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Spreading (deep fried) holiday cheer

Retired pastor loves making rosettes for the masses in Moorhead area

By Carol Stender

Roger Rotvold of Moorhead is a rosette making machine.

Roger is busy making rosettes in this 2016 photo. He’s joined in the rosette making sessions by his wife, Kathy. Together they make and package 150 dozen. About 70 to 100 dozen are sold at church bake sales and the rest are given as gifts to family, friends and neighbors. This year, however, the rosette irons will remain cold. Due to COVID, the church bazaar has been cancelled. Contributed photo

The retired pastor, with his wife Kathy, makes 150 dozen rosettes each year. About 70 to 100 dozen are sold at the church bake sale while the remainder are given to friends, family and neighbors as gifts.

He’s so well known for rosettes that he made a YouTube video of the process a few years back. The video, titled “Rosette making tutorial,” can also be found through a Google search of “YouTube Roger Rosettes.”

But this year, his rosette irons will remain cold.

“Because of COVID, the bake sale at church has been cancelled and, therefore, we have cancelled our plans to make rosettes as well,” he said. “For us it’s a matter of wanting to make the large amount with all the set-up and everything involved (but) we don’t want to go through the work of all of it for just a few.”

This marks the first time since they started the en masse rosette production in 1980 that the pair won’t make this treat.

But, thanks to their tutelage, the tradition continues. The Rotvolds have trained others at their church and family reunions how to make the crispy Norwegian cookie.

There’s a bit of nostalgia for Roger in the process with its roots in the traditions of Christmas. His step-mother and her sisters were busy bakers during the holidays, preparing rosettes, lefse, flat bread, Berlina Kranser, krumkake and more for snacks during Christmas gatherings.

It was quite a feast of goodness for the family gathering for Christmas meals.

“Christmas was always a big event in our family, with gatherings that sometimes exceeded 50 people in our little farmhouse,” he said. “It always included a huge meal of turkey and all the trimmings along with lutefisk and melted butter, although I could never get past the smell of the lutefisk.”

Everyone gathered at the Hillsboro, ND, farm where his father, step-mother and siblings lived. His mother died when he was three years old. By the time Roger was in third grade, his father remarried. It was a large family with Roger and his five siblings plus six step-siblings. He was the youngest of the group.

And his memories are vivid of the woman he knew as mom, making rosettes.

Rosettes were one part of the Scandinavian goodies at a 1987 Syttende Mai Festival at Clearwater Lutheran Church, where Roger served as pastor. Contributed photos

Her baking filled the house with great, mouth watering scents. He remembers coming home from school many times to the smell of fresh baked bread or other special recipes she’d make.

“Rosettes was one of those recipes mom made during the season prior to Christmas,” he said. “I remember her sitting on a stool at the stove over a pot of hot lard using a single rosette iron and making her delicious rosettes. I wasn’t involved in the actual cooking, but I did a good job of eating them. They were kept in large totes in our folk’s bedroom so it was easy to find and partake.”

She would probably find joy with the process Roger and Kathy have developed to make and share rosettes with others.

The couple started making rosettes after the death of Roger’s father and step-mother in the mid-1970s. It was a time of transition as he completed seminary and was working at his first parish in northern Minnesota.

“I started making rosettes for church bake sales and for Syttende Mai (Norwegian Independence Day) celebrations,” he said. “They were such a great hit.”

They started making rosettes in their home, but, because of the grease smell, they moved the operation to the lake cabin.

“The grease smell gets in the clothes, drapes and furniture and takes quite a while to dissipate,” he said. “By the time we return to the lake, it has aired out completely.”

Much of the equipment needed for rosette baking, from the bowls, and measuring cups and spoons, to the electric mixer, the Rotvolds bring from home. They keep the two deep fryers and a large skimming sieve spoon at the cabin.

Setting up for rosette making takes time. They use plastic drop cloths to cover the floor, rugs and table.

Once everything is in place, they make the batter. That’s no small feat, as they quadruple the recipe.

That quadrupled recipe, which makes 30 dozen, takes 6 dozen eggs, 2 ½ gallons of skim milk, 15 pounds of sugar and 15 pounds of flour. It takes 6 gallons of Crisco Oil to fry the rosettes. The oil is changed halfway through the process, he added.

True to his Norwegian heritage, Roger makes other Scandinavian goodies. His daughter, Katie, is learning these baking secrets as well, as seen in this photo of the two making lefse. Contributed photo

“There are some that break, some get too dark or are too light and some are made with the ‘nubbins dough’ at the end and these go into (plastic bags) for family that don’t care what they look like as they still taste great,” he said.

The packaging takes as long as making the rosettes because the cookies are delicate.

Kathy handles the packaging and is the “gopher” to keep things moving and ready. While Roger mixes the first batch, Kathy takes care of other batches.

Then there’s the clean up which also takes time due to the greasy utensils and pots.

He requests that the church sell them for $10 a dozen due to the cost of oil and sugar plus the time and accessories involved. And there’s something special about the rosettes made by Pastor Roger and Kathy. The proceeds are always donated toward a church project.

Before he heeded his call to ministry, Roger graduated with a degree in landscape design. Then he was drafted, but, before heading to basic training, he married Kathy. She joined him at Ft. Bragg where he made Spec. 5 and received the Army Commendation Medal with the two years and two months he served.

During his time there, the Vietnam War ended and the couple contemplated moving to Denver. It was a period of transitions, as his parents both died and he got a job in landscaping. But others recognized his gift in ministry. He recalls people telling him of this gift as early as his high school years.

He feels Kathy was led to mention his role in ministry. Roger attended seminary at Wartburg Lutheran Seminary in Dubuque, Iowa. He was ordained on June 29, 1980 at Our Savior’s Lutheran Church in Hillsboro. Roger’s first call was to Shepherd of the Pines Lutheran Parish located in the Bagley and Bemidji area which included Clearwater Lutheran Church in Shevlin and Solway Lutheran Church in Solway plus Alida Lutheran Church in Alida.

It isn’t all about rosettes. Here is some of the krumkake made in 2016.

His second call brought them to the two-point parish of Bethel Lutheran Church in Herman and Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church in Norcross. And his third call brought the family to Faith Evangelical Lutheran Church in Pelican Rapids. He served that congregation until 2016 when he retired.

The couple has two adult children, Zac and Katie, who, no doubt, have had a lesson or two

in rosette making.

“Making rosettes for the church bake sales and events over the years has been a part of each of my calls,” he said. “It’s hard to stop after getting started as everyone raves over them!”

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