The Mediterranean diet has gained popularity worldwide due to its numerous health benefits. It promotes eating fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and lean proteins while limiting the intake of processed foods. One of the staples of this diet is the use of extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) as a primary source of fat. And with local producers such as the Texas Hill Country Olive Co. crafting delicious Texas olive oil right here in the US, it’s never been easier to give the Mediterranean diet a try in your own kitchen.
If you think this attempt will only include savory dishes, you will be happy to know that won’t be the case. In recent years, renowned pastry chefs and home bakers alike have started substituting butter with EVOO in their recipes to create delicious cakes and sweets. The many health benefits of EVOO are accompanied by delightful results in terms of texture and flavor. So let’s have a look at how and why you should make the switch from butter to EVOO when baking, plus a few beginner-friendly recipes for your next heart-healthy cake!
Can Texas Olive Oil Replace Butter?
Not only is EVOO a key component in the Mediterranean diet, but it can also be an excellent replacement for butter when baking. Butter is commonly used in baking to provide tenderness, moisture, flavor, and structure to baked goods. However, swapping butter for EVOO in cake recipes can lower the intake of saturated fats while incorporating beneficial monounsaturated fats and potentially increasing the nutritional profile of your desserts. And with the right recipe, you’re not compromising on taste and texture either.
It’s easy to see why EVOO is a better choice than butter and a rising trend when creating heart-healthy desserts. Butter contains a significant 63% saturated fat content, which has been proven to cause heart disease and other health issues. EVOO on the other hand has a much lower proportion of just 14% saturated fat. It also contains healthy monounsaturated fats and plenty of antioxidants. EVOO can lower inflammation in the body, reducing the risk of cancer, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, Alzheimer’s, arthritis, and even obesity.
Taste and Texture
Leonardo Di Carlo, a professional Italian pastry chef, is a huge advocate of using EVOO for baked goods. He recognizes that EVOO has different properties to butter and knows how to use this to his advantage. For example, when baking sponge cakes. Because of the composition of fatty acids and the melting point of EVOO which is lower than butter, an olive oil sponge cake will be much lighter and smoother once cooled. Dough made with EVOO is softer and creamier, making it easier to work with.
“The first step is to choose the olive oil best suited for your baking experience, a choice that will significantly impact the final result”, says Antonio Campeggio, Italian pastry chef and pioneer in EVOO baking. He recommends opting for a variety with low acidity and a soft, round flavor profile that will mix well with the other raw ingredients. The goal is not to hide the taste of the oil, but to make sure it lets the other ingredients shine alongside it and doesn’t overpower them. The taste of the final product should be well-balanced.
Replacing butter or other saturated and trans fats such as hydrogenated oils, margarine, and shortening with EVOO will make your baked goods healthier. It will also make them vegan-friendly, and suitable for those who are lactose intolerant. But the best recipes take into account the different flavors of EVOO and how well they work with the rest of the ingredients to create decadent cakes with an unforgettable taste.
Olive Oil and Yogurt Loaf Cake is a recipe by Dorie Greenspan, a “culinary guru” according to the New York Times. To make this loaf cake, whisk together 1 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour, 2 teaspoons baking powder, and a pinch of salt. Set aside while you mix 1 cup of sugar and the zest from 1 lime in a bowl. When the sugar becomes fragrant, add 1/2 cup plain whole milk yogurt (or a vegan alternative), 3 large eggs, and 1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract. Blend well, then add the dry ingredients plus 2 tablespoons of chopped fresh rosemary. Grab a spatula and fold in 1/2 cup of EVOO. Pour the mixture into a baking pan and bake at 350 ℉ for 50-55 minutes.
This Pear, Sultana, and Olive Oil Cake recipe was made famous by Silvia Colloca, an Italian cookbook author, and TV cookery show personality. Start by whisking 1/2 of brown sugar and 3 eggs until the mixture becomes fluffy. Then, add 5 tablespoons of EVOO, 1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon of ground cloves, and seeds from 1 vanilla bean. Mix well then add 2.5oz self-raising flour and 1.7oz almond meal. Incorporate 3.4oz almond milk and mix until you have a loose batter. Lastly, add a few raisins and pear slices before baking the mixture for 35-50 minutes at 350 ℉. Once cool, dust the cake with some cinnamon sugar.
After you’ve tried your hand with these chef-approved recipes, you will feel more comfortable experimenting with using extra Virgin Texas olive oil instead of butter when baking. Let your imagination run wild or reinvent your favorite cake recipe through the addition of EVOO. The Texas Hill Country Olive Co. has a useful cheat sheet to help you convert butter to Texas olive oil. Happy, healthy baking!