Linda Grover: Trying to make lugalette like my grandmother’sThe first time I tried to make lugalette it was not good at all. I have experimented, and learned to keep a tender hand with the dough. I don’t believe they make a pan the size that my grandma used.
I have had enough practice making frybread that it turns out most of the time: the dough puffs are golden, the texture consistent and very slightly sweet from that scant teaspoonful of sugar that I add to the flour. I don’t make it often these days, but, when I do, my dad always makes a point of telling me that it is good. It must remind him of his mother (my grandma Vicky) because, as he eats, his thoughts travel to something else she used to make: lugalette.
“We always thought that word was so funny, LUGGL-ett,” he says.
Like frybread, the recipes for and customs of making lugalette have varied from family to family. Some pronounce it “lug-o-lay,” and to others it is called “Indian bread” — or “bannock” or “lug bread” or just plain “lug.” It is not as well-known as frybread; it was probably made and eaten more in the good old days than it is today.
Frybread (which used to be cooked in lard) is cooked in deep oil or shortening, which adds to the cost. Lugalette is baked in a pan, and so uses a very small amount of grease. It costs very little to make. My dad, who was a child during the Great Depression, has told me that they had it at home every day. I am sure that was so for many people during those difficult times. His memory of this, though, is not that people were so poor that they filled up on lugalette, but that it smelled so good and was so delicious.
In honor of my grandma, I have tried to recreate her lugalette recipe — with some help from my dad’s recollections of watching her cook. Here is what he remembers:
Grandma Vicky would take enough flour to fill a bowl somewhat less than halfway. She would mix in some baking powder that she measured into the middle of her hand, and then a little salt and a small handful of sugar. She mixed in some warm water and kept the dough soft. She kneaded it just a little, then put it into a greased pan and flattened it very gently with the palms of her hands. She baked it, and sliced it.
The lugalette my dad remembers was served hot or cold. Sometimes his mother mixed some blueberries in before she baked it; sometimes she poured a little syrup over it. I think it would be good with a little butter and honey.
The first time I tried to make lugalette it was not good at all. I have experimented, and learned to keep a tender hand with the dough. I don’t believe they make a pan the size that my grandma used.
It was wider than a bread loaf pan, my dad says. I have used an 8-by-8-inch cake pan but think that a narrower one would give a better texture to the center. Loaf pans are just too narrow; I have found that lugalette works out best if the dough is only an inch or so high.
Lugalette does not have the melt-in-your mouth crust that comes of deep-frying, and in that way it really does differ from frybread. It is from a different era — I suppose it might be frybread’s grandmother or auntie. For me, making good lugalette is a challenge, but I’ll keep practicing. The texture of dough on my hands makes me think of my grandmother, and of my dad as a boy, eating lugalette that he remembers smelled so good and was so delicious.