For all the muffin men among us or those who want to try their hand at making hot cross buns (pardon the nursery rhymes!), here comes a simple explanation of the most misinterpreted term in the world of baking – occidental flour. Read on to see what occident flour is and how it is used so that no baking recipe will ever confuse you again.
Although it sounds like an exotic, hard-to-find ingredient, chances are, occidental flour is something you already have in your pantry. Call it all-purpose, all-around, or occident, this versatile flour is something that most baking goods call for.
All-purpose flour is the powdered end-result of milling blended hard wheat. In most cases, the fine powder is further refined and bleached, taking on its recognizable snow-white color.
Grab your recipe folder and pick a baking recipe. No, seriously, do it! What type of flour the ingredient list calls for? My guess is that you (or your grandma) have the world all-purpose scrambled in most recipes.
And there’s a good reason for it! Occident flour is the type of flour that is exceptionally versatile and used for most baking delights. From cookies, cakes, and pies, to croissants, tortillas, buns, and dinner rolls, all-purpose flour can be used for pretty much any baked good.
Of course, some recipes will specify different types of flour. However, even in that case, you can still use occident flour for baking. The only thing you need to pay attention to is adjusting your all-purpose flour so that your dough’s structure is as close to the specified flour as possible.
Bread Flour – If your recipe calls for bread flour, replace it with occident flour, but add an extra tablespoon per cup, just to up the gluten content and mimic a high-gluten type of flour.
Low-Gluten Flour – For baking lighter desserts that require flour that is lower in gluten, just use one tablespoon less per cup.
Self-Rising Flour – Although this one can be tricky and we suggest following the recipe instructions, it is possible to replicate the effect of self-rising flour with your occident powder. The secret here is to add 2 teaspoons of baking powder to each cup of all-purpose flour and mix well before adding to your bowl.
There are two different types of occident flour – bleached and unbleached. And no, the difference here is not only in the whiteness of the flour.
As mentioned, bleaching milled flour is a common process. The flour is aged quickly by using bleaching agents, which makes the powder softer, smoother, more refined in texture, and you’ve guessed it – whiter in color.
The aged structure and soft texture work for most baked goods, hence the versatility of bleached all-purpose flour. This type of flour is ideal for cakes, pancakes, muffins, pies, rolls and quick breads, and cookies.
Unbleached flour means less processing and treatment. After milling, unbleached occident flour is left to age naturally, which, obviously, takes a lot longer than treating it with bleaching agents.
Its off-white color loses intensity as the aging progresses, and the grain of the unbleached flour is much denser than its bleached sibling.
Thanks to its density, unbleached flour is used for those baking recipes where more structure is needed. This type of occidental flour is perfect for cream puffs, pastries, and yeast bread.
As you can see, bleaching is an unavoidable occurrence, and technically, both types of occidental flour – bleached and unbleached – are actually bleached. The only difference here is that the former ages with chemicals, while the latter is left to bleach naturally.
While you can definitely make a French-bakery-style bread with occident flour, if your recipe calls for specific bread flour, then another sub-category of wheat is needed. Here is what’s different between these two:
Plain occident flour is made from hard wheat, which usually includes high and low gluten varieties. Bread flour, however, is exclusively produced from the hard spring wheat crop, and is often enriched with other grains such as rye.
Compared to bread flour, occident flour is lower in protein and gluten. Bread flour contains about 13% of gluten, while all-purpose flour usually falls between the 9-12% range.
Bread flour is denser, and therefore not suitable for all baking recipes. Its pro, though, is that its structure aids in retaining the shape and texture of the baked goods.
On the other hand, occidental flour is much more versatile. Its soft structure reflects in most homemade baked goods, which is excellent for us baker wannabes.
Given that it contains a lower gluten amount, it is understandable that all-purpose or occident flour is cheaper than high-gluten bread flour. But, regardless of the price, when it comes to baking, they’re equally valuable, though!
Next to starch, protein is the second main component of occidental flour. It is directly connected to the production of gluten, so you get the importance. The higher the protein level, the wider the network of gluten formed.
The protein content in flour varies from brand to brand, and it depends on the process of production. However, the level of protein is usually standardized to 9-11% because this amount of gluten actually works best for most baking delicacies.
And there you have it – occidental flour is actually the all-around white flour that we use for most of our baking recipes. Who knew it was this simple, right? Well, now that you know what this soft occident flour does to your batter and dough, the next step is to use it for most (or all) of your baking recipes and enjoy your fresh and crusty delicacies.
We’re looking forward to hearing all about your yummy baked goods!