Norwegian Lefse from a Farmer's Daughter

October 20, 2014

Every other week, we’re unearthing Heirloom Recipes -- dishes that have made their way from one generation's kitchen to the next.

Today: Culinary designer Adia Benson makes a simple farmhouse flatbread that has stayed in her family through generations. 

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I was born and raised in Minnesota, where I spent weekends riding the combine with my grandfather, saddling horses with my cousins, and -- best of all -- cooking with my mother and grandmother. My first taste of butter was in a highchair, my first apron was tied up in a barn, and my quick corn husking skills were learned while next to cows. My great-grandfather, Elmer Austin Benson, was a proud WWI veteran, member of the Farmer Labor Party, and Governor of Minnesota. A farm girl at heart, I inherited my great-grandfather’s strength and spirit. He also passed down his love of homemade food: One of my most special childhood memories was learning how to prepare my favorite (and now signature) recipe. 

Although I grew up chasing my brother through cornrows and was always eager to be a part of the outdoor mess, my favorite activity was to help my mother and grandmother in the kitchen. Hours of preparation went into making a simple meal, but we did so because we treasured the family recipes. My favorite dish was Norwegian Lefse. It's not only delicious, but also incredibly simple, with ingredients harvested from the heartland and a humble production process. Leftover scraps of potatoes, typically tossed out, are used to create the dough. The delicious dough can be accompanied by anything: sweet corn, chicken, maple syrup, fresh raspberry jam, or cinnamon butter. Savory or sweet, breakfast or dinner, this recipe is a staple in the house.

From impatiently watching the water come to a slow boil to rolling the dough and spreading in the fillings, Lefse was a game to play and a prize to eat. A sense of accomplishment filled my heart every time I rang the big brass bell that signaled to everyone that a meal was ready. I grew up where the farm wasn't brought to the table -- the table embodied the farm.

Since those days, a part of me has grown up. I have spent time cooking in France, Los Angeles, New York, and Chicago, but my small town farm food forever puts a childlike smile on my face. I'm formally trained with a Masters in Culinary Arts, but when given the choice of fancy gastronomy or spuds boiled at home, I choose the latter. As a culinary designer at gravitytank, an innovation consultancy, my current job is to change, adapt, and create new recipes. Contrary to my day-to-day responsibility, this Austin Lefse recipe remains the same, decades later. I invite you to test, taste, and embrace a recipe that comes from my heart, my family, and a farm kitchen that became a home.

Norwegian Lefse  

Makes 30 small flatbreads or 15 large flatbreads.

6 russet potatoes
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon of salt, plus more to taste
2 to 3 cups all-purpose flour

See the full recipe (and save and print it) here. 

Photos by Adia Benson


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After receiving her degree in Culinary Arts from Auguste Escoffier in Avignon, France, Adia spent the next several years working with food and branding for Daniel Boulud's The Dinex Group and Thomas Keller’s Restaurant Group. In 2011 she joined Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia where she worked with the editorial team focusing on storyline development for food related content. Adia currently works as a Culinary Designer at gravitytank, an innovation consultancy in Chicago. With a bachelors degree in Organizational Behavior and Communication from New York University, Adia combines her passion for culinary art and food products with her understanding of human behavior and brand development. She serves on the board of directors for Blue Sky Bakery, a non-profit providing employment opportunities to at-risk youth in the Chicagoland area.