with the highest fat content.

So don’t be a skimper when making lefse. Not with your butter or cream, and by all means go ahead and use a rounded tablespoon of sugar instead of a leveled tablespoon. This is lefse, not less se!

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Best Lefse-Making Tip #2

Can switching to King Arthur Flour make much of a difference with lefse?

One of the joys of the marketplace is listening to customers. It’s gratifying to hear praise for my books, and it’s a joy to keep learning from other aficionados about the art of making lefse.

At one market years ago, I had the pleasure of meeting Rev. Charles Colberg of Minneapolis, who lifted my lefse making to the next level — and I already made very good lefse. The tip: Switch to King Arthur Flour.

This tip was so simple that I pooh-poohed it initially. After all, flour is flour, right? Well, no, as I discovered. There are reasons why King Arthur Flour is twice as expensive as the flour I have been buying. It is never bleached and has a high protein content (gluten) that is carefully calibrated so that you have the same results every time you bake.

I was not put off by the price. I will pay what is asked if it makes my lefse better. And it did. When I rolled lefse for customers in the week before Christmas and for the Christmas Eve family gathering, my dough was velvety but tender. And my rounds were round with edges that were reliably smooth and not ragged. Same recipe I’ve always used but different flour.

Bottom line is I will never go back to another flour. Try King Arthur Flour and see how your lefse improves. Mix it into your dough and let the gluten work for a good 10 minutes. Then roll. Your edges will not look like the coast of Norway. They won’t be jagged, and your round won’t fall apart when moving it to the grill.

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Best Lefse-Making Tip #1

Bonnie Jacobs of Jacobs Lefse Bakeri and Gifts in Osakis, Minnesota.

For my second lefse book, Keep On Rolling! Life on the Lefse Trail and Learning to Get a Round, I interviewed Bonnie Jacobs (above) of Jacobs Lefse Bakeri and Gifts in Osaka’s, Minnesota. It was a wonderful day learning about how to make a massive amount of lefse to feed the lefse-loony masses at the holidays. At the end of the interview, I asked for her best lefse-making tip. Without hesitation, she replied: “Do it more than once a year.”

It gets a laugh when I repeat that line in my lefse classes, but it is the best advice. You learn best when doing, and the more you do the better your lefse gets. After learning from your grandmother or in a class, you make lefse making your own the more you do it. You fine-tune the recipe, maybe make a substitution that improves the flavor. You get better at rolling and grilling, which make your lefse better. You become more confident and satisfied that you are making an excellent food and carrying on a fine tradition.

So make lefse, and do it more than once a year.

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All Things Lefse Market

All this lefse stuff in one backyard market! Be still my heart!

This is an announcement of the first annual All Things Lefse Market next Saturday, October 16th, in my backyard. It is also a personal growth opportunity in that it encourages this Norwegian to do something un-Scandinavian: brag.

Do you know how hard it is for a Norwegian to boast? Certainly, some of you do. We’ve learned that tooting our own horn is just not done. If it’s good, whatever it is that you do or make, you don’t need to crow. No, no, no! What you do or make will speak for itself. In fact, if you speak for yourself, you and whatever you do or make are viewed with considerable suspicion, that your bluster is an effort to distract others from the flaws you are trying to hide. So, zip it. Let others speak for you and what you do or make — but when they do, you darn well better be quick to do a Norwegian Deflection in response, something along the lines of, “Shucks, it was nothing.”

Well, this All Things Lefse Market is not nothing. When I am at markets, there are all sorts of products to pull in customers, not just lefse. Not with this market. This All Things Lefse Market is an outdoor garden party featuring just lefse and all things related. I will be demonstrating lefse making, talking up my lefse classes, and showing off my lefse and lutefisk books. But that’s just a start. Yesterday, I spread all my lefse and lutefisk stuff over three large tables, and I certainly did not say that this spread was nothing. It was something, all the products I had developed over the years, very good products I am proud of.

There, it’s done. I sang my own praises and am glad. Sort of.

I hope you will be glad when you come next Saturday, October 16th, to the All Things Lefse Market between 9 am and 4 pm at 5205 Knox Ave. S. in Minneapolis. Weather looks great, and on display will be:

  • The most gorgeous heirloom lefse rolling pins and lefse turning sticks you’ll see anywhere. Think walnut, cherry, cocobolo, and spalted maple. These pins, including one I turned (my first), are made by members of the Minnesota Woodturners Association.
  • Lefse earrings, yep, made of lacquered lefse.
  • Lutefisk lip balm.
  • Lefse grills and replacement parts.
  • 2022 Lefse calendar.
  • Lefse jigsaw puzzle.
  • Lefse rolling board and special blue rolling board cover.
  • Lefse rolling pin socks.
  • Colorful lefse cozies.
  • Vibrant countertop protectors for under your lefse grill.
  • Lefse hoodie that says “Lefse is cheaper than therapy!”
  • Lefse song score for voice and piano, also for men’s quartet.
  • Walnut flower vases.
  • Lefse illustrations.
  • Lefse and lutefisk greeting cards.
  • Nostalgic lefse mixing bowls.
  • Lefse masks.
  • Compression socks for making lefse all day.
Lefse cozies and countertop protectors.
Heirloom lefse rolling pins galore.
Books, lefse and lutefisk greeting cards, lefse song, lefse jigsaw puzzle, lefse calendar, lefse earrings, and lutefisk lip balm.
Beautiful lefse turning sticks, bowls, boards, the revolutionary blue board cover, and the “Lefse is cheaper than therapy!” hoodie.
Head-turning walnut flower vases.
More lefse cozies and counter protectors.

Please come to the first annual All Things Lefse Market next Saturday 9 am to 4 pm at 5205 Knox Ave. S. in Minneapolis. It’ll help launch the lefse season and help me not feel rueful for tooting my own horn.

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Lefse Hoodie: Issues? What Issues?

The new Lefse Hoodie speaks truth to power, and many of us know just how powerful therapy can be.

If there is a product for our times, it is this one. The pandemic has been rough, but I’ve maintained throughout that lefse — and now the new Lefse Hoodie — can smooth things out a bit.

How can a hooded sweatshirt help? Here are four reasons to consider the Lefse Hoodie.

  1. Humor — it’s funny. “LEFSE is cheaper than therapy” makes us smile, which is not always easy for Scandinavians in the best of times. Henry Ward Beecher, an American clergyman and abolitionist whose sister was Uncle Tom’s Cabin author Harriet Beecher Stowe, wrote: “A person without a sense of humor is like a wagon without springs. It’s jolted by every pebble on the road.”
  2. Function — it’s warm. There are notions that people lose up to 80% of body heat through their head. The US army manual from 1970 said, no, the percentage is 40% to 45%. However, more recent research says it’s really about 7%-10% lost through the head because the head is about 7% of the body’s surface area. True, the face, head, and chest are more sensitive to changes in temperature than the rest of the body, making it feel as if covering them up does more to prevent heat loss. But the real issue is people don’t want to cover their head because a covering will mess up their hair or hide their face, making them less attractive. Hey, the Lefse Hoodie is so attractive, you won’t mind flipping up the hood and pulling on the drawstring to stay warm. Also, you can keep your hands warm with the front pouch.
  3. Fashion — it’s cool. This black hoodie is so cool that Amaya, my 13-year-old granddaughter who is ever so vigilant about rejecting clothing that is not IN, exclaimed immediately when she saw the Lefse Hoodie: “I want this! Oh, Papa, I want this!” Nuff said.
  4. Sanity — it’s helpful. Next time you feel you’re about to lose it, slip on the Lefse Hoodie. It’ll help. Seeing the word “therapy” on the hoodie may stimulate you to call your therapist and set up an appointment. All good. In the meantime, you can make some lefse, which certainly helps your mental health. For example, say you have crippling issues with perfectionism. Lefse teaches you humility and acceptance. Or you have shame about not making lefse as good as your mom or sister. Lefse teaches patience, and making lefse builds self-confidence. Or you’re pained by how stingy and uptight you tend to be. Give away some lefse and learn about the benefits of generosity.
There is humor and maybe healing in the new Lefse Hoodie.

Lefse gets you out and with others. You are not isolated, which can make you blue. Lefse makers often make lefse with family or friends, and they have fun. So the Lefse Hoodie fits right in. And even if you do a solo act, you are not alone. You have all those great lefse-making and lefse-eating memories to warm you. Remember this last line from my first book, The Last Word on Lefse: Heartwarming Stories and Recipes Too!: “Never alone and seldom sad, the life of a lefse maker isn’t so bad.”

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State Fair Lefse Contest

That’s Mary Lou Peterson, masked at the recent Minnesota State Fair, proudly posing in front of her lefse entry.

I’ve known Mary Lou Peterson for years. I visited her home and, as she made very good lefse, interviewed her for my second lefse book, Keep On Rolling! Life on the Lefse Trail and Learning to Get a Round. We stay in touch. That’s how lefse friends roll.

So a few weeks ago she emailed and mentioned casually that she was entering a lefse contest at the Minnesota State Fair. I had not heard of this contest, but I pleaded with Mary Lou to write up her experience for a blog. I mean, this was big time and very few lefse makers — who often take pride in making lefse that’s second only to Grandma’s — have the courage to enter such a contest and then learn their lefse is not the best. What??

Mary Lou is bold by nature, up for most adventures. So here is Mary Lou’s account of her State Fair Lefse Adventure.

I have this to say about the Covid quarantine: It plays with your brain. You get ideas and talk about them to people — who remember what the idea was and KEEP REMINDING you of them. My idea involved lefse.

I’ve been making lefse a long time, and the family brags about it. I’ve passed the talent of rolling a round lefse to my children and grandchildren. Well, I learned of the Creative Activities competition for ethnic breads at the Minnesota State Fair. The entry could be a bread from any country, so Norway’s breads were only a small piece of this division.

I had not competed in any baking contests since I was in 4-H. Back then I traveled to the Minnesota State Fair after winning at the Roseau County Fair. One year I made a potato casserole in a demonstration in front of judges, and a second year I made a Baked Alaska. I decided to enter this year’s State Fair contest because people enjoy my lefse and I have time since I’ve retired. It was time to test my baking ability by submitting four perfectly delicious rounds and then sit back and wait for congrats to arrive.

Once Mary Lou committed to the ethnic breads contest, it was time to do the work of rolling and grilling lefse. What a cool grill!

A quick lefse lesson: It starts with cooking russet potatoes with the skins on for extra flavor. Peel them easily when the potatoes are cooled a bit. You enlist your husband to do the ricing. He might as well be part of this since he eats it.

I cool the potatoes with the margarine, salt and sugar and mix it well. In the meantime, I pull out the grill, lefse stick, special rolling pin, and the board and cover used for rolling. I also have a towel ready to cover the rounds. Most important, I get butter and sugar for testing my lefse (quality control, you know).

I add flour to the potato mixture and work it well. Then I make a ball with the dough and roll it thin until I can read the writing on the board cover through the rolled out round. Using the lefse stick, I move the round to the hot grill and wait. It’s at this time the ricer husband returns to be “the hot-off-the-grill lefse tester”. It passes the test!

The Final Four! Mary Lou chose these as her best of the batch, ready for submission to the State Fair contest.

Lesson over, now back to the contest! I finished the rest of my batch, cooled it, and selected the four best. I took off for the fairground on Saturday morning. My entry had to be in between 9:30 am and 1 pm. I made the deadline, but the line was down the sidewalk and around the corner of the Creative Activities building! Oh oh — competition!

I handed the four best rounds of lefse ever made to the entry table and went home to wait. Thursday came and results were in. Excitement abounded as I and my husband returned to the State Fair and hurried to see my lefse entry displayed and then to collect my reward.

Sorry to say my opinion of perfect lefse and the judge’s opinion were not the same. No ribbon…

Mary Lou’s lefse on display at the State Fair, beneath the lefse that placed third in the ethnic breads contest.

The winning lefse received third place in the competition. Baklava won and potica got second. Quite a variety  to judge! Three plates of lefse were put in the display case for viewing, and mine was one. Oh, well, there is always next year!

Mary Lou Peterson

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Sad Day in Lefse Land

This is the kind of person who attends Potato Days in Barnesville, Minnesota—and a big reason why I open my lefse season there each August … except this season. Again.

Yesterday was a sad day. I finished cancelling all my lefse-related speaking gigs and selling events that I had scheduled for late August and the fall. Covid.

Kate, my daughter, just came home from three weeks in the hospital, mostly in intensive care with Covid. She has harrowing tales of not being able to catch her breath for days on end, not eating, not sleeping. Alone. Dark days of wondering if this was to be her time and if so, whom she would seek first in heaven. She says she felt our prayers.

She’s much better, looks great, and has some of her normal energy and all of her humor back. But she still needs an oxygen boost now and then and has hand tremors, which mess up her writing and her plans to return to her work as a chef. But she’ll make it back.

This sobering experience in our family and the Delta variant — which is nearly twice as contagious as previous variants and just as contagious as chickenpox — that is causing case numbers and hospitalizations to increase has led to my decision to not speak at an indoor event in New Ulm, MN, and not be a vendor at Potato Days, one of my favorite outdoor festivals in Barnesville, MN. This will be the second straight year of not selling at Potato Days as well as at the big Scandinavian festival, the Norsk Hostfest in Minot, ND, which cancelled for the second year in a row because of Covid.

Like many, I had high hopes for things opening up. But Kate’s episode, the Delta variant, the varying vaccination rates, the breakthrough cases, etc., have all caused me to decide to miss another lefse season of meeting other lefse lovers, yakking and yukking it up in person (see image above).

Turn the Page

So that was my yesterday, a sad day. Today, while I am again going into a near shutdown mode, I hope this time is shorter than the first. I certainly will not sit out the lefse season. I will still sell a rather large inventory of new lefse-related products on, mask up and make lefse for sale locally and for overnight shipping, as well as hold online lefse classes again this season.

Talk about making lemonade from lemons! My Zoom classes last year were flat out fun because I could continue to teach people the grand old tradition of making good lefse, and I could teach them anywhere in the world. Indeed, some families used the class as a safe replacement to their annual lefse fest, and one family pulled in family members from here and there in the United States as well as in Afghanistan and Singapore. Very cool!

So let the online lefse classes begin! Let me know and I will teach just you or you and your 11 cousins. The idea is to learn to make lefse and keep on rolling!

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The Joy of Shipping Lefse

I made 15 rounds of lefse the same day I overnighted the rounds double bagged. The package went from Minneapolis to Michigan and arrived fresh and in time for a 60th birthday celebration. Now that feels good!

The joy of lefse. I’ve made so much of it and for so many years that there are times I forget the simple joy lefse brings to those who eat it and to those who make it.

This is a story about Jean Ostvoll, whose husband would enjoy good lefse on his 60th birthday, thanks to Jean. I knew he’d love the lefse, but I didn’t know how much I would enjoy making it for him and then shipping it to Jean from Minneapolis to Michigan.

I sell lefse made the same day that customers pick up the order. That’s the only way I fill orders. No freezing. This means I have sold only to locals who pick up. That was the case until Jean emailed me:

“Hello, Gary! So — I know you say you won’t ship outside of the Minneapolis area because of shipping costs, but if I were willing to pay overnight FDX would you ship to me in Michigan? My husbands 60th birthday is June 26 and he is always pining for good lefse. He is from Stavanger, but we have been here for 20 years now…and still looking for good lefse. I’d like to surprise him for his birthday! Please let me know….I would be interested in 5 packages of 3.”

Jean Ostvoll, Union Pier, MI

When I had received these requests from lefse lovers in far-flung places, I‘d decline because people don’t want to pay the overnight shipping needed for freshness. Or at least that is what I assumed. But Jean anticipated that and said she’d gladly pay. Okay then! We agreed on the details of getting the lefse to her, and the excitement of giving kicked in. A line came to mind from the Saint Francis Prayer: “For it is in giving that we receive.”

Jean Ostvoll’s gift to her lefse-starved husband on his 60th birthday was my fresh lefse.

I made the lefse and overnighted it to Michigan. Here is Jean’s account:

For everyone trying to find that something special for the guy who has it all and wants nothing…..the answer is Gary’s handcrafted Lefse.  My Norwegian husband (who is shy and wants to remain anonymous) misses home.  I frequently buy Norwegian food items on line when I see them and think they might approximate the real deal.  I rarely score.  This year was the big 60 for him and I was getting desperate.  Then I read about the Lefse King in The Norwegian American — a birthday gift from another year! I was so psyched — until I read to the bottom of Gary’s site where he says he doesn’t ship because of the high cost of overnight shipping — which I totally get.  Undeterred and knowing our good friends would let me use their FedEx small business account — and associated discount — I negotiated a trial with Gary.  He was game and grilled the lefse the morning of the shipment to ensure maximum freshness. The next morning they arrived, carefully packed, in perfect shape and cool.  We just had a birthday lunch that was a HUGE success — lefse traditional style with butter and cinnamon sugar.  And I’ve already had a request for more variations for “coffee and cake” time this afternoon, lol! My husband even went so far as to say they tasted (almost!) as good as his mother’s back in Stavanger — and he immediately emailed her pictures of them. It was a treat for him and a wonderful moment for us all as we watched him enjoy and reminisce about home. Thank you Gary — and the best money I ever spent on a present!!

Jean Ostvoll

To Jean, I say it was my pleasure. And to anyone else in need of good lefse no matter where you are, click here to make it happen!

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First Make Camp, Then Make Lefse!

Part of the fun of camping is being creative! Jim Leet rolled lefse on the canoe bottom using a beer bottle. Ta-dah!!

Sometimes in our youth (think high school and college age) we do things just so we can eventually say we’ve done them. Kind of like building your resume to eventually impress your grandkids. Thus, I decided to make lefse on a canoe trip.

You don’t have to have high-tech equipment to make lefse, and at the time and on that trip I certainly adhered to that principle. Nevertheless, things were kind of primitive. I was on a float down the upper Mississippi River in north central Minnesota. Normal canoe trips involved portages and keeping weight to a minimum, but there I really didn’t have to carry gear or the canoe around anything. Nor was I backpacking, so I went a bit heavier on provisions. While I was heavier on provision, I still didn’t have a proper rolling board, pastry cloth, rolling pin, griddle, or flipping stick. Time to improvise.

Make Do to Make Lefse

Finding the flat rolling surface was easy. I just turned over the canoe and used the flat part of the hull bottom. Rolling pin? Easy — a beer bottle worked, although a wine bottle would have been better. I had a cheap aluminum frying pan and pancake turner, which kind of worked. Still being somewhat primitive, I used a cooking fire instead of a heat-controlled specialty griddle.

Ingredients were easily solved with instant mashed potatoes and pancake flour. Instant mashed potatoes weren’t as good in the middle 60s as they are now, but they worked. And of course, this was an experiment. I don’t recall exactly what I used for shortening in the dough, but it was probably bacon grease. Anyway, I somehow got the dough rolled and into the pan and kind of cooked.

Texture and cosmetics were primitive, but then a judging panel was not present so I ignored those subtleties. As I recall, the lefse was surprisingly tasty — must have been the bacon grease — but then I wasn’t making it for refined tastes. It might also have involved the hunger generated by paddling all day.

Jim Leet making lefse these days with all the finest equipment—including, I hasten to point out, the Blue Pastry Board Cover!

My techniques have improved in the last half century or so, but making lefse on a canoe trip is still a fond memory. If I were to make lefse while out camping these days, it would be a bit easier to do it in my motor home. But the biggest challenge today would be to get the canoe into the motor home to roll out the dough!

Jim Leet is a lefse maker from LInnea Marie Farms in Roseburg, Oregon.