Talking to my mother the week before Easter made me long for the Easter food I grew up with: Polish ham, fresh kielbasa and homemade Słodki Chleb, a sweet, egg bread with raisins. I often have this idea to recreate the old holidays, but since I left Detroit (over 30 years ago) I have never found a local source for fresh authentic Polish kielbasa. I thought Seattle must have such a place but in the nearly seven years I have lived here, I never found it...until this week. I discovered George’s Deli on Madison at Ninth Ave., and it was like a little bit of Slavic heaven on earth. Not only did I find kielbasa the likes of which I have not had outside of Detroit, but Kolachki (cookies) and Angel Wings and Polish horseradish.
Unfortunately, the cookies, bread, and potato pancake mixes were loaded with gluten. Happily, the kielbasa was not. Undeterred, I got out my grandmother's recipe for the sweet bread and my store of Jules’ Gluten Free Flour Mix and got to work. The recipe makes 2 loaves and takes 5 cups of flour, so I was a bit worried. What if it doesn't rise and I waste all that flour? Luckily, it rose like a champ and I have been nearly jumping around my kitchen with joy ever since. It was real bread. It was my grandmother's bread. It's aroma was intoxicating and the taste of it took me back to those Easter mornings of my childhood.
The kielbasa was to die for. I must have forgotten what real fresh kielbasa tastes like. It's not that heavy greasy stuff you get from the big name brands you find in the grocery. It's actually delicate and light and not greasy. The texture was soft. The garlic and herb taste was subtle, not heavy handed. If you want to know what real Polish kielbasa tastes like, go to George’s. For a gluten free version of Słodki Chleb, read on.
Grandma Cichon’s Słodki Chleb (Sweet Bread)
(makes 2 loaves)
1/2 cup melted butter
1 heaping cup sugar
1 1/2 cups milk, warm
1 pkg. yeast ( I proof with sugar)
1/2 cup warm water
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. nutmeg
5 cups flour (I used Jules’ GF All Purpose)
Dissolve yeast in water. Beat eggs until light. Add sugar, melted butter, milk, vanilla and yeast mixture to eggs. Add flour, salt and nutmeg. Beat 200 times by hand (or 200 beats on medium with stand mixer with paddle). Let dough rise in large bowl (covered with cloth) until doubled in size (mine didn’t exactly double), about 1 1/2 hours. Beat down dough. Fill 2 greased loaf pans half full. Cover. Let rise again (usually GF flours don’t need this step but I did it anyway for about 30 minutes). Sprinkle top with sugar. Bake at 350° for 30-45 minutes (mine took 45 mins.). Test for doneness. Let cool in oven with oven door open.
This bread is great just as it is, or toasted. Try it, you’ll like it.