Lefse is a traditional soft Norwegian flatbread made out of potato, milk or cream and flour, and cooked on a griddle. Special tools are available for lefse baking, including long wooden turning sticks and special rolling pins with deep grooves. There are significant regional variations in the way lefse is made and eaten, but it generally resembles a flatbread, although in many parts of Norway, especially Valdres, it is far thinner. In some parts of the United States (such as Oregon, North Dakota, Minnesota, South Dakota, northern and central Iowa, Wisconsin, and Washington), lefse is available in grocery stores; one Minnesota tortilla factory makes a run of lefse once a month on its tortilla equipment.
Tjukklefse or tykklefse (thick lefse) is thicker, and often served with coffee as a cake.
Potetlefse (potato lefse) is often used in place of a hot-dog bun and can be used to roll up sausages. This delight is also known as pølse med lompe in Norway, lompe being the "smaller-cousin" of the potato lefse.
There are many ways of flavoring lefse. The most common is adding butter and sugar to the lefse and rolling it up. In Norwegian, this is known as "lefse-klining". Other tasty ways to eat it include adding cinnamon, or spreading jelly or lingonberries upon it. Scandinavian-American variations include rolling it with a thin layer of peanut butter and sugar, with butter and sugar, with butter and corn syrup, or with ham and eggs. Also quite good with beef, and other savory items, it is comparable to a thin tortilla. And, of course, it is great to put lutefisk in.
Many Scandinavian-Americans eat lefse primarily around Thanksgiving and Christmas, along with other Scandinavian dishes such as lutefisk. Family members often gather to cook lefse as a group effort because the process is more enjoyable as a traditional holiday activity. This gathering also provides training to younger generations keeping the tradition alive.
The town of Starbuck, Minnesota, is the home of the world's largest lefse.
The hardangerlefse (krotekaker) is made from yeast risen Graham flour or a fine ground whole wheat flour. The dough is rolled with a conventional rolling pin (and much more flour) until it is thin and does not stick to the surface. It is then cut with a grooved rolling pin in perpendicular directions, cutting a grid into the dough which prevents it from creating air pockets as it cooks. The lefse is cooked at high temperature (400F.) until browned, and then left to dry. It can also be freeze dried by placing it in a freezing temperature, and then returning it to thaw, and then returning it to the freezing again, over and over.
Dried hardangerlefse can be stored without refrigeration for 6 months or more, so long as it is kept dry. It is customarily thought that the bread (along with solefisk) was a staple on the seagoing voyages as far back as viking times.
The dry lefse is dipped in water, and then placed within a towel which has also been dipped in water and wrung out. Many people maintain that dipping in salted or seawater enhances the flavor. The dry lefse regains its bread texture in about 15 minutes. Often that time is used to prepare ingredients such as eggs or herring which are wrapped in the lefse once it has softened.