Vergennes, VT, Vermont's smallest, oldest city (population: 2,800), has a strong Gallic tradition: Named for a French foreign minister, the town attracts Quebecois tourists and celebrates Bastille Day. Yet it didn't have a proper pâtisserie or boulangerie until 26-year-old Julianne Jones and her French husband, Didier Murat, opened Vergennes Laundry late last year.
"Ironically, the Frenchman isn't the baker," Jones says. Murat handles almost every other part of the business while Jones, who grew up in Buffalo, New York, takes care of the food. Her three-month apprenticeship with renowned Vermont bread baker Gérard Rubaud, a recluse reachable only via snail mail, inspired the couple to open the bakery. They hired masons to construct a wood-burning oven and converted a former Laundromat into an airy space decorated with a stuffed caribou.
When the wood fire is at full blast, Jones bakes her crusty, naturally leavened bread and the flaky shells for her savory tarts. For a Provençal-inspired one that she affectionately calls "tart-a-touille," she roasts local zucchini, eggplant and tomatoes. On days the bakery is closed, she uses the oven's residual heat to bake her crispy, butter-rich French-style biscotti with hazelnuts and figs, which Jones jokes have become "the official teething biscuits of Vergennes".
It is remarkable that Jones never trained at all in France, considering how well she has mastered the toughest French-style pastries. Even her cannelés, small Bundt cakeshaped desserts that take three days to complete, are perfect. Having a French husband helps, she admits. "When he has a craving for macarons or croissants, I have to make them," she says.