Gluten-Free Flour Power: Celiac Sufferer Helps Others by Helping Herself

OU Kosher Staff

In 1999, Jules Shepard of Catonsville, MD, was diagnosed with celiac disease. An avid baker, she perused gluten-free cookbooks, hoping to return to a nearly normal diet. She found that the recipes relied predominantly on rice flour, often yielding dry and crumbly results. Shepard decided to experiment with other gluten-free flours. She bought a variety of bags, lined them up on her kitchen counter, and went to work. After a full year of baking, she hit upon a gluten-free recipe for scones. “It was really delicious!” she says. “And it didn’t taste gluten-free. I knew I really had something.”

The scone recipe formed the basis for her Nearly Normal gluten-free all-purpose flour, which contains a combination of five flours, as well as corn starch, potato starch, tapioca starch, and xanthan gum as an enhancer. “I baked everything with it,” she says. “I made breads, pizza, muffins, and cookies.” She shared her tasty creations with others on gluten-free diets; they suddenly saw a world of food possibilities they had thought was lost to them. Realizing she could affect the quality of life for many more individuals with celiac disease and grain allergies, Shepard compiled the recipes into a cookbook.

According to Shepard, Nearly Normal Cooking For Gluten-Free Eating: A Fresh Approach to Cooking and Living Without Wheat or Gluten is selling at least a copy a day on Amazon.com. She also puts out a weekly e-newsletter with a new recipe in each edition. At work on another cookbook, due out in 2009, Shepard just completed a book called: The First Year: Celiac Disease and Living Gluten Free, a resource for people diagnosed with celiac disease, taking him/her through the first year of living gluten-free, to be published later this year. The book covers the myriad life situations the recently diagnosed celiac patient must now deal with differently, such as: how to travel nationally and internationally, a birthday party for the child with celiac, socializing on a date, business lunches, and holidays.

Aside from getting the gluten-free word out, Shepard has also brought her Nearly Normal all-purpose flour and Graham Cracker/Ginger Snaps mixes to the general public. She requested that Heartland’s Finest (featured in the accompanying “Good News for Gluten-Free” article) co-pack her products. All of her flours and mixes carry OU kosher certification and GF certification. For information about Shepard’s latest gluten-free projects, visit her two websites: nearlynormalcooking.com and nearlynormalkitchen.com.

This dedicated baker, author, and gluten-free advocate continues to create new recipes, share her flavorful findings, and relay the message: “Gluten-free can (actually) taste good and offer a nutritious and satisfying diet.”