Most days you’ll find Angel Chavez crafting perfect renditions of French classics like crème brûlée at Bistro Campagne, where he’s the head pastry chef. But two days a week, he’s running Au Levain, a one-man Lincoln Square bakery that brings unexpected influences to classic pastries.
Consider his breakfast challah, a thick roll of challah, that staple of Jewish holiday dinners, topped with a baked egg, bacon, and Gruyère ($7). His kouign-amann ($5) wouldn’t be out of place on a cheese plate — it’s decked out with Brie and housemade apple butter. Chavez serves his Basque goat’s milk cheesecake ($28) with a changing selection of sauces, like cardamom and cinnamon cajeta. He’s even making some of the city’s best chocolate chip cookies: Jammed with chocolate, they come in packs of 16 ($18) — you can get them frozen ($15 for 15), if you prefer, to pop in the oven anytime you want.
Chavez’s baked goods are a far cry from the conchas he snacked on in his great-grandfather’s bakery in Mexico City, but his inspiration still comes from those memories. “I remember the smell of sugar and caramel,” he says. “That’s what I think about when I’m creating my own recipes.” Order at aulevainchicago.com for pickup Sundays and Wednesdays, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., at Bistro Campagne (4518 N. Lincoln Ave.).