Food & Drink

Your Baking Questions Answered

The dynamic duo behind Columbia City Bakery answer our readers' burning questions in the kitchen

By Chelsea Lin April 12, 2020

evan-and-marlena-photo

So you’re obsessed with home baking projects now, with a sourdough starter you’ve named and a hot tip on where to find black market flour. Join the club.

We figured we’d help you learn to be better bakers: You asked questions on social media, we went to the experts for answers. Below, read through the incredibly thorough and brilliant advice of Columbia City Bakery owner Evan Andres and pastry chef Marlena Zatloukal. (The bakery is temporarily closed due to the Stay Home, Stay Healthy order, but you can, and should, buy gift cards here to support them in the meantime.)

Question # 1. Explain the difference between your everyday flours? AP, Caputo, OO, etc…

The two main variables in different types of flour are protein content, and how much of the wheat bran and germ have been removed after milling. 

At the bakery, our everyday flours are bread flour, all-purpose (AP) flour, cake flour, whole wheat flour (WW), whole rye flour (WR) and durum flour.  The main difference between bread flour, AP flour, and cake flour is the protein level. Bread flour will have a protein content of 11.7% – 12.3%, all-purpose 10.5% – 11.5%, and cake flour 7% – 9%.  Durum is a different variety of wheat and is primarily known as a flour for making pasta. It has a protein level of 12.2%. The WW and WR flours are milled at the bakery just before we use them to ensure that they are as flavorful as possible. They are the whole wheat or rye berry, with none of the bran or germ removed. The protein content of whole wheat flour can also be very high, but less predictable. 

In general, higher protein flours mean more structure. For a delicate cake layer that will melt in your mouth, cake flour is best. For crusty, chewy bread, I use higher protein flours. The combination of flours I use determines the toothiness of the crust and the flavor and chewiness of the crumb in the final loaf. At the bakery, we proof the shaped loaves overnight in a walk-in refrigerator. I have found that higher protein flours stand up better than lower protein flours during this long fermentation time.

As a bread baker, I do not use Caputo or 00 flours. These are Italian milled flours that are mostly used for pizza and pasta making. The grading system ranges from 2 to 00 and indicates how finely ground the flour is and how much bran and germ has been removed. Caputo flour is made from the European winter wheat and has been ground to a fine powder. It is favored for pizza making!

Question # 2. What’s your best corn bread recipe? 

I know there is some debate about this, but I like a sweet cornbread. This is my go-to:

2oz unsalted Butter, melted
6oz honey
2 eggs
1C buttermilk
1/2t baking soda
4.75oz fine cornmeal
4.5oz all-purpose flour
1t salt

  1. Whisk together cornmeal, flour and salt, and set aside.
  2. Whisk together melted butter, honey and eggs until very well combined. 
  3. Combine buttermilk and baking soda. Add to butter and honey and mix to combine.
  4. Add dry ingredients and mix just until combined.
  5. Pour into a buttered or oiled 8-inch-by-8-inch pan.
  6. Bake at 475 degrees for 30-40 minutes, until golden brown and cooked through the center. Test with a toothpick or cake tester!

This is a simple recipe, and so the quality of the cornbread will depend on the quality of the ingredients. Use the best butter, honey and cornmeal you have! At the bakery we are currently using a buckwheat honey from Mt. Adam’s Honey. It is dark and earthy and wonderful. We mill our own cornmeal so that it is as fresh and flavorful as possible! You most likely don’t have a mill—just find a good organic cornmeal that smells strongly of corn and you will be good!

Question # 3. What can we replace eggs with, while baking muffins? 

Muffins are a great pastry for making egg substitutions—the smaller size means that you don’t have to worry as much about missing the lift that eggs give to batters. There are several easy egg substitutions that I trust. If you are making a hearty, dense muffin (bran, morning glory, whole wheat, etc.) I would recommend the classic banana! One small ripe banana can replace one egg. Add it at the step where you would add the egg, and mix thoroughly. If you are making a lighter cake-like muffin, I would use a powdered egg replacer. I like this recreation of an Ener-G type replacer. I have also been experimenting recently with Aquafaba powder! It is the dried liquid leftover from cooking chickpeas. Here’s one that I have used. I was skeptical, but it has been working great in several of my muffin and tea cake recipes! I have found that when making any substitution for eggs, I need to increase the bake time for the pastry to account for the extra liquid and density.

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