` Olives Go Sweet - Olive Oil Times

Olives Go Sweet

Jan. 6, 2014
Luciana Squadrilli

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In Italy, pas­try chefs and pro­duc­ers are exploit­ing the sweet char­ac­ter of cer­tain olive oil vari­eties to make unex­pected fes­tive treats.

Experts and pro­duc­ers make great efforts to explain that bit­ter­ness and pun­gency are some of the main fea­tures to look for in a high qual­ity extra vir­gin olive oil. Beside being indi­ca­tors of the oil’s polyphe­nol con­tent, these fea­tures often bare wit­ness to an early pick­ing that ensures the best sen­so­r­ial and nutri­tional pro­file for extra vir­gin olive oil.

Still, there are some spe­cific vari­eties that — espe­cially when fully ripened — have sweet­ness and del­i­cacy as their core fea­tures, and this does not affect their inner qual­i­ties or the qual­ity of the olive oil obtained by press­ing them.

In Italy, the most com­mon sweet” vari­eties are Taggiasca in Liguria, Casaliva near the Garda lake, Raja in Latium, Cellina di Nardò in Apulia and Biancolilla in Sicily.

In recent years chefs, pas­try-chefs and ice-cream mak­ers dis­cov­ered these pecu­liar char­ac­ters and decided to attempt to use the most del­i­cate olive oils to make deli­cious desserts and ice creams. Thanks to their brave efforts, the use of olive oil in the cre­ation of cakes and sweets was thus legit­imized.” Now, in smart restau­rants and cut­ting edge ice-cream par­lors all over Italy, it’s not uncom­mon to find olive oil-based dessert treats.

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Luca Montersino

One of the first pas­try-chefs to exten­sively use extra vir­gin was Luca Montersino, founder of Golosi di Salute — a ded­i­cated pas­try brand with a spe­cial atten­tion to health and to food intol­er­ances. He often uses olive oil instead of but­ter to avoid lac­tose and ani­mal fat. Montersino also was among the first to make a panet­tone – Italy’s favored Christmas del­i­cacy – with the same technique.

Many oth­ers fol­lowed and some­times they went even fur­ther, using not only olive oil but even olives them­selves to pre­pare some orig­i­nal treats for the fes­tive sea­son and all year long. In Apulia, some years ago Andrea Serravezza and Massimo Gaetani (a chef and a food busi­ness expert) launched the reg­is­tered trade­mark Olivotto®: an olive-based cream made using Cellina di Nardó black olives, a bal­anced amount of sugar and nat­ural fla­vors. Cellina is a very inter­est­ing vari­ety: its olives have a sweet taste with a light but clean hint of berries in the after­taste that comes together with a lightly pun­gent touch. Cellina is also par­tic­u­larly suit­able to be used in pas­try-mak­ing thanks to the bal­anced ratio between acids, fats and sugars.

Currently there are three vari­a­tions of Olivotto®: beside the Crema Dolce (sweet cream) that can be used in pas­try mak­ing to fla­vor and give a light black color to doughs and sauces, there is also the sweeter Top Dressing to be used to dress ice-creams and desserts or to fill choco­lates, and the Perle Noire (Black Pearl). These are whole, pit­ted olives in a sweet syrup that one can use to top or fill desserts or to add to dough for breads and cakes just like raisins or other dried fruits. The olives, Crema Dolce and Topping have a pecu­liar dark pur­ple color that is a nat­ural effect of the fruit’s ripening.

Pietro Macellaro

The tal­ented Apulian pas­try-chef Emanuele Lenti, owner at Pregiata Forneria Lenti in Grottaglie, then decided to use Olivotto® – both the cream and the olives – to make his Pan d’Olivotto, an orig­i­nal ver­sion of the tra­di­tional Panettone to which the fra­grant yet not too sug­ary aroma of Cellina gives a unique and rich taste.

In Campania, half-hid­den in the inner Cilento region, Pietro Macellaro is a young pas­try-chef who decided to set up his pas­try ate­lier” right where the fam­i­ly’s farm stands, over the hills in the heart of the beau­ti­ful Cilento and Vallo di Diano National Park. Pietro uses the far­m’s prod­ucts to make his deli­cious desserts and pra­lines: almonds, raisins, apri­cots, chest­nuts, cher­ries, aro­matic herbs, local vari­eties of apple and peach and, of course, olives and olive oil. As the farm is quite high and it’s very cold at win­ter, they need no chem­i­cal addi­tives or pes­ti­cides against the olive fruit fly.

We have a cer­ti­fied organic olive grove of sev­eral local vari­eties,” he said, and we just fin­ished har­vest­ing olives. This year the oil is par­tic­u­larly good and I can’t wait to use it for my sweets, beside bot­tling and sell­ing it.” He uses extra vir­gin olive oil to make scrump­tious choco­late cook­ies, and what he calls half-dried black olives” to make a creamy ganache to fill dark choco­late pra­lines. Both are among the ingre­di­ents of his Panettone all’Olio Extra Vergine d’Oliva together with Manitoba flour, sugar, fresh eggs, buf­falo but­ter, nat­ural yeast and dark chocolate.

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