Most people want to relax and unwind after a hard day’s work but 6:00 pm is when Lauren Marts, of Bellevue, gets her second wind and ties on an apron. By day, she works in Safety and Human Performance at Westinghouse. By night, she operates her gluten-free bakery, Baked True North, fulfilling individual and wholesale orders. During busy seasons, she typically works a combined 90 hours a week.
It all started with brain fog in 2012. Her husband, Nick, was struggling to focus and tried a gluten-free diet to correct it. He avoided foods containing wheat, barley, rye and oat. Within days, the symptoms went away. Within a few years, Lauren eliminated gluten from her diet too, to support Nick. After accidentally ingesting gluten, her stomach pains confirmed she was intolerant too. “Gluten affects everyone differently,” Lauren explained.
Adapting to a gluten-free diet wasn’t difficult, but finding a soft, chewy chocolate chip cookie was. Store-bought gluten-free cookies were dry and tasteless. By 2015, Lauren began experimenting to make her own. She landed on a cookie that was moist and soft, even when frozen. It contains almond and coconut but no starch. It was so tasty, she decided to sell them at a Bellevue Flea Market in 2016. The response was huge, but she wondered if being the only food vendor there was the reason.
Self-doubt subsided after friends and friends of friends began placing orders. Baked True North was born. The meaning behind the name has a dual purpose. ‘True North’ refers to God, who she said has been her rock, while ‘North’ also honors her beloved Bellevue community.
Lauren has expanded her offerings based on requests – lemon bars, donuts, cinnamon rolls, English muffins. A variety of cookies are offered too, including Salt and Pepper Chocolate Cookies, Snicker Doodles and Orange Double Chocolate Cookies. Every menu item is subjected to intense trial and error. “There’s a lot of chemistry involved,” Lauren explained. Recipes are tweaked and friends and family enjoy the task of taste testing. Lauren purchases some ingredients at Sam’s Club and Restaurant Depot. Frankferd Farms, in Saxonburg, supplies hard-to-find items such as dairy-free chocolate chips and bulk almond meal.
In 2018, the Marts knew they needed a commercial kitchen to keep the business growing. They moved to a home in Bellevue that had two kitchens. The county’s health department requires a home bakery to be used exclusively for business. Despite having no experience in home renovations, Nick and a friend expanded and installed a commercial kitchen on the first floor and renovated their home kitchen on the second. “It was probably the hardest thing we’ve ever done,” Lauren said. “Nick put his life on hold for me.”
Baked True North has evolved since that first chocolate chip recipe. Items are sold locally at Soergel Orchards in Wexford, Aurochs Gluten-Free Brewery Company in Emsworth and Case-Specific Meal Prep. They can also be found at farmers markets this summer in Sewickley, Robinson, and the Block at Northway. Individuals can place orders online with local pickup or delivery. In addition to gluten-free baked goods, vegan, dairy-free and egg-free items are available too.
Coinciding with their 5th anniversary in business, the Marts have hired their first employee. The next goal? To open a storefront.
Photos courtesy of Krystyn Brooke Kreative/Team Flash Studios.