The bakery started in 2013 as a “what if?” Owner Heather Burson set up shop in her cottage kitchen after her friends encouraged her to start a business. Three weeks later, she already needed to expand. “We got busy enough, fast enough, that I needed a commercial license and a commercial kitchen,” Heather says.
After also quickly outgrowing an incubator kitchen in Traverse City, Heather wanted to move to a dedicated gluten-free space that would be 100 percent allergen safe. To receive that certification, each product must have less than 20 parts per million of gluten in them.
Heather found her spot tucked between the cherry orchards on Setterbo Road in Suttons Bay. She rents the kitchen from a retired couple who also rent part of their property to TLC Hydroponics. Employees aren’t allowed to bring in food that contains gluten for lunches or snacks. “Having our own space allows us to control what comes into and goes out of the kitchen,” Heather says. Now, Third Coast Bakery is the first certified gluten-free and allergen safe bakery in Northern Michigan.
Over the past three years, through a process of trial and error, Heather has developed a core menu of her own recipes to meet the specific needs of her customers. “Our customers are truly our greatest source of inspiration. They’re the reason I started this to begin with,” she says. “When someone says, ‘I’ve never had a birthday cake’ or ‘could you make a cinnamon roll,’ I try to meet their requests.”
Heather has a waitlist wishlist of products from customers that she’s developing. The new recipes are tested each week at the indoor Village Farmers Market at Grand Traverse Commons. Creating gluten-free and allergen-safe baked goods isn’t easy, though. “You may see products that are gluten-free but not dairy-free, or vegan but not gluten-free,” Heather says. “We try to be welcoming to everyone at our table.” When a recipe doesn’t work out, she jokes there’s always a farm that needs compost.
Heather’s new approach to baking reflects her mission to prove people can enjoy a dessert and still maintain a healthy lifestyle. “Dessert doesn’t have to be what we’re typically used to—bleached white flour, refined sugars, hydrogenated fats, dyes, artificial fillers—it’s a new way of doing things without sacrificing taste, quality, and texture.”
So what ingredients are used? Organic coconut milk and rice milk, coconut oil, and high-quality flours from ancient grains such as millet, sorghum, and teff. For the double chocolate brownie bites, Heather uses garbanzo fava flour. Organic flaxseed replaces eggs and unsweetened applesauce adds moisture, texture, and sweetness. If she does use sugar, Heather uses raw, unprocessed sugar. “We want to make sure our products have a certain nutritional level, too,” she says. “With garbanzo bean flour in the brownies, you get this amazing product, but you also get protein, fiber, and nutrients that you don’t find in processed flours.”
In addition to brownies, cookies, scones, and muffins, Heather also makes bread, sandwich buns, crackers, graham crackers, and croutons. “There’s this moment when a new customer comes up to us at the farmers market and they almost have this look of disbelief, like you have this and it’s gluten-free and it’s dairy-free, you’ve got to be kidding me,” she says. “We’ve had many tearful moms who have children who are deathly allergic to certain ingredients and they’re desperate to find foods they can eat. It’s that moment of connecting with a family and saying here, try this.”
Third Coast Bakery products are available at:
- Acoustic Mead Tap Room, Traverse City
- Blue Lotus Cafe & Deli, Suttons Bay
- Cuppa Joe Cafe & Drive Thru, Traverse City
- ELF Cafe, Traverse City
- Edson Farms, Traverse City
- Leland Mercantile, Leland
- Munson Hospital Cafeteria, Traverse City
- Munson Hospital Cafeteria, Cadillac
- Munson Hospital Patient Room Service
- Potter’s Bakery (8th and Hall Street locations), Traverse City
- Red Door Coffee, Lake Ann
- Sutton’s Bay Farmers Market
- Village Farmers Market at Grand Traverse Commons, Traverse City
- Yen Yoga & Fitness, Traverse City
Third Coast Bakery is currently revamping their website, but you can follow them on Facebook and Instagram. To place a special order, call 269.420.4490.
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