Wednesday, August 14, 2013


At their last few book signing events Laura and Peter were often asked if there are any gluten-free recipes in their books.  Celiac disease and intolerance to gluten is a relatively recent concern (recent meaning the last few decades) and researchers aren’t quite sure why its incidence is on the rise.  But it is, and anyone in the cook book business should be aware of it.

Off the top of Laura’s head she knew their books contain recipes based totally on fruit and a delightful coffee custard recipe, but not being totally familiar with the gluten-free diet restrictions she wasn’t sure if other recipes fit the bill or were adaptable.  So she decided to do a little research on what a gluten-free diet is.  Here is the short version of what she discovered:

Gluten-free excludes the protein gluten that is found in grains such as wheat, barley, rye and triticale (a cross between wheat and rye.)  Many foods such as beans, nuts, seeds, fresh eggs, meat, fish and poultry, fruits and vegetables and most dairy and some grains such as quinoa, white rice, potato flour, cornstarch are allowed foods.

Armed with this information Laura reviewed the pages in Polish Classic Recipes with a new perspective and found six recipes that fit the definition - without any changes or substitutions.

1. Gypsy Mazurka - Page 14
2. Mocha Torte - Page 38
3. Dried Fruit Compote - Page 81
4. Strawberry Kissel - Page 82
5. Poached Pears - Page 85
6. Coffee Custard - Page 86

Then, Laura made a field trip to a few local grocery stores to see what gluten-free products were available.  She was pleasantly surprised to find several gluten-free flour options on the shelves of two big-brand grocery stores.  She purchased a box of stone ground white rice flour to try in a couple of recipes, in place of all purpose flour.

First were almond cookies (Page 26).  The one cup of all purpose flour was replaced with the white rice flour and yielded excellent results.  There was no discernable difference in the taste or texture of the finished cookie.  However, the dough could not be rolled as thinly, resulting in a slightly thicker cookie and a smaller yield - not a big deal.

Peter whipped up batch of crepes using a 1 for 1 exchange of rice flour for the all purpose flour.  The resulting crepes were no different in taste or texture from the original.  He does recommend using whole milk to give the batter a little more body.

Several other Polish Classic Dessert recipes are easily adapted for the gluten free diet, with a minor substitution of readily available gluten free products:

Almond Cookies - Pg 26:  substitute rice flour instead of all purpose flour.

Krakow Cheesecake - Page 61:  Replace the bread crumbs in the crust with a gluten-free product such as crushed rice or corn chex or bread crumbs made from gluten-free bread. Replace the flour in the filling with something like rice or potato flour.

Plum Dumplings - Page 77:  In the dough, use potato flour in place of the all purpose flour.

Crepes with Sweet Cheese - Page 78:  Try gluten-free rice flour to make the crepes.

And there are more for anyone comfortable with a little experimentation.

In closing, Celiac disease and gluten intolerances now affect many more people in the world than when most Polish classic recipes were first created. A quick internet search suggested that scientists are not sure why the occurances of Celiac disease are increasing but there is a feeling that it is an evolutionary result of increased consumption over time of wheat flour and other glutens - at least according to one scientist working with the US Department of Agriculture.  Regardless of the why or wherefore, gluten intolerance is a reality of today’s life and anyone in the cookbook business should be aware of this and other common food allergies.

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