At La Petraia we don’t have cows. The principal fats we produce are olive oil and lard. I have found it possible to reproduce, with good results most butter based desserts and pastry using these two fats. In this post I will discuss olive oil, which is an excellent choice for anyone wishing to avoid the use of animal fats or dairy products in their diet.
Olive oil, unlike butter, is liquid at room temperature and its fat content is 100%. Butter, on the other hand contains water, it is only around 80 to 85% fat. For cakes, enriched doughs such as brioche as well as butter containing custards like lemon curd we substitute olive oil for butter in a ratio of 83:100. This means if a recipe or formula calls for 100 grams of butter we replace it with 83 grams of olive oil. Sometimes we might also add 17 grams of water to compensate for the lost water in the butter but for most preparations I find this unnecessary.
For flaky pastries such as puff pastry and croissant and for tart dough and most cookie dough the best results are obtained when olive oil is transformed into a butter like solid. To achieve this we use cocoa butter.
Cocoa butter is solid at 20 degrees C. It melts at a very low temperature, close to that of the human body. It is a neutral fat and a good preservative providing an excellent flavor conduit for quality extra virgin. Using cocoa butter we can convert olive oil to a butter-like solid with a minimal application of heat, avoiding the alteration of extra virgin’s organoleptic qualities and health benefits.
To make olive oil butter use 40% cocoa butter and 60% extra virgin olive oil by weight. Heat the cocoa butter gently in a bain-marie or in your lowest oven just until it melts. Whisk in the olive oil and refridgerate for 1 hour or until solid.
Because animal fats are sweet and vegetable fats are bitter this olive oil butter is also excellent for savory preparations. I will explore the use of lard in future posts.