Hey, Spike! knows how to put ‘bon’ in your ‘jour’
February 25, 2017
The art of the French baguette is tough to master, especially at Frisco's 9,097 feet above sea level, where "high-altitude" baking is real.
Working out of her home, Susie Tunks and her one-woman La Baguette Parisienne bakery appear to have mastered the tricky aspects of producing one of France's best-known delicacies — the everyday loaf of Francophile bread.
The reviews say so.
Susie dropped off some samples — smart lady — at the Summit Daily News offices, which produced this comment from managing editor Ben Trollinger: "The bread was delicious and quickly devoured."
Fellow Friscoite Claudine Norden says, "Merci for the fabulous bread, pastries and customer service. Love the cherry tart — perfect sweetness. Everything looks fabulous and love having a 'bakery' down the street. This morning, we're packing Mia's lunch and she says, 'Can I take some French bread for my snack?' So glad they love it as much as I do."
Another glowing report comes from Kate Clement, managing partner at Basecamp Center, the Whole Foods development, who says, "The croissants are by far the best in Summit County, and comparable to the croissants I ate living in France. Delicious. They were flaky and crispy on the outside, and warm and moist on the inside — just the way they should be. We'll be putting in another order soon. Thanks again."
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So what's Susie's secret?
"Ah, I get this question a lot because my baguettes so obviously stand out from all the rest. The key is a high hydration dough. It is hard to work with and it takes time for the levain (starter) to develop, but it is worth the time and effort," she readily explains. "Also, I use less yeast in my recipes since they will over-proof in high altitude (and make a big mess — ask me how I know). It took me four months of constant experimenting to perfect my baguettes up here."
A Colorado Cottage Food producer, La Baguette Parisienne is not permitted to sell retail or to restaurants, according to Susie.
"A few local businesses have expressed an interest in carrying my baguettes and have encouraged me to call them when I expand to a commercial kitchen," she explains. "I am actively seeking a licensed kitchen in which to bake, so hopefully soon I will be able to supply local restaurants with my amazing baguettes."
Cottage Food producers in Colorado do not need to be licensed or have a permit per se, but need to complete a food-handler course, which Susie has done.
"There are other regulations that Cottage Food producers must adhere to and I am fully compliant," she adds. "The guys down at the Summit County Health Department in Frisco have been incredibly helpful and patient with all my questions."
Living in Europe for many of her formative years may have also added to this baker's proof-box of talent.
Susie was born in New York City, but moved to Spain in 1966.
"My uncle, Denholm Elliott (yes, the famous English supporting actor) and my aunt, Susan, flew my parents, my four siblings and me out to Ibiza when I was four. We lived there for eight years. We were fairly poor on Ibiza — my dad was an artist, as many people there were at the time, and my mother dabbled in acting. Ibiza was a very international island; there were, of course, the local Ibithencans, but also Canadian, Western European, American, Asian, African — all walks of life, every sexual preference," explains Susie.
The result of that internationally flavored lifestyle, she describes this way:
"I grew up appreciating people's differences and have remained very open-minded. The unspoiled beauty of the island in the '60s and its people (the Ibithencans) deeply influenced my love of art, culture, food and literature."
Susie says she attended "some college; studied to be a sign language interpreter," but has always been very entrepreneurially minded.
She and husband John Phillip Tunks, along with daughters Emma and Naia, moved up from Denver a couple of years ago.
John is a hydro-geologist.
"He got his master's degree at Duke University and grew up skiing out here since he was three years old," says Susie. "His dream, from the time he was very little living in Kansas City, Kansas, was to move up here to the mountains. He's living the dream."
Working for an environmental consulting firm as a senior engineer, John works from home.
Emma, 17, has always been home-schooled, and has gone to Colorado Mountain College since she was 15. Naia, 15, attends The Peak School.
"Summit County is our playground and we enjoy all the usual things folks come here for," she says. "We love to ski, hike, bike, camp and kayak. Summit County rocks. I am so grateful to be here."
Check out Susie's webiste at SusieTunks.wixsite.com/frenchbread.
Miles F. Porter IV, nicknamed "Spike," a Coloradan since 1949, is an Army veteran who served in France, former hardrock miner, graduate of Adams State College, and a local since 1982. An award-winning investigative reporter, he and wife Mary E. Staby owned newspapers here for 20 years. Email your social info to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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