Levee Baking Co. • New Orleans
At 9 years old, Christina Balzebre knew she wanted to be a chef. “I was always interested in hospitality. “I was always saying, ‘I want to be a chef, I want to run a restaurant,’” Christina reflects, adding, “I used to write up menus for family dinners, down to the detail.”
While Christina was growing up in Miami, Florida, her mother made every meal the family ate, but she also started a business when Christina was in middle school.
“Watching her do her job so well and starting a business from scratch, that was a huge thing for me to see,” says Christina.
But Christina’s grandmother was the baker in the family. Every time Christina’s family visited her grandmother in Texas, they could count on all sorts of baked goods to be ready and waiting.
Years later, Christina came to New Orleans to attend Loyola University, earning her undergraduate degree in sociology. After graduation, she decided to stay in New Orleans, working full-time in restaurants. She started as a juicer, later became a line cook, then entered the world of baking and was, in her own words, “fully obsessed.”
Christina briefly considered returning to Miami, but when she brought it up, her grandmother said, “Don’t you dare!” insisting that Christina remain in New Orleans and continue to grow as a chef.
Now Christina runs Levee Baking Co., a pop-up bakery that shares a space with 2015 Chef to Watch Melissa Martin’s Mosquito Supper Club on the weekends, and is a fixture at the Crescent City Farmers Market on Thursdays. Whether biscuits, breads, croissants, galettes, pies and hand pies, scones, or rolls, Christina ensures everything she makes is elevated by local, seasonal, and quality ingredients like freshly milled flour and local dairy.
“We do things in small batches so we can focus on every single ingredient,” says Christina. “Produce, sugar, dairy . . . all of that you can find in Louisiana or Mississippi. It makes such a huge difference with everything that we make.”
- 1 cup heavy whipping cream
- 4 toasted cardamom pods
- ½ vanilla bean
- 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour, divided
- ½ cup whole wheat or rye flour, sifted (preferably freshly milled)
- 1½ teaspoons granulated sugar
- 1½ teaspoons salt, divided
- ½ cup frozen unsalted butter, cubed
- 6 to 8 tablespoons ice water
- 1½ teaspoons distilled white vinegar
- 3 large eggs
- ¾ cup local honey
- ½ cup turbinado sugar
- ½ cup whole buttermilk or heavy whipping cream
- 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
- ¼ cup unsalted butter, melted
- 1 teaspoon vanilla paste or extract
- Maldon sea salt
- Garnish: fresh edible flowers
- In a large bowl, combine cream, toasted cardamom, and vanilla bean; cover and refrigerate overnight.
- In a large bowl, stir together 1 cup all-purpose flour, whole wheat or rye flour, granulated sugar, and ½ teaspoon salt. Using a fork or pastry blender, cut frozen butter into flour mixture until it resembles pea-size pieces (a few larger chunks are fine).
- In a small bowl, stir together 6 tablespoons ice water and white vinegar. Add water mixture to flour mixture, stirring until a dough forms. (Add remaining water, 1 tablespoon at a time, if necessary, to form dough.) Shape dough into a disk, and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours or overnight.
- On a lightly floured surface, roll dough into a 12-inch circle, turning and dusting with flour as needed. Transfer to a 9-inch metal pie pan, pressing into bottom and up sides. Fold edges under, and crimp as desired. Freeze for at least 30 minutes or up to 2 weeks.
- Preheat oven to 375°.
- Top dough with a piece of parchment paper, letting ends extend over edges of pan. Add pie weights.
- Bake until you see a bit of color on crust, 15 to 20 minutes. Carefully remove paper and weights. Bake 10 minutes more. Let cool completely on a wire rack. Reduce oven temperature to 350°.
- In a medium bowl, whisk eggs until frothy. Add honey, turbinado sugar, buttermilk or cream, apple cider vinegar, and remaining 2 tablespoons flour. Stream in melted butter, and add vanilla and remaining 1 teaspoon salt. Whisk until completely homogenous. Pour into prepared crust.
- Bake until custard is set but still slightly jiggly, 45 to 55 minutes, rotating pan halfway through baking. Refrigerate until completely chilled. Sprinkle with Maldon sea salt.
- Strain cream mixture, and beat with a mixer at medium speed until soft peaks form just before serving.
- Serve pie with cardamom cream, and garnish with edible flowers, if desired.
Join Christina and the other 2018 Louisiana’ Cookin Chefs to Watch for an exclusive six-course dinner at Galatoire’s Restaurant in New Orleans!