When I first started working at the wonderful Ristorante di Paolo I was immediately drawn to one of pastry chef Ellen Darabi’s famous desserts: Lemon Olive Oil Cake. The idea of baking a cake with olive oil sounded a bit strange to me at the time, and I wasn’t sure how the strong flavor of the oil would complement the dessert. But like most things I’ve started out thinking are strange involving olive oil (olive oil on toast for breakfast, olive oil and sugar as a body scrub, deep frying in olive oil…) I grew to love this creation in no time.
Before long I was secretly hoping someone would make a mistake and prepare this delicious cake for a customer, only to realize they actually ordered something else, and, alas, the staff would have to eat it since the whipped cream and strawberries on top would soon spoil. I would sometimes take a piece home at night, taking advantage of the employee discount, and contributing to my quickly expanding waitress behind (one of the dangers of restaurant work).
I won’t lead you on anymore. I don’t have her recipe! I’ve found some recipes that may be similar online, but I have yet to really experiment with them. I think I’m afraid of disappointment. I mean, her cake was crazy good. It was saturated with oil yet not at all heavy, had a tiny line of tart lemon curd in the center, and we served it with sliced strawberries and basil marinated in balsamic vinegar and sugar.
Oh well, I’ll just have to go back to Di Paolo’s next time I’m home! But here is Spain I’ve realized that many people also bake with olive oil. In fact, in almost all baked goods (breads, cakes, and cookies) that I’ve eaten here use olive oil in some way. Where my family recipes call for heaps of butter, theirs call for pools of olive oil.
Some of the best examples are their bizcocho recipes. A bizcocho is basically just a quick bread (like zucchini bread or banana bread) that rises without the use of yeast. Like the similar “bread” in English or “plum cake” in British English (I think) a bizcocho can be made of just about anything. Popular variations include orange, chocolate, yogurt, apple, and vanilla.
I decided to experiment with a recipe for Bizcocho de Yogur con Manzana (Apple Yogurt Bread) to potentially include the recipe in a future cooking class, and took over my mother-in-law’s kitchen once again (despite past experiences). The cake came out good, but not great, due to Spanish oven difficulties. Why isn’t there just a bake mode?! It started to burn on the top after a very short time so I ended up having to lower the heat and turn off the top burner of the oven… quite the experiment! When I got back to Madrid I baked it again in my own oven, and tried it with grapes instead of apples.
It was quick, easy, and delicious. We ate a slice with our afternoon coffee and I enjoyed the rest for breakfast over the next few days. It’s not a very complex bread, but it’s sweet and airy and stayed moist all week long. Let me know how you like it!
Apple Yogurt Bread (Bizcocho de Yogur con Manzana)
1 lemon yogurt
1 yogurt cup of olive oil
2 yogurt cups of sugar
3 yogurt cups of flour
1 packet of baking power (in Spain baking power levadura en polvo comes in packets)
1.5 cups of fruit (such as diced apple, grapes, or berries)
Powdered sugar (Azucar glace, found at many supermarkets but I usually buy from Mercadona)
In a large bowl beat the eggs and sugar. Add the flour and baking power (sift if possible) and mix very well (use an electric mixer at a medium speed if you have one!) Now add the yogurt and oil and continue mixing until the batter is smooth. Butter and flour the pan (I use a 9×9 round) and pour in the batter. Sprinkle the fruit on top and it’s ready to go in the oven. Bake at 170 Celcius/340 Farenheight for about 30 minutes. (Time will depend on the pan you use). It is ready when a toothpick inserted in the center comes out completely clean. Let the cake cool and top with powdered sugar. Enjoy for your merienda (afternoon snack) with coffee or tea.
What do you guys think about baking with olive oil? Will you try it out? I hope so!