By Sophia Markoulakis
Olive Oil Times Contributor
We all know that baking with butter creates the ultimate pastry, offering the perfect percentage of fat for flaky layers and a crisp texture. But extra virgin olive oil in desserts? Yes, there is a place for this coveted ingredient alongside your favorite butter in sweet recipes.
Fat is an integral component to baked items since it coats proteins and keeps them from forming glutens. When glutens form, a baked item such as bread will become chewy, creating texture. Butter has the ability to evenly coat proteins whereas oil sticks to proteins, collecting around them, creating a more
grainy texture than butter. But don’t let a slightly different texture deter you from incorporating this healthier fat in your favorite baking and sweet recipes. And if you’re looking for a more moist cake, look no further than olive oil to create that richness on the palate that butter can’t.
But knowing which olive variety or blend of extra virgin olive oil to use in your recipe is key to a successful swap. Also important is finding a good extra virgin olive oil at a price point low enough that you’re not afraid to cook with it.
Australia’s Cobram Estate has been making extra virgin olive oil for nine years and grows several varieties of olives including Frantoio, Correggiola, Leccino, Koroneiki, and Arbequina. As the largest olive oil producer in Australia, they have access to over 2.4 million trees covering several different orchard sites in the Murray Valley region of Northern Victoria. The climate of this region of southern Australia mimics that of Mediterranean countries, making it an ideal location for olive growing and oil production.
Cobram Estate maximizes the fruit’s freshness by processing its extra virgin olive oil on site, usually within hours of harvest. Capturing the olives’ essence soon after harvest ensures peak nutritional benefits and flavor. And because of Cobram’s size and dominance in their respective market, they can sell their high quality extra virgin oils at a very competitive price. This is good news for home cooks who are interested in experimenting with extra virgin olive oil and desserts.
Cobram Estate’s Pantry Essentials line is perfect for baking, offering a variety of flavor profiles that won’t dominate or conflict with other ingredients. Some of them include Fresh & Fruity, Rich & Robust, Light & Delicate and Lemon Twist.
All of the above extra virgin olive oils exhibit a fruity and herbaceous quality on the palate, making them ideal for desserts. Some dominant characteristics include green apple, bananas, green tomatoes, and grass. The key is pairing the flavor of the olive oil with the recipe’s end result. Lighter, more delicately flavored oil works best in recipes using the least amount of other flavorings such as spices and herbs. Medium flavored oils, especially ones that have a pronounced fruitiness work great with similarly flavored baked goods using citrus or vanilla. Pungent, slightly peppery flavored oils are great with strong flavored desserts that incorporate chocolate, spices such as star anise, ginger, and cardamom, and coffee. A general rule to follow is:
- Delicate extra virgin olive oils such as Cobram’s Light & Delicate work well in ice cream, custards, pie crusts and cookies.
- Medium-Robust olive oils such as Cobram’s Fresh & Fruity work well in scones, cakes, madeleines and herb Breads.
- Intense extra virgin olive oils such as Cobram’s Rich & Robust work well in chocolate desserts, coffee desserts, olive bread and spice cakes.
- Lemon-infused olive oil such as Cobram’s Lemon Twist work well in any of the lighter or medium flavored oil suggestions in addition to any citrus-infused recipe.
Any of these Cobram Estate extra virgin olive oils can be used as a finishing oil. Drizzle either the Light & Delicate or Fresh & Fruity on a dessert cheese plate, a fruit tart, or a scoop of vanilla-based ice cream. Finish a chocolate mousse or coffee ice cream with a drizzle of Rich & Robust and sprinkling of flaky sea salt for an otherworldly experience.
When swapping butter for oil, keep in mind that butter is only 80% fat and the remaining 20% is water and milk solids. So an approximate rule to follow is to cut the oil amount by one-fourth. As much as baking is a science, unless you are working with a recipe that specifically calls for oil, in which case an even swap if fine, a test run is necessary. Think of it as a healthy way to boost your intake of monounsaturated fats, antioxidants, and important vitamins such as vitamin E—and you get to eat cake too.