I regularly tinker with baking recipes, welcoming the challenge to make them healthier yet still outrageously delicious. I have plenty of tricks up my sleeve: using fruit purées or yogurt to add moistness and subtract fat, substituting half of the all-purpose flour with whole-grain flour, using pure maple syrup or honey instead of white sugar, and-a big one-substituting oil for butter. I’ve typically relied on canola oil for its neutral flavor, but after tasting an intoxicatingly good olive oil cake at a restaurant one day, I thought, Why not try olive oil in my home baking? It is, after all, practically a health elixir, and it seemed like olive oil’s fruity flavor would work well in many of my from-the-oven favorites. Turns out, it does.
There are many upsides to baking with olive oil. Like canola oil, olive oil is rich in monounsaturated fat, which if used instead of a saturated fat like butter, has been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease and ease inflammation. As a bonus, extra-virgin olive oil has high levels of protective antioxidants called polyphenols, as well as vitamin E. Those antioxidants and vitamin E are lost when oil is processed, so keep in mind that extra-virgin oil, which is minimally processed, has the most protective power. Virgin olive oil retains some, but oil labeled simply “olive oil” has little to none.
Some baked goods, like biscotti, Mediterranean-style fruit cakes, and olive bread, are traditionally made with olive oil. But you can also use it as an easy replacement for melted butter or vegetable oil in many muffin recipes and quick bread recipes. Swapping in olive oil gives you a double whammy of goodness: First, it makes baked goods better for you by supplying healthy fat and antioxidants, and second, it adds incredible depth of flavor.
|Good to Know
Make the most of your olive oil by following these simple guidelines:
• Store olive oil in a cool, dark place, like a wine cellar or cool pantry. Do not keep it near the stove or in the refrigerator.
• If it comes in a clear plastic bottle, decant olive oil into an opaque container or a dark glass bottle. Before using olive oil in recipes, taste and smell it for any signs of rancidity.
• For best results, use olive oil within a year of purchase..
|Olive Oil Pumpkin Bread|
Here’s how to make the switch: Just substitute olive oil for vegetable oil in equal measure, or use 3 tablespoons olive oil for each 1/4 cup of melted butter. (It’s not as simple to swap olive oil into recipes that call for creaming butter, since creaming aerates the batter and adds light texture to the fi nished product.) Be sure to use a mild olive oil with buttery or fruity notes rather than an intense, peppery one, so the oil’s flavor isn’t overwhelming. You can choose extra-virgin for maximum antioxidant power, but use a less expensive bulk brand rather than an ultraprecious artisanal bottle that should be saved for drizzling.
Olive oil works best in muffins and loaves that have a fruity, nutty, or savory quality, like my delicious pumpkin bread. The olive oil gives it a rich moistness and depth that enhances the warm spices and mingles perfectly with the essence of honey and the pumpkin seed topping. It’s an American favorite with Mediterranean flair-a perfect package of taste and health.