Lefse (the real stuff from Hardanger) is an interesting concept to me. It is dried flat-bread stored on the shelf for months and then when you want to use it you just dip it in water and eat! Of course, it is a little more romantic than that in real life but that’s the main gist.
In Norway, there are still Lefse recipes around from the 1630s! There are many other ‘non traditional’ varieties in other places that have Norwegian immigrants but I have never seen those used in Norway. Also, Lefse recipes that use potatoes are more modern as potatoes didn’t get introduced in Norway until the 1700s – the first documented potato was in 1757!
Lefse was used for both special occasions and everyday eating. It was traditionally rolled thin with a special textured rolling pin and cut into squares before being baked on a hot plate. Folk Museums often have open days with old Norse attractions – rustic gardens, ploughing, and baking using old Viking methods. This is where you can try some real fresh flat-bread.
Nowadays most Norwegians buy Lefse from the supermarket, which sits on a shelf (nice and dry) in the pre-made cake section:
The dry, flat Lefse are not wrapped in plastic, just kept in a square, dry cardboard box. To revive them, each piece is watered under the tap then wrapped in plastic. 20 mins later the Lefse is soft and can be eaten. The most usual topping I’ve seen is just butter or butter with cinnamon sugar. They are spread on the Lefse which is then folded and cut into squares. Nugatti (a type of Norwegian Nutella) is another spread used, and so is jam and cream. However, Lefse can be eaten as a savoury meal too. Herring and eggs, pølse (Norwegian sausage), salmon, liver paste, cottage cheese and mayo are commonly used with Lefse.
Another type of Lefse you can buy in the stores which is sold as a ‘fast food’ item – thick Lefse or tender Lefse. You have a choice between cinnamon, just butter and sugar or chocolate. This Lefse is thicker and less chewy – more like a soft cake.
Grammar Note: I’ve see a lot of non-Norwegians used the word ‘Lefsa’ which means the flat-bread which looks a little odd when written with two ‘thes’ such as: the Lefsa. ‘Lefse’ means just flat-bread and you will have more luck finding real Norwegian ‘Lefse’ recipes using this word instead.
This is supposedly the traditional and original Hardanger recipe used in the 1600s:
1 litre of sour milk
250 g of butter
2 cups of sugar
2 kg plain flour
2 tablespoons of ammonium bicarbonate
(aka horn salt) found in speciality baking stores outside Norway or on the supermarket shelf in Norway
Warm the milk slightly. Add room temperature butter. Mix sugar flour and horn salt together and then add to the milk mix. Knead carefully to a smooth dough. Roll out and bake on a hotplate at medium heat. Bake slightly on one side and a little more on the other. The bread is supposed to form light brown spots when baked properly. Stack them in layers with a cloth between each to keep them soft. When cooled spread on the filling, fold in half and cut into squares.
Tip: if you use a prickly rolling pin you will get a good effect on your Lefse.
Traditional filling: ‘kling’
Mix together -
750grams of butter
500grams of icing sugar
300mls of sour cream
cinnamon or vanilla to taste
- and spread on the flat-bread.
As you can see Norwegians are certainly not afraid artery blockage!
To make the ‘My Little Norway’ version – the picture on top:
cinnamon sugar (I just mix cinnamon and sugar together)
Spread the butter on the flat-bread and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar. Cut banana into four lengthways. Place one slice of banana on the edge of the flat-bread and roll one cycle. Place the next slice on the roll – and repeat. Slice the rolled flat-bread and put on a plate. Drizzle with maple syrup and sprinkle with more cinnamon sugar. Voilá!