Sunday, November 21, 2010

Gluten-free lefse

I'm not normally a food blogger. Except for one other post, How Veggies Stole My Blog, I do not normally post about recipes or food. However, I felt I needed to make this one exception. Because tomorrow, Shauna James Ahern, most commonly known among food blog readers and writers as Gluten-Free Girl, will be choosing at random a winner out of all the folks who try making a gluten-free recipe this weekend and post a comment on her Thanksgiving blog. The winner will receive such goodies as her cookbook, a variety of baking tools, specialty gluten-free flours, and a Kitchen Aid mixer. Since Pappa Bear and I were going to whip up a batch of gluten-free lefse in preparation for Thanksgiving dinner next Sunday anyway, I thought, "what the heck," kill two birds with one stone. Might as well snap a photo or two in the process and enter the contest. Judging by the way PB normally ogles his way through every kitchen store we've ever been in, I'm sure we would make good use of any baking supplies that might happen to chance our way. So, why gluten-free lefse, of all things? Several reasons.
  1. We're Scandinavian. (Well, I am, and PB is by marriage to me, just like I am Irish by marriage to him).
  2. Scandinavians in my family love love love lefse. Thanksgiving is not Thanksgiving without lefse.
  3. Lefse uses, in addition to a bunch of potatoes, a full cup of flour to make everything stick together and fry up in its luscious deliciousness.
  4. PB recently learned he has a wheat sensitivity. He does not become deathly ill if he eats wheat, and he can have all other types of gluten without a problem. But he's been advised to try to cut back on wheat products.
  5. My sister along with her daughter Sophia (my Goddaughter, in fact) are both gluten intolerant. I can't stand the thought of these guests being left out of the lefse party.
So for the past five or so years that we've been hosting Thanksgiving dinner for my extended family, we have had to get creative around offering dishes for a variety of dietary needs. (In addition to the gluten issue, we have vegetarians, dairy-free, diabetic/sugar sensitive and a nephew with such extreme sensitivities to egg/nut/dairy that my sister basically brings all his food with whenever they travel).

This is the third year we're making gluten-free lefse. You'd think we'd be pros by now, but sadly, there is one obstacle in the process - the flour. Two years ago, we used a gluten-free flour we found in bulk at our local healthy foods grocery store and made a small batch of lefse, and although it was harder to roll out without sticking and tearing, we managed to eek out enough of them that my sister and niece, who didn't know we were experimenting, were quite pleasantly surprised by the treat.

Last year, unfortunately, the flour brand had changed, and the batch failed miserably. We didn't have time to round up a different flour and try it again. I was very disappointed. I'm sure they were, too, although too polite to say so. So this year, armed with the memory of last year's failure, we bought TWO kinds of gluen-free flour. We mixed up a half batch of lefse Sat., using an all-purpose no-name brand from the bulk bins. It worked, they rolled out, the fried up, but they didn't taste very "lefse-y." We mixed together another batch with the other flour and rolled them into balls, sticking them in the fridge to cool around 7:15pm, planning on frying them up, too.

 Then I laid down on the couch as my back had been hurting badly all evening. I took a 3-hour nap, followed directly by an 8-hour night's sleep. Needless to say, the lefse balls remained in the fridge until tonight, when we fired up the grill again and finished the task, this time using Bob's Red Mill all-purpose flour. It has a more yellow-ish tint than the other flour we tried, but it feels like regular flour and it mixed up well and rolled out just fine.

You can't roll gluten-free lefse as thin as normal lefse. But that didn't deter us. And it fried up just beautifully. But the best part was, it even tasted like lefse. Maybe not exactly, but much much closer than the other flour we tried. And even better, I think, than the batch we had two years ago. So, here, without any further ado, is the recipe we used - my mother's recipe - substituting GF flour for the regular flour in a ratio of 1:1 Lefse (using instant potatoes) Mix: 3 C boiling water 2 tsp salt 2 tsp sugar 8 Tbl butter (1 stick) Add: 1/4 C cream (we use either Soy or Coconut creamer, regular flavor) Stir In: 3 C instant potatoe flakes Cool the dough to room temperature, then add 1 C flour and 1/2 Tsp baking powder. Form into balls (larger than golf, maybe pool cue size). Try not to fold the dough over during the ball-making process.

The fewer cracks and crevices you have in the rolled ball, the better the ball will roll out into a circle. The more you can form it into a ball like you would a snowball, the better it will shape during rolling out. This recipe will make about 20 balls. Put on a plate and chill in the fridge to cool. (Can cool overnight). If leaving overnight I like to cover them to keep them from drying out too much. It should go without saying that if you are making GF lefse AND regular lefse the same day, or even in the same household on different days, you need to make the GF first, and make sure your grill and all of your utinsels and cloth items (pastry cloth, rolling pin sleeve, apron, towels, etc.) have been thoroughly washed and NOT used on any gluten containing items.

 Before heating your grill or rolling out lefse balls, prepare your lefse cooling station by taking two bath towels and laying them one on top of the other, completely opened up. Top them with a flour-sack kitchen towel. You now have a stack of three towells, all open, all one on top of the other. Fold the entire stack in half once, with the kitchen towel on the very inside. Lay the folded stack on the kitchen counter near your lefse grill. When the lefse comes off the grill, you will open up the top 3 layers of the folded stack and lay the lefse down along the crease of the kitchen towel, still in half, then cover it back up. When done correctly, it will be sandwiched with the kitchen towel on both sides of it. Each lefse you will place exactly right on top of the first one. The steam heat will soften up the crispy edges. The entire batch will cool in this stack of towels before you put them away. Heat your lefse grill (we use a Bethany #730 aluminum grill to approximately 450 degrees. You can fry them on any heat between 400-500, personal preference dictating. We like it around 450 or slightly higher - it cooks slow enough for the lefse ball roller to get the next one prepared before the first one is off the grill.
   lefse tools Before starting to roll out your lefse ball, flour your hands and flatten the ball slightly between your plams - using your thumbs to keep the edges from cracking as you flatten it a bit (push the edges back together with your thumbs - you'll see the little cracks forming as you flatten). You want as few cracks as possible, as these will lengthen out into very odd shaped edges that will tend to rip when you move the lefe onto the grill. See the odd shaped edges below? That's an example from before we figured out the "flatten slightly and push the edges back before rolling out" trick).
   lefse rolling Once the ball is flattened to about palm-of-the-hand thick, place it on the liberally floured pastry board (we use a Bethany Pastry Board and Cloth Set #500) and using a rolling pin fitted with a sleeve (also floured), roll the lefse out to approximately 10-11" diameter. I would say "circle" here but chances are your lefse will not be an exact circle. That's OK. Once rolled, using a grooved lefse rolling pin, ever so gently, starting in the middle of the lefse each time (to avoid having the lefse edges stick to the rolling pin and roll up in it), run the rolling pin out to the edges in two different directions, leaving a grid of grooves on the lefse surface. This will help it to fry up nicely. Using a lefse turning stick, slide it under the middle of the lefse carefully (if you haven't liberally floured the pastry board cloth, the middle will tend to stick to the cloth) and gently lift it from the board, transferring it onto the grill by gently laying down one edge first, then rolling the stick along the rill as you unroll the lefse onto the grill. Let it fry on one side until you can see bubbles. If you lift up one edge (again using the lefse turning stick) you should see spots turning brown, but not too dark! lefse frying Using the stick again, sliding it under the middle, gently lift it off the grill and using the same method as before, lay one edge down then roll the stick along as you lay down (unrolling) the rest. There's no magic in knowing when the other side is done - just peek until it looks lightly browned. If large bubbles start to rise up in the dough while frying the second side, poke them to deflate them, or use your stick to gently tap them back down. Check the under side and when gently browning, using the stick again, move the lefse off the grill and into the middle of the stack of towels. done! Liberally flour the pastry cloth and rolling pin sleeve again (and your hands) and start the next ball. If you had one stick to the cloth last time, scrape any dough off the board with a hard flat edged item, then re-flour liberally. It's customary to get "cook's taste" when going to all this work, so don't feel bad if a lefse rips badly during the rolling or transferring - this is the cook's opportunity to taste a fresh one! To eat, I simply like them smeared with real butter. Pappa Bear likes to sprinkle them with cinnamon/sugar. After Thanksgiving I often eat them with leftovers rolled up inside - riced potatoes, stuffing and turkey! Oh, and if you're wondering what was on Pappa Bear's apron, here's a close up. It's my favorite apron. lookin' pretty Cheers!


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