lefse

It has come to the point in the holiday season where I really just want to stick a straw into the balloon that is the month of December and blow it up a little. I’d like it to be two weeks longer, or maybe three. That’s the amount of time that I estimate I’d need to get all of the holiday things done that I want to get done, including just being able to sit comfortably in the holiday spirit without getting nervous that it’s going to end before I can have enough Sufjan Christmas moments.

I had a lot of mediumly grand plans this holiday season: adding rose nougat to my annual cookie boxes, throwing a Lefse and Latke Chrismukkah Party, making a Dala horse shaped stollen-y cake, and not having to pay for expedited shipping on the gifts I ordered online. At most, I only achieved abridged versions of these (thanks to these quick stollen bars and free shipping from Pendleton). But no party and no nougat. Which is fine because this season was still packed with other people’s parties, almond-heavy cookie swaps, and little Cliff’s Baptism bash. It also has yet to be packed with Christkindlmarket and an Upper Peninsula pasty tour. And I have a dentist appointment at the beginning of January so it’s probably best that I didn’t make nougat. 

But the one thing that I would seriously schedule first in the event that my expansion of December by way of blowing it up with a straw plan actually worked is a lefse weekend. Ever since I learned about the lefse making tradition when I first moved here, I admired it (even despite the fact that the first time I made it, it ended in tears). Making lefse symbolizes the holidays in the upper Midwest, it’s a group activity that’s been happening year after year for generations, and there are so many stories surrounding it. But to be totally honest, it wasn’t until I made lefse with cousin Elaine and aunt Ethel when we filmed the Chrismukkah episode of Girl Meets Farm back in October that it became a food that I craved with all of my might. Is it because I’m pregnant? Maybe. Good things, especially potato-centric things, do tend to taste better these days. Or maybe it’s because the last few times I’ve had it, it was store-bought. When we made it on the show, I was reminded of how fluffy, soft, tender, and flavorful it is when it’s fresh off the grill and slathered with softened butter. I wish I could have eaten more of it during the filming. I wish I could have paused cameras for a minute so that I could run to my cabinet and pull down all of my jams, nut butters, Nutella, etc., and just sit there eating a bite of lefse with each. But we were on a schedule and I needed to pace myself because that was also spätzle week. 

And then after filming wrapped I had one ultimate foam-at-the-mouth pregnant lady epitome. It happened on the plane to Florida when I opened up the December Bon Appetit and saw the most drop dead beautiful spread of roast beef, pickles, a white creamy sauce, and salty buttery fluffy rolls, all set up for a party. It was simple and stunning. I shoved it in Eggboy’s face and he also started foaming at the mouth. The more I stared at that spread, the more I realized I had to do it… but replace the rolls with lefse. And replace the roast beef with ham (I’m going through a ham phase). I mean??!!! Just imagine a soft warm sheet of lefse slathered with mayo and wrapped around salty hot ham. The pickle could be in it too, or it could be on the side, it would be perfect either way. I am a little dead just thinking about it. I might need to schedule a random January party just to do this. But something tells me that lefse ham tacos would taste better without the vibe of New Year’s diet mishegas in the air. 

Anyway, that’s what I’ve been daydreaming of.

<3 Lefse and ham. <3

Here is our family lefse recipe, which was developed by Ollie Amundson, my second cousin three times removed in-law in-law. (Or, the wife of Eggboy’s great grandpa’s second cousin.) It has more sugar than many other lefse recipes, and the fact that it uses oil instead of butter has been raising some eyebrows. But it’s the family recipe that Ethel has scribbled on a very special notecard and I love it for its extra sweetness and soft moist texture. The following includes directions for if you have a lefse setup (a lefse grill + a lefse stick) and if you do not (you’ll need a low-sided skillet and a large offset spatula). FYI, my ham taco fantasy uses smaller, skillet-sized lefse. This is best made as a group activity and it is best eaten the day of, however it is very common to keep a stock of it in the freezer. For video help, check out the video that the New York Times filmed at our house a few years ago!


lefse

makes 18 large sheets or 36 smaller sheets

ingredients

5 lbs. (2.25kg) red-skinned potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-2” cubes

1/2 c (100g) sugar

2 tsp kosher salt

2/3 c (133g) neutral oil, such as canola

1 (5-oz) can evaporated milk

2 1/2-3 c (325-390g) all-purpose flour, plus quite a bit more for dusting

Softened butter, sugar, cinnamon sugar, jam, or any other toppings as desired (like ham.)

clues

Add the potatoes to a large pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil over high heat and boil until the potatoes are tender, 15-20 minutes. Drain the potatoes and rice them into a bowl, continuing until you have 8 cups. Add the sugar, salt, oil, and evaporated milk, and mix to combine. Let cool, then cover and refrigerate for a few hours or overnight. 

When you’re ready to grill, preheat a lefse grill to 400º or set a low-lipped skillet over medium high heat (I like using a cast iron pan, at least 10” big). Add the 2 1/2 cups of flour to the potato mixture and mix to combine. It should be sticky and hold together, but not so sticky that it’s impossible to work with, if so, add the remaining 1/2 cup of flour. Divide dough into two logs if you’re using a lefse grill, and four if you’re using a skillet. Cut each log into 9 pieces and place three of the logs on plates or a cutting board in the refrigerator. Keep the dough chilled while you’re not working with it, and work with one log at a time. 

Roll one ball of dough into a ball and place it on a work surface dusted with flour. Dust the top of the dough with flour as well and gently roll it out into a large thin circle, about 1/4” thick, adding more flour as needed. Rotate and flip the circle frequently as you’re rolling it out so that it doesn’t stick. And again- add more flour as needed! Not knowing to do this is what brought me to tears the first time. Using a lefse stick or a large offset spatula, transfer the circle to the grill or skillet and cook until small brown splotches appear on the bottom, about a minute. Using the lefse stick or spatula, flip it and cook on the other side, until small brown splotches appear. Transfer to a plate lined with a clean dish towel and cover it with another. Repeat with the remaining dough, stacking lefse on top of one another between the towels. 

Serve with toppings as desired. This is best eaten the day of but leftovers can be refrigerated in a ziploc back and reheated in the microwave until warm. Or frozen and then thawed/microwaved before eating.


-yeh!

photos by chantell and brett!

pistachio and olive oil basbousa

We are down to the last week and a half of filming season 2 and I miss it already! I love this crew so much. Right now they’re in my kitchen filming a conga line gif of sprinkly rice krispies treats and it is the silliest. The past few days have been warm enough for us to sit outside and eat lunch together (with Sven and Ole, who also are going to miss the crew dearly when we wrap). And over the weekend we went out and ordered all of the pizza at the best dive bar in town, Judy’s, but because they only have one pizza oven it came coursed out like a fancy tasting menu, which was a great new way to eat pizza. While we ate we sat anxiously waiting for the lottery numbers to be announced because we all went in on tickets together… we didn’t win. Or maybe we did and I just can’t tell you because we all made a pact not to tell anyone if we won. (I guess you’ll know I won if I start using whole vanilla beans and manuka honey in everything.)


In Eggboy news, sugar beet harvest is chugging along! The weather is so conventionally beautiful that at this rate all of the beets will be out of the ground by the end of the week. Then we party!!! Then Eggboy catches up on sleep. Then it’s Thanksgiving, then it’s Chrismukkah, then it’s 2019. It’s all smooth sailing from here! 

So, like, let’s eat cake about it??

This is my new favorite cake, Basbousa! Basbousa is a Middle Eastern semolina cake that has a coarse texture, not unlike that of cornbread. When it comes out of the oven it gets covered in a sugary syrup, so even though it’s crumbly, it’s very moist. I first met basbousa at Zahav last year, when I tried their carrot hazelnut version. It was nutty and almost pudding-y, and I immediately fell in love with its ability to be rustic in texture and sharp angled all at the same time. Like a structured tweed blazer, for lack of a more relevant comparison. 

This version is based on Janna Gur’s recipe from Jewish Soul Food and combines roasted pistachios with coconut and olive oil for a toasty, tender, and comforting snack cake. Its flavor is so complex that “frosting” isn’t even in its vocabulary, and because of the syrup, it will stay fresh for a good few days. If it lasts that long. 


pistachio and olive oil babousa

makes one 8” square cake

ingredients

1/2 c (50g) shredded or flaked unsweetened coconut

1/2 c + 1 tb (80g) all-purpose flour

1/2 c + 2 tb (125g) semolina flour

1/4 c (28g) ground roasted unsalted pistachios, plus more for decorating

1/2 tsp kosher salt

2 tsp baking powder

6 tb (75g) olive oil

1/4 c (60ml) heavy cream

1/2 c (120ml) whole milk

3 large eggs

3/4 c (150g) sugar

1/2 tsp almond extract


Syrup

3/4 c (178ml) water

3/4 c (150g) sugar

1 tsp rosewater, optional

clues

Preheat the oven to 350ºf. Grease and line an 8x8” pan with parchment paper and set aside.

In a medium bowl, combine coconut, flour, semolina, pistachios, salt, and baking powder.

In a large bowl, whisk together olive oil, cream, and milk. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix to combine. Set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, beat the eggs, sugar, and almond extract on high for 5 minutes, until pale and fluffy. Fold the egg mixture into the semolina mixture and pour into the prepared pan.

Bake until golden and a toothpick comes out with just a few crumbs; begin checking for doneness at 30 minutes.

While the cake bakes, make the syrup: combine the water and sugar in a saucepan and simmer for 15 minutes. Stir in rosewater, if using. 

When the cake comes out of the oven, pour the syrup all over it and let the cake cool completely in the pan. Sprinkle with additional pistachios, cut into squares, and enjoy.


cheese borek

What a delightful birthday month this has been so far! I can’t really say I’ve done too much out of the ordinary other than receive a Jason Brown hug and tell all of my favorite figure skaters to their beautiful glowing faces that I love them. (Stars on Ice was sooo good!!!) I picked rhubarb with Sven, made cake after cake, ate cheesy pickles with my homies, and listened to a lot of Live from Here and Little Fires Everywhere on tape. I also treated myself to sprinkle pillowcases and socks. Nothing too wild, yet everything I love. And now this week I am heading to Paris for the first time ever, with Lily and Sarah and Bonne Maman, and I am so excited!!! I am bringing some new disposable cameras I just discovered, don’t those look fun?? More on Paris later...

Right now I am enacting a new birthday month tradition which includes reflecting back on all of the best things I ate this year during my travels and cooking one of them. There was an amazing crispy rice salad at Hai Hai, in Minneapolis, that was like eating a bowl of fried chicken breading and tons of fresh herbs, my favorite doughy breakfast burrito at Los Favoritos, in Arizona, an avocado toast to end all avocado toasts at Lodge Bread Co, in LA, a lobster in Maine, salmon in Alaska, and Bulgogi in Korea. One thing that haunts me particularly regularly though is the borek that I ate at Sofra, in Cambridge, with Zach and Jeff. It was October, it was unseasonably warm so we sat outside, we ordered one of almost everything, and I was sick as a pup! So I was mainly focused on navigating my utensils and bites in such a way that wouldn’t spread my cooties to anyone else. But then I tasted the borek and, goodness gosh geez, I could have died after that first bite. 

It’s… illegally good. It’s kind of like a slice of mac and cheese that’s been crisped up in a skillet, but it’s milder and doughier than that. On the sweet/savory spectrum it's about halfway between a lasagna and a kugel. Structurally it's layered like a lasagna, with Yufka, which is a Turkish flatbread that's thicker than phyllo dough and thinner than a tortilla, and it has fresh mozzarella in it, so it’s very creamy and doesn’t have any sharpness. It's also yogurty, so it has some subtle sourness, and there’s an egg custard situation swimming into the layers, holding everything together, ohmygahhh it’s good. 

After tracking down the recipe in Sofra's book, I’ve decided that It’s actually insane that such a simple set of ingredients can make something this delicious. Basically what you do, or rather what I did since I didn’t plan ahead far enough to order Yufka dough online, is you knead together a simple flour/water/olive oil dough and then roll it out until it's very very thin (I used my pasta roller). Then you layer it with yogurty milk and grated fresh mozzarella. I’d never grated fresh mozzarella before but it turns out you can do that! Unlike lasagna, the layers don’t get boiled or cooked at all before layering up with the yogurt and cheese which makes them soak everything up and stay soft and doughy in the oven.

Then after it's baked, you brown slices on both sides and eat them with grated tomato. Then you die!!!

If you don’t have yufka dough and choose to make your own, use a double batch of this recipe. Roll it out to the second thinnest setting on your pasta roller and cut out enough rectangles to make eight layers (it's ok if there's some overlap). You can either roll them all out at once and keep them separated with a dusting of flour and layers of parchment until the rest of your borek ingredients are ready, or you can roll them out as you assemble the borek. Doing this will make this process long but it will be 100% worth it. And a great thing about this borek is that you can make it a day or two in advance and reheat slices in a pan before serving.


cheese borek

serves 10 to 12

from soframiz by ana sortun and maura kilpatrick of sofra

ingredients

1/2 c (113g) unsalted butter, melted

1 1/2 c whole milk 

3/4 c (164g) plain whole milk Greek yogurt

1 tsp kosher salt

2 large eggs plus 2 egg yolks

4 sheets store-bought yufka pastry, weighing about 2 pounds (907g) (many brands of yufka are available online)

4 (4-oz) balls buffalo milk mozzarella, grated

3 tb all-purpose flour

2 tb nigella seeds (note: I used poppy seeds!)

tomatoes, grated with the big holes of a box grater, for serving

clues

preheat the oven to 425ºf. butter an 8-inch square baking dish or an 11 by 7-inch baking pan with 1 tablespoon of the melted butter.

in a small mixing bowl, whisk together the milk, yogurt, salt, and whole eggs until very smooth. whisk in the remaining 7 tablespoons of melted butter.

cut the yufka so that you have about eight large pieces that cover the bottom of the pan. it's okay if they don't fit the pan perfectly or if the edges hang over; you can fold everything over the top at the end of assembling.

place one layer of yufka on the bottom of the pan and brush lavishly with the milk mixture. repeat until you have four layers of brushed pastry. distribute the mozzarella over the top of the four soaked yufka layers. place another four layers of yufka over the cheese filling, brushing with the milk mixture between every layer. 

using a small knife, cut the borek, scoring the pastry so that the custard seeps into the cuts. make 10 to 12 cuts. it doesn't matter if it breaks the pastry: you can press it back down with your hands. you don't need to worry about doing it neatly; the cuts will disappear while the borek bakes.

mix the remaining milk mixture with the egg yolks and flour. pour over the top and let soak for 20 minutes. eventually, the liquid soaks into the pie, so don't worry if it seems like a lot. sprinkle the top with the nigella seeds.

place the borek in the oven and lower the heat to 350ºf. bale for about 50 minutes, until golden on top and puffy. let rest for 15 minutes before slicing. either serve as is or heat a skillet and brown on both sides.

serve with grated tomato.


-yeh!

photos by chantell and brett quernemoen!

and this apron is part of enrich and endure's new line! i'm hosting a giveaway with them right this way!

Vanilla Butter Cake with Marzipan Buttercream

This is the layer cake version of the mega moist/buttery vanilla cupcakes that I posted this summer! I’ve altered the ratios just slightly from the cupcakes here in order to provide the stability in the batter necessary to hold up a full layer, and it took a zillion test runs, but I’m proud to say that it retains the lusciousness that I was so pleased with in those cupcakes. It’s perfectly vanilla-y and just sooo… whatever the opposite is of those wildly airy grocery store sheet cakes. (Not (!) that there isn’t a time and place for those.) But Eggpop and I share a particular love of two important things: rom coms and very dense cake.

And such a hard earned cake is worthy of an equally lush frosting, no?

Marzipan buttercream is not an idea that I can take credit for, even though I’d like to since, as we’ve already established, my body is made up of 1/2 marzipan around the holidays. Alaina, who I met at my very first Molly on the Range book tour event, made the cutest ever cake earlier this year and added the marzipan butter from MOTR (which is essentially your basic ingredients for marzipan, blanched almonds and sugar, blended into oblivion until silky and spreadable) to the frosting. Brilliant!!!!!! Right??? I immediately knew I had to try it with my favorite go-to buttercream and the results were as I expected: otherworldly. Almondy, buttery, sweet, the best. You know I love a good rustic nut butter frosting, but using a blanched nut butter here makes this frosting so smooth and dreamy. I mean, marzipan on its own is obviously the best thing ever, but how do you make the best thing ever even better? Add butter. Duhhh.

And obviously if you are going to bestow the name “marzipan” onto any type of frosting, you are going to use great butter for it. Land O Lakes® European Style Unsalted Butter is what I’m using here and its flavor is so good and pure that if there’s any butter who deserves to be mashed up with marzipan, it is this. And then, rather than making the full marzipan butter recipe (which you can find in Alaina’s post and which also makes a great little gift when put in a cute jar) before adding it to my buttercream, I’ve rearranged the ingredients a bit to make things a little more straightforward and to take it easy on your food processor since it’s already getting quite a workout making the blanched almond butter. 

The decorations here are inspired by embroidery again, just like these cookies! I referenced these awesome trees and then here is a video that goes more in depth with the decorating process:


vanilla butter cake with marzipan buttercream

Makes one 3-layer 8” cake

ingredients

3 1/2 c (450g) all-purpose flour

1 tb baking powder

1 1/2 tsp kosher salt

1 1/4 c (300g) heavy cream, room temperature

1/2 c (120g) sour cream, room temperature

1 c (225g) Land O Lakes® European Style Unsalted Butter, room temperature

1/2 c (100g) refined coconut oil, soft but not melted

2 1/4 c (450g) sugar

4 large eggs, room temperature

1 tb vanilla bean paste or extract

1/2 tsp almond extract, optional

 

Buttercream:

1 c (128g) blanched almonds

1 c (225g) Land O Lakes® European Style Unsalted Butter, room temperature

5 c (600g) powdered sugar

1/8 tsp kosher salt

1 1/2 tsp vanilla bean paste or extract

1 tsp almond extract, optional

3 tb (45g) heavy cream

clues

To make the cake layers: preheat the oven to 350ºf. Grease and line the bottoms of three 8” cake pans with parchment and set aside.

In a large bowl, sift together the flour and baking powder, and then lightly stir in the salt and set aside. in a large measuring cup, whisk together the heavy cream and sour cream and set aside. 

In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream together the butter, coconut oil, and sugar on medium high for 3-4 minutes, until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each. Add the vanilla and almond extract, if using. Reduce the mixer to medium low and add the dry mixture and cream mixture in 3 alternating additions, mixing until just combined. Distribute the batter evenly between the cake pans and spread it out evenly.

Bake until the  tops of the cakes are thinking about starting to turn brown and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out with a few crumbs on it; begin checking for doneness at 30 minutes and try your darnedest not to let it overbake. Let cool in the pans for 10 minutes and then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. 

To make the buttercream: 

First, make the almond butter. In a high powered food processor, blend the almonds, scraping the sides occasionally, until very creamy and spreadable, about 5-10 minutes.

In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat together the butter and almond butter until creamy. Gradually add the powdered sugar, and then mix in the salt, vanilla, almond extract, and heavy cream. Mix until creamy.

To frost the cake, level the top of the layers and then stack them up with a layer of frosting in between. Frost all over and decorate as desired (See video!)! Enjoy!


-yeh!

Thank you so much to Land O’Lakes for providing me with the butter and heavy cream for all of my cake baking adventures and for sponsoring this post. Their European style butter is so gosh darn rich and perfect for buttercream.

Videography by Paul Hoplin!