Customers and clients often ask us if they can bake with olive oil. Which is usually followed by the question of how to bake with olive oil. That’s usually followed by a question of if its actually affordable to bake with olive oil and how to choose the right one. Today we’ll break down the whats, whys, and hows of baking with this delicious and savory oil.
Can You Bake With Olive Oil?
Yes! You absolutely can bake with olive oil. In fact, baking with this savory fat lends a richness and moisture to cakes and bread that’s hard to beat. If we’re being honest we’re not huge bakers, however, we do love the occasional brownie, chocolate loaf bread, or a good cookie. All of which we’ve made with extra virgin olive oil with success. The question shouldn’t be ‘can you bake with olive oil?’. It should be ‘does baking with olive oil create the types of desserts and breads that appeal to you?’. After all, baking with this savory oil is not quite the same as baking with butter and could even be considered an acquired taste.
How To Bake With Olive Oil
The key to baking with olive oil is understanding the product. By nature olive oil is a savory/bitter/pungent product. Therefore, it works well when balanced accordingly. It’s not going to make a good icing/frosting or incredibly fluffy dessert. However, it will make a delicious, dense, and decadent chocolate cake or brownies. In fact, with the right recipe, olive oil can lend the constancy of fudge to a brownie. When mixed with melted chocolate and then added to a cake or brownies it behaves as it always does, moving concentrated flavors, in this case chocolate, through the dish. The product has a flavor of its own. However, its true genius lies in the way it transports flavors, and that’s why it’s our preferred baking fat.
Olive oil can serve as a replacement for corn oil, soybean oil, and other oils used for baking. It can also be used to line cake and bread pans. You can use it for savory breads as well as a variety of different sweets. Again, it comes down to understanding that a cookie baked with olive oil will not be the same as a cookie baked with butter. Cookies made with it almost have a brownie consistency to them. You can say that the product really lends itself to the world of fudge and compact, concentrated flavor.
Olive oil can be an acquired taste. And when it comes to pancakes we will always stick with butter. Waffles on the other hand are a different story. But more on that later.
Baking With Olive Oil vs Baking With Butter
Baking with EVOO is absolutely not the same as baking with butter. First, olive oil is a liquid and does not solidify unless stored at approximately 42F, however, this can range greatly depending on the type of oil. On the contrary, Butter remains solid at room temperature (unless you live in a very warm place). Olive oil is oil extracted from a fruit and butter is produced from dairy cream and is, therefore, an animal product. The two are completely different fats so it doesn’t make a ton of sense to try and compare them side by side because they behave so differently.
Butter to Olive Oil Conversion
Replacing butter for extra virgin olive oil in baking is not a 1:1 conversion. For some recipes, you can get away with simply adding a 1/4 less olive oil than butter and you’ll be fine. For example, brownies are notoriously forgiving. However, we’ve noticed the amount of baking powder sometimes needs to be adjusted. It might take some experimenting to get things just right. Also, remember that olive oil will make the recipe fudgier and will remain moist longer!
How To Choose A Good Baking Olive Oil
A lot of folks say choose a ‘neutral olive oil’ for baking. We do not agree with this statement. It completely depends on the dish and the person(s) consuming it. For a lemon olive oil cake or other citrus-based cake use an olive oil that compliments the flavor profiles. We use the Turi because it pairs well with citrus and delicate flavors. For brownies with a zing, we use the Lina. And for a chocolate cake with a decadent frosting, we use the Avus. However, you can also use a regular ol’ olive oil or *gasp* corn oil and be just fine. It’s up to you and your taste buds.
In order to choose the best baking olive oil, it’s important to understand how different olive oils are produced and why the price points are so vast.
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Extra virgin olive oil has the strongest flavor and is the most expensive option. When paired properly it brings dessert to the next level.
Extra virgin olive oil is produced by extracting the oil from the olive fruit through mechanical means at a maximum temperature of 27 °C (80.6 °F). Olives must be picked from the tree not from the ground and must meet certain parameters pertaining to acidity level, peroxide levels, and more. The standards for extra virgin olive oil are strict and differ from country/state.
Extra virgin olive oil is the most expensive option because the oil is not refined and therefore, treated more like a juice. It takes a lot of time, energy, and resources (re: money) to produce. The flavor profile also declines with time. However, this also means the olives are often extremely well cared for and the product is very high quality. Extra virgin olive oil is also the most chemically stable compared to virgin and regular olive oil.
Choose an extra virgin olive oil for baking based on the type of food you’re baking.
Regular Olive Oil
Regular olive oil has the most neutral flavor and is the least expensive option. It works well as a general option and can replace corn/soy oil when baking.
Regular olive oil is produced from virgin olive oil which is then refined. It may go through a process of homogenization where the oil(s) is heated in large quantities in order to make the taste consistent. In addition, the parameters for lab results are lower. Olives may be picked up from ground or nets placed below trees and the olives allowed to fall. Regular olive oil often has a lower polyphenol content than extra virgin olive oil, check the lab results if you can. This product is extremely common to find in the US.
For Baking Desserts With Citrus
A citrus bread or cake would reap the benefits of an extra virgin olive oil that has notes of floral, citrus, apple, almond, or fresh-cut grass. This balance of sweet and fragrant will be lovely. Check the back of the bottle’s label or visit the company’s website for a thorough description of the product’s flavor profiles.
For Baking Desserts with Chocolate
Brownies, chocolate chip cookies, and chocolate cakes an extra virgin olive oil with notes of ripe olive, floral, plum, vanilla, cinnamon, or apple would be lovely.
For Baking Breads
Bread is certainly more flexible than sweets with citrus or chocolate! You can use virtually an extra virgin olive oil if the bread is on the savory side. However, for sweet breads select an EVOO that will be round and veers slightly away from herbaceous and more towards floral.
Does It Really Matter?
You might not care much about the difference in oils because after all, are we concerned about the health benefits of an oil going into a batch of double chocolate chip cookies? However, some folks want to know what happens behind the scenes with their food. Personally, we prefer baking with extra virgin olive oil because well, it’s the product we know, love, and make.
Let’s Talk About Price
Olive oil is expensive, especially extra virgin. This is because it takes an olive tree approximately 7 years to start producing enough fruit to be profitable. It takes 15 years total for the plant to truly hit its stride. This is why many olive oil brands are family-owned and much of the industry is built on multi-generational wealth. Without the plants that Giuseppe’s grandfather planted almost 100 years ago and the trees his father planted 30 years ago we wouldn’t have been able to start EXAU. This is a privilege that we must recognize.
Farmers have to care for trees for years before they’re able to turn a profit and time is money. Therefore, the product is expensive and if we’re being honest it should be more expensive. The percent yield of oil to olives is between 10% to 20%. This means for every 100 kilos of olives a producers might get 15 liters depending on the year. Compared to other foods and processed products the percent yield is extremely low and the risk is quite high. However, the product is amazing.
A Few Favorite Recipes
For the following recipes we do recommend the highest quality EVOO you can afford.
Jake Cohen’s Chocolate Loaf Cake which we’ve made at least a dozen times. It got to a point during the pandemic where we had the recipe memorized! It’s the perfect mix between a chocolate cake and a sweet bread because it’s not too sweet. The texture is incredible and it’s incredibly moist due to, well, olive oil of course.
Food Network’s Banana Bread, sub vegetable oil for olive oil 1:1. WOAH. To be honest, we aren’t usually big fans of Food Network recipes but this one is incredible and will be moved into regular rotation. We made this using the Turi and it was a great decision. The only thing is this recipe calls for quite a lot of sugar so in the future we may try and use less as we don’t have the biggest sweet tooths.
Melissa Clark’s Olive Oil Brownie’s With Sea Salt for NYT. Personally, we feel these are the brownies to end all other brownies. They’re rich, dense, decadent, and just straight-up delicious. The only downside is this recipe uses quite a few pots/pans to melt the chocolate. But we promise it’s worth it.
Broma Bakery’s Olive Oil Cake, we subbed almond flour for regular flour. This cake is delicious. We usually make this in the summer and line the bottom of the pan with nectarines and use sliced nectarines in the recipe instead. However, in the fall and winter we have used citrus or pears and it’s incredible. Once we even used semolina with extra juicy nectarines (semolina absorbs way more liquid) and it turned out killer. However, be aware that using semolina will 100% change the consistency of the better because semolina absorbs a ton of liquid.
Sohla’s Olive Oil Blondies for Food 52. First off, it’s Sohla. Second, there’s an entire Youtube video where Sohla and Ryan made these beauties together (RIP to Ry’s blondies). Make these, they’re delicious and store extremely well.
Keep us posted on all of your olive oil baking expeditions!
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