Olive oil cookies + some notes on the use of olive oil in confectionery

Date marzo 22, 2011

When we come to dress the salad, mum and I are always very frugal with olive oil, perhaps because we are on a diet year after year, while my dad is extremely generous with seasoning. When mum and I point this out very politely (hit by the fact that despite this love for seasoning he doesn’t need to control his diet and has the physique of a young man), he replies saying that olive oil is good and healthy. And we are silenced.

The fact is that dad is right, olive oil (and when I say olive oil I always mean high quality extra virgin olive oil) is good, it has scientifically proven antioxidant and anticancer effects and it is the basis of the Mediterranean diet, recognized as part of the Intangible Heritage List by the UNESCO.

A few weeks ago I took part to a class held by Luca Montersino – the most famous Italian pastry chef –  on the use olive oil in confectionery. I was stuck by his professionalism, friendliness and courtesy. So, after a first attempt with olive oil cookies, I decided to give a chance to the special technique I learnt from Montersino, and this is result. A result that exceeded all expectations.

[NOTES - HOW TO USE OLIVE OIL INSTEAD OF BUTTER IN CONFECTIONERY]*

Let’s start from the composition of the two elements. The olive oil is 99.9% fat while the butter is made of 83% of fat and the remaining percentage is buttermilk. Hence the basic assumption: never replace the butter with an equal weight of olive oil, you must always take into account the percentage of water present into the butter. To do the math, then:

100 g of butter are equal to 83 f of olive oil and 17 g of water

The second point to consider is related to the consistency of the two fats. Visible to the naked eye, the butter is solid and the olive oil is liquid: a brilliant but obvious conclusion, isn’t it? Though, consider we’re talking about confectionery, not general cooking. You need technique and chemistry more than instinct, so the consistency is a key variable to assess. It is therefore necessary to firm up the olive oil, as to replace the butter consistency. Montersino listed some possibilities, including the use of cocoa butter, a noble fat.

The easiest method – the one we can reproduce even being ordinary people with an ordinary kitchen and an ordinary pantry – is mayonnaise. I rubbed my eyes when I saw Montersino making mayonnaise, but it is a brilliant idea in its simplicity and effectiveness. Olive oil, water and eggs are emulsified together with an immersion blender following the mayonnaise procedure. In short, the egg yolks are stolen from the recipe and are emulsified with olive oil and water, used to replace what is missing from the butter. What you get, though, is a semi-solid fat, suitable for many recipes such as pastry and shortbread, but not to be used for puff pastry.

* Please take these just as personal notes and not as sturdy truth. This is what I have saved from Luca Montersino’s class. Using this technique in short crust cookies has given extremely good results, therefore I’m sharing my notes with you!

OLIVE OIL COOKIES WITH A SUBTLE LEMON SCENT

Ingredients for 60ish cookies:

  • 330 g plain flour
  • 200 g rice flour
  • 200 g caster sugar
  • grated peel of 1 lemon
  • 1 g vanilla salt
  • 250 g light extra virgin olive oil
  • 50 g water
  • 80 g egg yolks

Sieve the flour and put it on a working surface, make a well in the middle and add the sugar, the salt, the grated peel of one lemon and the seeds of half of a vanilla pod.

Pour the egg yolks and the water into your immersion blender container. Put the hand blender to the very bottom of the container, start pouring the olive oil in a thin stream and blend until it thickens into mayonnaise (it is a matter of just a few minutes).

Pour the mayonnaise into the centre of the flour and mix it with the sugar using your fingers to make a soft dough. When it is totally mixed, rub all the ingredients with your fingertips and make crumbles, then start kneading until you have a nice and smooth ball of dough. Roll it out roughly between two foils of parchment paper and place it in the fridge for about 30 minutes.

Heat the oven to 175°C. Take the shortcrust pastry out of the fridge, unwrap it and roll the dough out to 5 mm thick and cut into desired shapes using cookie cutters. I chose to cut out simple rectangular cookies. Place the cookies on a baking tin lined with previously greased parchment paper. Prick the cookies with a fork.

Bake the cookies for 12 to 15 minutes, until slightly golden. As soon as you remove them from the oven, they are still quite soft, so allow cookies to cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.

How to store them. Store the cookies in an airtight container with a vanilla pod (no need to use a new one, you can use an already opened vanilla pod, it will have a persistent scent as well). You can keep the cookies crisp for about a week, greedy thieves permitting.

Tasting test. My friends’ remark would be enough to describe them: “Hmmmmm, go figure how much butter there’s inside a cookie!” The tasting test was completely overcome, there was no perceptible trace of the olive oil but a subtle fruity scent that suited harmonically with the citrus flavour. This match makes the cookies fresh both for the nose and the palate. The afternoon break comes to a new life if you serve these lemon olive oil cookies with a floral green tea.

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41 Responses to “Olive oil cookies + some notes on the use of olive oil in confectionery”

  1. Anna Riddell said:

    I hope this is the recipe for the amazing cookies you made for your photo exhibition launch Juls! I can testify that they are amazing – though I think having about 5 of them rather defeats the object of them being less fattening!
    I will try them this weekend!

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  2. Rosa said:

    Your cookies look so flaky and delicious! I totally love the addition of lemon.

    Cheers,

    Rosa

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  3. Pola said:

    Wow! Will have to try these!!

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  4. Julie @ Willow Bird Baking said:

    As Rosa said, I love that these include lemon! Yum!

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  5. sara @CaffeIna said:

    Da italiana in America, ti ringrazio per questo post! Devo fare passa parola e far vedere alla gente che si puo’ fare anche un dolce con l’olio d’oliva e che si! deve essere di buona qualita’! Grazie!

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  6. Amelia from Z Tasty Life said:

    geniale! saved, forever, in my recipe files.

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  7. Maja said:

    This is so interesting and what an amazing recipe for cookies ! I am inspired by your blog !

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  8. Joan Nova said:

    Though not a baker, I, too, am bookmarking this as it is so informative. I always assumed there had to be a way to get the butter element in baking. Thanks for sharing.

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  9. Marlis said:

    What a perfect idea. I wonder if you could emulsify the olive oil with lemon juice and thicken it up to create a similar mayonaise type effect. I use my immersion blender to make my balsamic vinegrette and have to exercise caution as it emulsifies rather quickly.
    Do these cookies keep well? 60 cookies is quite a bit.

    thanks :)

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  10. Juls @ Juls' Kitchen said:

    @ Anna: exactly! these are the cookies of the photo exhibition launch! bake them smaller, so you can have 10 of them without feeling guilty! ;)
    @ Rosa: thank you Rosa!
    @ Pola: let me know your idea about them!
    @ Julie: the lemon is the perfect note indeed!
    @ Sara: esatto, di buona qualità! altrimenti il gioco non vale la cendela! ;)
    @ Amelia: ha ha ha! as I did with your Aguas Frescas!
    @ Maja: thank you for stopping by! I’m coming to check your blog!
    @ Joan Nova: you can use this a basic solution to start from and change according to your imagination!
    @ Marilis: it is a brilliant idea! I will definitely try to bake similar cookies with this twist to the basic recipe! They keep very well, if you store them in an airtight container! do not forget to add a vanilla pod or lemon zest to give extra flavour to the cookies!

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  11. Harriet said:

    Fantastic! I have often lamented the use of so much butter in shortbreads – one of my favourite cookies – so this recipe is perfect! I can’t wait to try it out. I wonder how it would go with spelt flour? Thanks Giulia!

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  12. Nathalie (@spacedlaw) said:

    I suppose 80 egg yolkes is about 2 egg yolkes?

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  13. Juls @ Juls' Kitchen said:

    @ Harriet: yes, sure, try to substitute plain flour with spelt flour. I’d try to change lemon with orange in this case!
    @ Nathalie: an egg yolk is about 20 – 25 g, so you need at least 3 egg yolks!

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  14. Medeja said:

    They look very nice.. I havent used olive oil for baking, its really interesting idea

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  15. Sarah, Maison Cupcake said:

    I love these biscuits and I definitely want to use more olive oil and flavoured oils in cooking… such a pretty shade too.

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  16. Joy said:

    The cookies look wonderful. I love that you used rice flour.

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  17. Juls @ Juls' Kitchen said:

    @ Medeja: you should give it a try!
    @ Sarah: it’s the perfect trick to start with, simple and scrumptious
    @ Joy: it gives a particular crumbly and crunchy texture to the cookies

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  18. Tamara said:

    Great post, so helpful, thanks!
    I use high-quality olive oil almost everywhere, in almost every dish and basically cannot imagine food without it, but I haven’t used it in many sweet dishes and desserts so far

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  19. anna said:

    These sound really good! I’m always confused when people are weirded out by olive oil in desserts – I grew up in a house without butter and I still prefer olive oil pie crust to butter crust (apple pie is much better with olive oil crust, IMO).

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  20. Giulia said:

    @ Tamara: Thank you a lot! it is a good habit to use high quality olive oil
    @ Anna: indeed! isn’t it true?! now I’d be curious to know your recipe for apple pie with olive oil crust!

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  21. Mike said:

    Ahhhh these look so good. I’m always trying to sneak lemon into everything, so just a hint of lemon in these sounds perfect.

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  22. melissa said:

    Lovely. Any idea how they could be veganized? I usually use an egg replacer (which is a mixture of thickening/binding/levening agents such as tapioca, rice flour etc) http://www.ener-g.com/low-protein-1/egg-substitute/egg-replacer.html.

    Would it work in replacement of the egg here? I’m assuming in this instance its a binder?

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  23. Abhilasha said:

    Totally love the idea of using EVOO in baking, desserts especially. I try and use olive oil in most of the baking that I do.

    I am soon trying to make a version of these cookies, the savoury way without eggs.

    Will be a nice thing to snack on (Guilt free !!)

    Thanks :)

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  24. Juls @ Juls' Kitchen said:

    @ Mike: you know, these cookies won’t be the same thing without a hint of lemon!
    @ Melissa: I’m not an expert on vegan diet, so I’m sorry but I admit I can’t help you. If you think that this substitute can work, go and try it! Basically the egg yolk has the task to emulsify the olive oil and thicken it, so it could work!
    @ Abhilasha: this is genious! I wanna try to make a savoury version as well!

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  25. Sweet Artichoke said:

    These cookies look awesome and the method described to use olive oil is pure genius! Thanks for sharing it with us!

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  26. Juls @ Juls' Kitchen said:

    @ Sweet Artichoke: thank you! :)

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  27. Favourite articles from the bloggers in Italy | italytutto - the blog about the blogs in Italy said:

    [...] Kitchen: Olive Oil Cookies and some notes on the use of olive oil in confectionery A healthy replacement for [...]

  28. Sonya said:

    Thanks so much, I have to try this recipe this weekend!

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  29. ww said:

    very interesting and useful, thanks for sharing! I’ve tried using olive oil in tart dough before and have yet to come up with something i’m satisfied with. It turns out not as tender and flaky as butter. It is also harder and doesn’t hold together as well. I think this is because, as you mentioned, butter is solid so when it is baked steam pockets are created, leading to flakiness. Now i wonder if the same technique you used here can be applied to a tart dough, i.e., make an emulsion with the olive oil & egg yolks, maybe even chill it so it hardens, then ‘cutting’ it (like butter) into the flour, trying to keep it as solid as possible (just like butter). I wonder too if i could substitute an an equal amt of this olive oil, water, egg emulsion with the butter called for in a recipe.

    or perhaps the biscuit in the recipe is already a tart dough in itself??? Would you say the texture is like a sweet tart dough, and could it hold up as a tart dough?

    anyone else with a perspective on this ??? Thanks in any case!

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  30. Giulia said:

    This is exactly a recipe you can use for a tart dough as well! So go on and try!

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  31. Sweet Artichoke said:

    Just a little note to say that I bake these awesome (that is the word!) cookies last Sunday. I even made them gluten-free (using rice flour and corn starch) because I had forgotten to buy regular flour! The taste is amazing, it tastes like very good quality butter, but much lighter in the texture. Needless to say that they did not last long (less than two days for the two of us…) and I am preparing a second batch tonight!

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  32. ceci said:

    thank you so much for posting this! it helped me understand better the way unsaturated fat can be used! plus i just made the cookies and … they are delicious, simple and aromatic!

    :)

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    Giulia Risposta:

    so happy you loved them! and thank you for sharing your feedback!

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  33. Dairy free biscotti with cocoa and hazelnut | said:

    [...] pastry made using olive oil instead of butter. The inspiration for this recipe comes from Juls’ Kitchen, a fantastic Italian/English blog with lots of ideas and personal recipes. The first time I saw [...]

  34. Yvonne said:

    A class with Luca, my dream. Where did you take the class?

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    Juls @ Juls' Kitchen Risposta:

    It was in Siena during an event related to extravirgin olive oil, it was amazing!

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  35. Phyllis said:

    Regarding the ingredients: Listed is “1 g vanilla salt” and the instructions say to “add the sugar, the salt, the grated peel of one lemon and the seeds of half of a vanilla pod.” Should I be using vanilla salt and vanilla seeds? What are the actual ingredients, measurements and directions? Thanks!

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    Giulia Risposta:

    vanilla salt AND the seeds of half of a vanilla pod, I forgot to add it to the recipe, sorry, thank you for letting me notice it!

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  36. Give me the strenght – motivational olive oil cookies | Alterkitchen Give me the strenght – motivational olive oil cookies | Another kitchen… my kitchen! said:

    [...] from Jul's Kitchen. I suggest you to read her post about the use of olive oil instead of butter in [...]

  37. Ismael said:

    I love your blog, I recommend to all people who love this kind of post to visit this site, I recommend it. bulk olive oil

    [Rispondi]

  38. Fionam Matthews said:

    The pictures look yummy.

    We have long used olive or coconut oil in our cooking because of the health benefits.
    I’d aso say that a bit of butter isnt going to hurt you as well and can be saved for special treats.

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