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

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.


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!


4.50 from 2 votes
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Servings 60 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
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  • 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°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.
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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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This Post Has 41 Comments

  1. 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!

  2. 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!

  3. 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.

  4. 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 🙂

  5. @ 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!

  6. 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!

  7. @ 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!

  8. @ 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

  9. 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

  10. 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).

  11. @ 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!

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

  13. 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 🙂

  14. @ 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!

  15. 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!

  16. 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!

  17. 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!


  18. 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!

    1. 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!

  19. 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.

  20. These cookies were amazing! I made them with wholegrain spelt flour and a little more water and they turned out fantastic.

  21. 5 stars
    Wonderful recipe. Tried these with whole spelt flour; full rice flour; orange zest and half the amount of sugar (we normally use less sugar in all that we do). Turned out wonderful. I think it could also work with a little less oil, but not sure.
    Great winter cookies.

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