Okay, Ryan is making me put in a disclaimer that I acknowledge how seemingly nonsensical that title of this weeks post is. It was originally “Lefse comb”, which might even be more confusing, even for those familiar with the Norwegian treat.
Lefse, for the poor souls that haven’t had it warm rolled up with butter and brown sugar, is a traditional Norwegian flatbread, made with potatoes, and cooked on a griddle. I am not Norwegian, but I have several aunts that are, and they made stacks and stacks of them around Christmas time each year.
Growing up in Minnesota, you could buy lefse in the grocery store (or sweet talk your aunts that made enough to freeze every holiday season). I then went to a Norwegian college in Iowa, where you could buy them as street food during summer festivals. But only a few hours away in Illinois, lefse is nowhere to be found. My mom took pity on me last Christmas and got me tools to make my own lefse – a griddle, lefse sticks (for moving rolled rounds of lefse) and a corrugated rolling pin.
The corrugated rolling pin is the devil. Even experienced lefse makers find it unforgiving, but as a novice, it was a mess. If the lefse dough isn’t just right, it’s sticky. If the rolling pin isn’t floured just right, the dough works into the crevices. From here, it sticks to any lefse you try to roll out. If you leave it too long, it hardens into a rock. Between my first attempt at dough making and my less than optimal pin flouring, I spent hours picking dough out of the grooves (and Ryan spent hours more once I’d had enough.)
After a recent trip to MN, I had the hankering to make another batch of lefse. I could see the apprehension in Ryan’s eyes when I even mentioned it – so I set about devising a way to clean out the little grooves in the rolling pin before it became a problem.
A comb was the best option, as it would be easy to grab with doughy floury hands, and I could sweep out several grooves at once. The grooves are triangular, roughly 2mm wide and 2mm deep at the point, between 2mm plateaus. I made a comb wide enough to cover 12 grooves, so it will take about 5-6 passes to clean the entire pin. I felt making it longer would make it unwieldy, and the dough seemed to stick in spots anyway, not across the whole surface.
The first comb was made out of bamboo, thinking wood on wood would be the best solution. What I didn’t take into account was the pin itself is hardwood, much harder than the bamboo ply. The little teeth started splitting, which was no good.
Second attempt was made from acrylic, which has more strength than the bamboo, but shouldn’t damage the hardwood. It’s quite satisfying to run it through the grooves and should do the job perfectly. It’s time to fire up the griddle – lefse anyone?
Many thanks to Ryan for all the excellent photography this week!