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Striking Oil: Using Infused Specialty Oils to Bring New Life to Traditional Favorites

(This article appeared in the Summer 2021 issue of Pastry Arts Magazine)

By Michele Barricelli, Market Specialist at Baldor Specialty Foods

Anyone who’s spent time dipping various food items into a streaming fondue fountain knows chocolate goes with almost anything. Whether it’s fruit – such as a fresh chocolate dipped strawberry – or a glass of cool, crisp Chardonnay, or even a pair of Graham crackers blanketing a gooey layer of toasted marshmallows, chocolate makes for a versatile and quite delicious pairing partner. That said, have you ever considered pairing chocolate with oils? Or considered the types of oils you use in your everyday baking? Have you ever thought of using oil as a dairy substitute?  Oils, especially new infused and exotic varieties, can open up a new palate of taste for all your tried and true recipes.

But, getting back to chocolate for a moment, next time you have a pure bar or chunk of it, try dipping it into a flavored oil – such as fig or even fennel oil – and see which suddenly becomes your new favorite chocolate pairing companion.  In the meantime, let’s explore the variety of ways specialty oils can add excitement to your baking repertoire.

Fun Using Zesty, Citrus Oil Blends

Lemon zest extra virgin olive oil and orange zest extra virgin olive oil are two excellent oils that can add pizzazz to your baking. For the best taste, look for those citrus oils that are obtained by milling authentic Spanish or Italian olives with real fruit – not those using concentrates or juices. The combination of freshly milled olive oil with just-picked citrus fruits gives off a unique aroma and an outstanding flavor. Those produced using the cold-press methodology retain the best taste and nutritive value. The blending of lemon (or orange) accentuates the delicate sweetness of extra virgin olive oil, which makes this an amazing addition to a panna cotta or any cake that calls for using olive oil. Next time, try using oil with citrusy zest and see how it switches up your next baked treat.

Using Oils as Dietary Substitutes

We’ve all become so much more aware of how certain food can affect us. Some of us need to be gluten-free. Others have made a health or ethically based choice to go plant-based. This is where oil can be a great ally. Most of us already know that extra virgin olive oils can be used in many baking applications as a substitution for butter, but that’s just the outer layer of this frosted cake. There are plenty of other ways oils can be used as a substitute for standard recipe ingredients.

Butter – Both avocado and palm oils can be used interchangeably for regular butter, though some people are wary of using palm oils. In that case, use coconut oil which is pure fat, and can easily be used in place of butter.

Cream – Instead of heavy or whipping cream, try using a plant-based, dairy-free crème. It can be an amazing substitute. Generally aquafaba- based, these “faux” creams can be used for anything that you would typically use a 36% regular cream for – so items like ganache or whipped cream.  These creams are versatile enough that they can be used for both sweet or savory dishes, like those that call for peppers or other ingredients that add a little kick.

Using Other Oils

Hemp Oil – The much-maligned marijuana plant has brought us medical breakthroughs like CBD oils, but  stick to virgin cold-pressed hemp oil if you’re looking for an earthy, green flavor to distinguish your desserts or confections.  Hemp oil is best kept chilled and used quickly after opening.

Nut oils – Just a word of caution here. Nut and seed oils are sensitive to high heat and can lose much of their delicate flavor. In general, they are safe in most baked recipes, but be wary of any dish requiring high cooking temperatures.

Oil Away!

Introducing specialty oils to your pantry in the form of avocado oils, citrus oils, and nut oils can bring exciting new flavors to anything you whip up in the kitchen. From cakes and brownies to chocolates and sauces, a specialty oil will breathe new life into your traditional favorites. And oftentimes, they are a healthier alternative to using butters and vegetable oil.

Photos courtesy of Baldor Specialty Foods

Pastry Arts Magazine is the new resource for pastry & baking professionals designed to inspire, educate and connect the pastry community as an informational conduit spotlighting the trade.