Bake like our forebears

Replace butter with olive oil when baking these classic desserts.

Pistachio and olive oil financier cookies. (photo credit: ANATOLY MICHAELO)
Pistachio and olive oil financier cookies.
(photo credit: ANATOLY MICHAELO)
Everyone seems to be talking about reducing, or even completely avoiding, the use of trans and saturated fats. When it comes to baking, this is not an easy task. But although using olive oil for baking may sound a bit odd, it actually was used in desserts in the Mediterranean for centuries.
Olive oil can replace other oils and even butter, giving cakes and cookies a light texture and rich fruity flavor. Avoid using olive oils with very dominant flavors when baking cakes and cookies, say experts. Instead, choose a lower-intensity olive oil that gives a subtle flavor. Olive oil dramatically cuts back on the cholesterol and saturated fat content of desserts.
It produces lighter-tasting baked goods and allows the flavor of other ingredients to come to the fore. Because olive oil contains vitamin E, it helps to naturally maintain the freshness of baked goods and creates moist cakes, biscuits and muffins.
Maya Revivo, who teaches at the Dan Gourmet Culinary Center, specializes in baking with olive oil. She says that almost any dessert can be made with this healthful substitute for butter, thus avoiding the need to use less healthful margarine when preparing parve desserts.
The Dan Gourmet Culinary Center offers a course in baking with olive oil for bakers who want to be on top of the trend. Revivo, head of the pastry department at the center, created the course with a focus on local ingredients. “We have such wonderful ingredients, such as local olive oil, so why not use them?” she asks. “Besides its numerous health benefits, it also adds softness and adds moisture to cakes.”
The Dan Gourmet Culinary Center, owned and run by the Dan Hotels chain, is devoted to the highest standards, offering the public a plethora of courses and workshops.
Makes 2 loaves
This is a recipe that is inspired by traditional Mediterranean baking. It’s easy, almost foolproof and will keep fresh longer than cakes baked with other fats.
✔ ½ cup + 2 Tbsp. olive oil
✔ 1 cup + 1 Tbsp. sugar
✔ 3 eggs
✔ 5 egg yolks
✔ 115 gr. semolina
✔ ¾ cup flour
✔ 1 tsp. baking powder
✔ Zest of 1 lemon
✔ 3 Tbsp. pine nuts
Preheat oven to 170°. In a mixer bowl with a whipping arm, beat oil, sugar, eggs and egg yolks on fast speed, about 7 minutes. Reduce speed and add semolina, flour, baking powder and lemon zest and mix only until smooth. Add the pine nuts and mix very briefly. Grease 2 loaf pans with a little olive oil and pour batter ¾ high. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes.
Makes about 25 cookies
✔ 3 Tbsp. milk
✔ Zest of 1 orange
✔ Zest of 1 lemon
✔1½ Tbsp. honey
✔ Pinch salt
✔ 4 Tbsp. sugar
✔ 2 eggs
✔ ¾ cup flour
✔ 1 tsp. baking powder
✔ ½ cup olive oil
In a mixer bowl with a whipping arm, beat together milk, honey, zest, salt and sugar.
Gradually add eggs one at a time. Continue mixing and add flour and baking soda.
When integrated, add olive oil and mix until smooth.
Refrigerate the batter for 3 to 4 hours or overnight.
Heat oven to 180°.
Grease a silicone madeleine baking form and pour batter into the forms. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes. If you need to bake in a few rounds, refrigerate the unbaked batter in between.
Makes about 20
✔ 3 egg whites
✔ ½ cup sugar
✔ 3 Tbsp. powdered sugar
✔ ²⁄3 cup ground almonds
✔ ¹⁄3 cup flour
✔ ³⁄4 tsp. baking powder
✔ ¼ cup olive oil
✔ 2 Tbsp. pistachio paste
✔ 1 Tbsp. rum
Preheat oven to 170°. In a mixer bowl with a whipping arm, whip egg whites and sugar until a hard meringue is formed. Sift baking powder, powdered sugar and flour together and gently fold into the meringue. Fold the ground almonds into the meringue by hand. In a small bowl, mix together the pistachio paste and olive oil and add to the batter.
Grease a silicone Financier pan and pour the batter in the pan up to ¾ the height. Bake in the preheated oven for 12 to 15 minutes.
Makes about 45 cookies
✔ 3 cups flour
✔ 1¾ cups powdered sugar
✔ ½ tsp. salt
✔ Zest of 1 lemon
✔ Juice of 1 orange
✔ ¾ cup olive oil
In a mixer bowl with a kneading arm, mix together flour, powdered sugar, salt and zest. Add orange juice and oil gradually while kneading, until a soft dough is formed. Divide dough in two and form into two cylinders. Wrap the dough cylinders in parchment paper and freeze overnight or at least 4 hours. Preheat oven to 180° and line a baking sheet. Remove dough from freezer, slice into ½-cm. discs and place on the baking sheet. Bake for 15 minutes.
✔ 3 medium beets
✔ 30 gr. bitter chocolate
✔ 10 gr. powdered cocoa
✔ ½ cup + 2 Tbsp. flour
✔ ½ Tbsp. baking soda
✔ ½ cup sugar
✔ 1 egg
✔ 6 Tbsp. olive oil
✔ 1 Tbsp. vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 200°. Wrap beets in foil and bake until softened. Reduce heat to 170°. When beets are cooled, peel and grind in a food processor until paste is smooth. Strain and set aside. Melt chocolate in a double boiler or in the microwave. In a mixer bowl with a whipping arm, whip together sugar, egg, oil and vanilla extract. Change arm to kneading and add flour, cocoa and baking powder. Knead and add chocolate and beet paste and knead only until smooth. Grease a round 18-cm. baking pan. Pour batter into pan and bake until a knife inserted comes out dry. Let cool on a rack.
Recipes and photos courtesy of Maya Revivo of The Dan Gourmet Culinary Center, 53 Ness Lagoyim Street, Tel Aviv. Tel: 1-700-502-999.