As you navigate your way down the dependably crowded baking aisle, how closely do you actually look at that bag of flour you grabbed?
Perhaps you end up back at your house, the grocery bags hitting the counter accompanied by your sigh of relief, only to find that you grabbed a bag of occident flour.
What is ‘occident flour’ anyways? Is it going to ruin those cookies you wanted to make? Can you make a cake with it? What about bread? Or your famous Thanksgiving rolls?!
As an experienced baker who’s made thousands of loaves of bread, pastries, and cookies, allow me to reassure you, you can use occident flour for just about anything.
Let’s dive right in.
What is Occident Flour?
In its simplest terms, occident flour is a middle-ground between all-purpose flour, and bread flour.
It is considered a higher-quality flour than most all-purpose flour, which means your baking projects just got an upgrade!
Whew! No standing in the return line for you.
Occident flour can be a mixture of hard wheat and soft wheat. It’s very similar to all-purpose flour in that way.
Hard wheat yields a higher protein (gluten) content which makes it ideal for sturdier items like a crusty loaf of sourdough.
Soft wheat yields a more tender product so it’s perfect for things like cakes and cookies.
Some occident flour is made only of hard wheat and that kind is better suited for baked goods with a bit of chew, such as a loaf of bread.
What is Occident Flour Used For?
Occident flour is sometimes found in the exciting place I like to call a professional kitchen.
It is considered a high-quality, versatile flour that the baker can use for the dinner rolls that evening and the prep cook can use to make a roux for the gravy. Everybody wins!
Common uses for occident flour according to Ardent Mills are:
White Pan Breads
European Crusty Breads
Specialty Pan Breads
Hamburger and Hot Dog Buns
Types of Occident Flour
Like a cookie in each hand, there are two types of occident flour: Bleached and unbleached. Both are pretty similar, boasting just a few differences.
First, the wheat is milled into flour. Then the flour undergoes a bleaching process where some powdered bleaching agents are mixed in directly, and some bleaching agents in the form of gas are fed into the container.
Bleached flour is commonly used for making cakes because the finished product will come out a perfect white. Restaurateurs often buy bleached flour for two reasons:
1. It can be used for just about anything but when the day comes that you want a flawless batch of white cupcakes, bleached flour will stand up to the task.
2. Bleached flour is cheaper than unbleached because it is faster to produce. A batch of bleached flour can be finished in as little as two days. Bleached flour also tends to be a little fluffier than unbleached.
You can expect a batch of freshly-milled, unbleached flour to have an off-white color. Unbleached flour will naturally whiten as it is aged and exposed to oxygen.
The natural aging process takes quite some time though. In some cases, it can take as long as two months. This makes unbleached flour more expensive to produce and as a result, more expensive to buy.
While many people reach for the “unbleached” label to avoid chemicals, be aware - Just because a flour is unbleached does not mean it hasn’t been treated with other chemicals.
What the flour has been treated with is typically not listed on the bag, so you might have to look up the producer if you want to find out how your flour was made.
If you want to be sure your flour was not treated with chemicals, buy flour with an “organic” label. This generally means no chemicals were used in the process.
However, it’s always a good idea to double check with the producer if finding chemical-free flour is important to your baking process.
Occident Flour Vs Other Flours
Comparing flours is rather like comparing potatoes. Any potato would likely stand in for a recipe and do an alright job, but some are better suited for certain purposes.
Below, I’ve compared five types of organic flour from Ardent Mills. You’ll notice the protein content can vary greatly.
Helpful Hint: Protein = Gluten. The more gluten, the chewier the baked good will be.
Occident Flour - 11.9%-12.5% Protein Content
A sturdy flour, Ardent Mills only uses hard wheat to make their occident flour, whereas most companies will use a mixture of hard and soft.
The hard wheat has a higher protein content, so this occident flour in particular would be really fabulous to make breads and rolls with.
Bread Flour 10-11.5% Protein Content
With a high protein content, bread flour is great for, you guessed it, making bread. I also use a bit of bread flour when I make chocolate chip cookies. I love a little chew when it comes to a cookie.
Whole Wheat Flour 12.0-14.0% Protein Content
Whew! Look at that protein content. You’d think this would be the best option out there for bread-making. Don’t dump the whole bag in just yet, baking with whole wheat flour can pose some challenges.
Typically milled from hard, red wheat, the bran, germ, and endosperm are left on when the wheat is milled into flour. This gives it a LOT of nutritional value and higher protein content.
But don’t get too excited, the presence of that bran and germ means that the flour won’t absorb liquid in quite the same way. While it does have more protein, the dough made from whole wheat flour won’t be very elastic and can tear easily.
This is why bakers generally use less than 50% whole wheat flour in their baked goods. That way you get the flavor and nutrients from it, but adding in some all-purpose, occident, or bread flour will really help you achieve a lovely baked good.
All-Purpose Flour 8-10% Protein Content
The flour that everybody knows, it’s hard to go wrong with all-purpose flour. With a moderate protein content, the flour is tender enough to make a cake, but sturdy enough to make a loaf of bread.
You just might need to bake that bread in a loaf pan since it might not be strong enough to hold its shape as a boule.
Pastry Flour 7-10.5% Protein Content
Made from soft wheat, pastry flour is good for just that! Making pastries. Because it is low in gluten, it will make very tender baked goods but it isn’t very strong.
Use this flour for delicate projects such as cupcakes or madeleines.
Baking with Occident Flour
A quick way to ensure baking success with occident flour is to look up the manufacturer. Their website should say how much protein content is in the flour if the bag doesn’t.
If the protein content is high, use your occident flour for breads, rolls, buns, and other items that you’d like to be chewy when done.
If it has a bit lower of a protein content, go ahead and use it as you would any all-purpose flour. You can even use it for things like fried chicken, banana bread, or maintaining your sourdough starter.
Homemade Occident Flour Recipe
To make with All-purpose flour, simply add one extra tablespoon per cup.
This will increase the protein (gluten), in your recipe which will mimic occident flour.
How is Occident Flour Made?
Occident flour is made from milling either hard wheat, or a mixture of hard and soft wheat together.
It is ground finely and can be bleached or unbleached. The protein content will vary but is typically on the higher end between 12-14%.
Occident Flour History
The history of occident flour hasn’t been very well documented online. But with a bit of searching you can find some generally agreed-upon information about it.
Occident flour was advertised by the Russell-Miller Milling Company as early as1894. It was considered “Better flour.”
A historical photograph from The Slow Family blog shows a slogan of: “Occident Flour, Costs more - Worth it!”
I can only assume it was considered a superior flour due to its high protein content and versatility.
To learn more about the history of occident flour, consider this book The story of Occident : better flour, better bread. Written in 1921 by the Russell-Miller Company.
Other Frequently Asked Questions
Hat’s off to you if you’ve made it this far with me! You’re clearly a dedicated connoisseur of flours and any bakery would be lucky to have you!
Is occident flour the same as bread flour?
No, but it is very similar and can be used as a bread flour substitute.
Does occident flour have gluten?
Yes, occident flour is made of wheat, which will always contain gluten. Occident flour typically has a higher protein (gluten) content than your average all-purpose flour, giving it a lot of strength.