Jennifer Wiese, owner of BeeFree Gluten Free Bakery, began gluten-free baking for the love of her family. Her creations started a stir in her hometown of Noblesville, and today BeeFree carries a varied line of gluten-free products which are sold around the region.
Wiese is the mother of four teenage boys, and the eldest is on the autism spectrum. Nine years ago, Wiese and her husband attended an autism conference and learned about the benefits of gluten free/casein free (GF/CF) diets in helping alleviate some of the behavioral issues associated with autism.
Gluten is a protein found in wheat and various other grains, and casein is a protein found in many kinds of milk and dairy products.
The couple gave it some thought, and decided they had nothing to lose by trying the diet out on their son. “It just requires a bit of forethought and planning,” Wiese said.
Finding good GF/CF food in Noblesville wasn’t easy, and an 8-year-old has limited patience after being asked to give up all his favorite foods. “The only choice was to get creative,” Wiese said.
So Wiese and her mother started baking, trying to find a combination of flours that would give their baked goods a decent texture. “We baked a lot of things that didn’t taste very good,” Wiese said.
Gradually they homed in on a winning combination, a mixture of rice, tapioca, coconut, and potato flours and corn starch. “Once we got that flour mix right, everything we made was really good,” Wiese said.
The diet has had positive effects on her son. He sleeps better now, his attention span is longer, and he is able to focus more clearly. Wiese adopted the diet along with him, and she has experienced similar benefits.
Wiese wanted her son to be able to eat at social events, and often that meant baking a cake or pizza to be offered alongside the glutinous one the rest of the children were eating. People started commenting on how good Wiese’s creations were, and asking her to bake for their parties. Local parents who were on the GF/CF learning curve started approaching Wiese for advice.
The demand was there, and Wiese had passion for what she was doing; starting a business seemed like a viable next step. Besides, she and her husband have always encouraged their boys to pursue their dreams, so she wanted to walk her talk. “If I didn’t try it, I’d never really know,” if it would work, Wiese said.
So in January of 2010, BeeFree Gluten Free Bakery was born. Wiese rented kitchen space in a restaurant after hours, and once her boys were in bed, she would slip away and start baking. “Often I was there until one or two or three in the morning,” Wiese said.
After a year, Wiese realized she couldn’t keep up with her orders and grow the business like she wanted to at the same time, so she started contracting the baking work out to two different contractors; one makes the sweets and the other makes the pizza crusts, which are sold fresh and frozen.
Cornerstone Bread Company, which makes the cookies and tea breads, is a regular wholesale bakery most of the time, but owner Cindy Helmling makes sure she does her gluten-free baking first thing in the morning while the equipment is freshly sanitized and there isn’t any wheat flour wafting around in the air. This isn’t a problem for most gluten-free people, but Wiese mentions it on the packaging just in case.
Today, Wiese’s entire family has gone gluten-free. Helping her kids negotiate school lunch has been an interesting challenge, Wiese said, and she is working with the school corporation and food providers to see if they can carry more gluten-free options in the cafeteria.
Now that Wiese has more time freed up for working on the business end of things, she is interested in getting BeeFree carried more widely across the region and expanding her line. She recently developed a cereal for people on the Paleolithic diet, which avoids grains, legumes, dairy products, salt, refined sugar, and processed oils.
Wiese gets approached on a regular basis by GF/CF families looking for advice, and she is glad to help. Besides, being a gluten-free fairy godmother can lead to some pretty magical moments; Wiese’s cookies have made people cry with happiness at the Indianapolis Farmer’s Market.
“They didn’t think they would ever have a cookie again that tasted good,” she said.
To learn more, visit Bee Free Bakery. Loook for cookies, sandwich bread, flour, and pizza dough when you shop.