Baking with Olive Oil

Anyone that knows me well knows that I’m a baker and a sweet tooth at heart!  In an era where we are all looking to eat healthier, I invariably get questions of how to make baked goods healthier.  While I’m not a proponent of using artificial sweeteners or fat substitutes, one way to make baked goods somewhat less “excessive” is to bake them with olive oil rather than butter.  Olive oil is a mono-saturated fat that promotes good cholesterol.  In addition, it is also high in antioxidants, which helps prevent or stop cell damage overtime.

So how do you go about baking with olive oil?   When I first started baking with olive oil, I was under the impression that a high quality oil wouldn’t make a difference in the result.  So why should I spend the extra money on it?  Well it took one try to figure out why!  I made an orange-almond cake and the inexpensive olive oil I used totally overpowered it.  In addition, there was a weird aftertaste.  So I decided to make it again and used a very high quality extra virgin olive oil from Spain.  The difference was notable!  For starters, the cake had a fruitier flavor profile that blended well with the other flavors of the cake, namely orange and almond.  In addition, there was no after taste.

A few tips about baking with olive oil:

  • When substituting olive oil for butter, use about 75% percent of the amount of butter called for.  For instance, if the recipe calls for 8 tablespoons of butter (one stick), use only 6 tablespoons of olive oil.  Why this difference?  Well, butter contains milk solids and water in addition to the actual fat, while olive oil is 100% fat.
  • Use the same quality olive oil that you would use in a salad.  Like cooking with wine, the olive oil flavor will come through in your baked goods so you definitely want oil that you actually enjoy on its own!
  • When selecting an olive oil, select a fruitier olive oil rather than one that is green and peppery in taste as fruitier olive oils are a better match for baked goods.
  •  Keep in mind that there are a couple of situations where substituting butter with olive oil is NOT suitable:
    • When the butter must remain in a solid state as in a frosting.    Because olive oil is a liquid and doesn’t solidify, you will never succeed in making a frosting with it!
    • When the recipe calls creaming the butter with sugar in order to make a fluffy cake.  Similar to making frosting, when creaming butter, the butter remains in soft, yet semi-solid state.  Again, there is no way to make olive oil creamy or semi-solid.

I hope this help you navigate baking with olive oil.  If you want to give it a try, why not start with my Oh-Oh-OH (Orange-Olive Oil) cake?  Or if you prefer something savory, experiment with the Pisaladière, an amazing onion and anchovy tart!