Gluten-free Potato Lefse (Bezlepkové zemiakové lokše)

Despite the uber-positive and uplifting post I was going for last week I have to confess the holiday craziness caught up with me after all. I was so determined not to succumb to the shopping/cleaning/wrapping insanity this year and most of all to preserve peace among our little tribe… but unfortunately I only partially succeeded. No, I didn’t join the ranks of last-minute shoppers ramming into each other in the crowded lit up shopping malls, and the Lord knows my bathrooms could still use a good scrub down. But I have to say the peace preservation part proved to be a little tricky. Even without squirreling needless stuff to wrap and with a strong resolve not to run circles with the vacuum there is always lots that still needs to be done this time of year. Add to it loads of mixed Christmas emotions and yearning to hug all the people close to my heart that are far away, and you’ve got a pot that’s ready to boil over any minute.

I think holidays are just hard – for the kids who live for weeks in anticipation of the magical Christmas moment, as well as for mothers who want so desperately to make the magic happen for those around them. (Fathers are somehow exempt from this pre-holiday pressure it seems.) The days leading to Christmas morning feel just like an amusement park train ride. The train, i.e. Mother is slowly and painfully climbing uphill: cooking the elaborate four-course menu (because it’s traditional, and keeping traditions alive is important!); wrapping cookies to share with the neighbors (what, you want to tell me being on good terms with neighbors isn’t?!); mailing out last-minute holiday cards (wishing everybody love and peace she would give her right arm for); plus doing all the ordinary stuff like laundry and bills (because neither can be put on hold and both just keep piling up, as if they didn’t know it’s Christmas time, darn it!). While stirring and whipping, Mother – the huffing and puffing amusement park Locomotive is already thinking about what needs to be scrubbed or washed or folded or mixed in where. And in the back of her mind looms this huge exclamation mark: Whatever spills/burns/doesn’t go according to the plan, please just keep keeping on. And whatever it takes, don’t yell, do you hear me? For Pete’s sake, just don’t start yapping at anybody. You know Christmas is supposed to be magical! Do you want to be the one that kills the Christmas magic? Huh? See, I didn’t think so!

And so the motherly locomotive groans and creaks while inching upward to the top, the high pinnacle all her efforts were oriented to: the festive dinner by the candlelight, happy smiles under the tree, and fleeting moments of sibling harmony. From there it only takes seconds till the train plummets back down to the starting station and Christmas is over. Scraps of wrapping paper are strewn all around the room, the kids can start fighting over the gifts, and Mother can finally pull the emergency brake and put her feet up. I confess I love the post-Christmas time. Since I can never properly judge how much food I’ll need, I always make about five times more we’re able to put away; our refrigerator shelves are subsequently bending under all the stuff, and I don’t have to lift a finger for three days straight. For me Christmas starts on the 25th 😉

Today I present you a snippet of our post-Christmas feast assortment. In Slovakia Christmas celebrations last three days, and on the third day – Feast of St. Stephen – folks traditionally roast a goose and serve it with braised cabbage and either yeast dumplings or these potato flatbreads that are very similar to Scandinavian lefse. I roasted a duck instead of goose, and quite successfully attempted to de-glutenize potato lefse. I already mentioned a couple of times that the dough made with gluten-free flour is usually very hard to roll out, but in this case the potatoes together with a little powdered gelatin helped it to stick together much better. Another big help in the process proved to be cast iron tortilla press. With that little gadget I simply pressed small balls of potato dough between two floured sides of a cut ziploc bag, and voila – in an instant I had these thin and uniform little flatbreads. They are smaller than both the original Scandinavian lefse and their Slovak version, but since I didn’t have to slave over them with a rolling pin and they taste just the same, I don’t care one bit. Lefse are very versatile and can be eaten savory or sweet, and you can also very easily freeze them.

Happy Post-Christmas do nothing, everybody 🙂

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Gluten-free Potato Lefse (Bezlepkové zemiakové lokše)

  • 700-750 g (about 25 oz.) cooked potatoes, cooled down & riced (See Note)
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 200 g (7 oz., 1 ½ cup) all-purpose gluten-free flour
  • 2 teaspoons xanthan gum (if your flour mix contains gums already, reduce the xanthan gum to 1 teaspoon)
  • 1 teaspoon Knox powdered gelatin
  • 1 egg (about ¼ cup), beaten
  • ½ teaspoon salt (if making lefse as a savory side dish, add ¼ teaspoon salt more)

+ 1 gallon size Ziploc bag
– more gluten-free flour for flouring the Ziploc bag
– butter or duck/goose fat to coat the hot lefse

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Method:
  1. Place all the ingredients in a bowl of our stand mixer fitted with a hook. With a mixer on medium speed, combine everything together into a soft dough.
  2. Divide the potato dough into small balls, about 60 g (2 oz.) each. Cut off the top of a large Ziploc bag, and then cut it down the sides to open it up completely.
  3. Making the lefse: Heat up an ungreased non-stick pan over a medium heat. Place the open Ziploc bag into the tortilla press, so that one side covers the top and the other one covers the bottom plate. Flour the plastic lightly with all-purpose flour. Place one ball of potato dough between two layers of plastic and press it down with the handle to make a thin (2 mm) pancake that’s about 8 inches (20 cm) in diameter.
  4. Carefully remove the top layer of plastic, taking care not to tear the lefse. Invert the lefse onto your left hand and peel off the bottom Ziploc layer. Place the lefse on a preheated non-stick pan and cook until browned in specks on the bottom, about 1 – 1½ minutes. Turn over and cook the other side. Remove the lefse on a plate and grease it with a bit of butter/duck fat. Dust off the flour that remained in the pan and continue making the lefse in the same way, laying them on top of each other on a plate.
  5. Serve the lefse rolled up with your favorite jam, sprinkled with powdered sugar, filled with duck liver pate as an appetizer, or as a savory side dish to accompany roasted duck and braised cabbage.
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Note:

Use either russets or yellow potatoes for the dough. The potatoes need to be very cold before ricing – it is best to cook them the night before and chill them in the refrigerator. If you don’t have a potato ricer (I don’t either), you can grate the potatoes on a small-opening side of a box grater. When you mix up the potato dough and roll the balls, it is best to try to work quickly, because the potato dough gets more and more sticky with time and it’s therefore harder to work with.

 

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