Amy Marquard is all about precision, in life and in the kitchen.
"I probably should have been a food scientist, because I love technique and process," said Marquard, who does accounts receivable work for area businesses from her home.
That love of process led the rural Foley woman has created a series of devices intended to cut time and stress out of lefse-making, the St. Cloud Times reported. She also uses and shares a lefse recipe that takes only a little more than an hour to prep and cook (cooling time not included).
Why do it? "The big 'why' is just to help people do things easier so they'll want to do it more often," Marquard said. "I don't think that you should have to wait until Christmastime to have something that tastes so good."
Marquard has made The Original Lefse Cuddler and The Incredible Lefse Cloth, which she sells on her website, LefseLand. She's adding a caddy, too (a cloth tote bag in which bakers can store and carry the Cuddler, cloth and the rest of his or her lefse-making tools).
She loves making lefse because of her family history (she's Swedish and Norwegian) and its ties to that culture.
"I just found it as a really good way to connect and figure out how I came to be," Marquard said.
It's also something fun for her and her 15-year-old daughter, Audra, to do together. The pair has given lefse to people who helped donate to Audra's trip to Spain; the number of generous people meant they went through 85 pounds of potatoes.
Marquard started making lefse with the ladies at Gustavus Adolphus Church in Foley about 15 years ago, but she devised her own recipe to ensure efficiency. That was only the first step in her quest to turn lefse-making into a more simple procedure.
After all, lefse is a tradition for many Minnesota families, but it's a time-consuming one. Marquard wanted a more seamless way to roll out the dough and store the cooked lefse immediately after it comes off the griddle.
A critical step in making lefse is cooling it, because it comes off the griddle piping hot and crisp, and ideal lefse should be tender. Marquard found storing the lefse in between bath towels to be irritating. The towels would sometimes cling together, making it difficult to deposit the lefse. She took a terry cloth and a dish towel and sewed them together for the first-generation Cuddler; she added a thumb loop on it for easy and quick open and close.
"I didn't have to peel through multiple layers of towel to get to the inside," she said. Still, she didn't like the way the corners of the cloth/towel drooped; she wanted clean edges for an even more efficient lefse drop-off to prevent tearing.
So she updated the Cuddler, adding a channel that helped for a neat fold, and putting in a loop for a dowel so it can be opened and closed quickly and neatly. The Cuddler now has three layers to hold the steam in longer, and it's made so it's interchangeable for right- and left-handed people. It holds up to 36 pieces of lefse.
Marquard didn't stop there. She made the cloth with a rubber backing so it wouldn't slide when bakers are rolling their dough. On it are two circles, one 9 inches in diameter, the other 14 inches, so bakers can roll to whichever size they prefer. The square cloth ensures the baker doesn't have to hunch all the way over it while rolling, straining his or her back.
Jenny Faulk, a Foley resident, isn't a lefse maker but is a lefse eater. She loves her friend Marquard's lefse, and brought a bunch of it to an extended family gathering at Christmas.
"It was probably gone within five minutes," she said.
Marquard makes her lefse nearly paper thin. With the Cuddler, "she makes it look extremely easy," Faulk said.
Her mother's inventions helped with their lefse-making process, Audra Marquard said.
"We've got our system down really well," she said. Audra Marquard learned how to make lefse about a year ago. "I love it, so I should probably help out in the process." The family includes Amy's husband, Steve, stepson Heath, 28, and Gunnar, 9.
Mother and daughter traveled to Sweden and Norway together this past summer to visit family members and learn more about their history. Amy Marquard said when they make lefse together, they chat with no pressure.
"When her and I are rolling next to each other, it's just a nice way to spend time with her and maybe learn some things about her I wouldn't have otherwise known," she said.
Amy Marquard wants to make sure she spreads her knowledge. She's teaching a class on April 25 at Foley High School through Community Education.
"I like that it's passing on a tradition because I know that it's dying every day with people who don't share their recipes or family who doesn't think to ask grandma how to do it," she said.
This is an AP Member Exchange shared by the St. Cloud Times.