Overcooked: Olive Oil on Desserts

Olive oil ice cream and gelato are the darlings of the moment on restaurant dessert menus. It’s gotten to where you practically expect to see it before you even look at the menu. Depending on how jaded you are, you’re either excited by this, or bored and ready for the next thing.

Olive oil in sweets is really not new. Olive oil producing countries like Spain, Portugal, and Italy have been baking with olive oil forever. In more recent years, health conscious and vegan bakers have experimented with every non-animal fat under the sun.

But today’s modern manifestations of olive oil desserts are more about showcasing the flavor of the oil itself and pairing it with complementary tastes.

Both restaurant chefs and home cooks at the top of their game know that olive oil has a rich, nutty, sexy flavor that melds lusciously with common dessert ingredients like citrus and chocolate. Olive oil in desserts is a tributary of the sweet-savory dessert trend epitomized by the now ubiquitous (but still utterly delicious) salted caramel archetype. As such, olive oil can be successfully paired with salt and pungent, savory herbs like rosemary in many preparations. For examples, check out this rundown of olive oil desserts in LA restaurants from 2008 (that date proves we’re probably peaking).

For now, it’s olive oil’s sweet moment in time. Give some of these recipes a try before the green elixir becomes the kiwifruit of 2011.

This recipe for chocolate mousse with olive oil and flaky salt from Chow.com had me salivating as soon as I read it. And I don’t even like chocolate mousse.

Speaking of chocolate, this Rosemary Chocolate Tea Cake posted by The Occasional Cook comes from one of my favorite books of 2010, Good to the Grain, by Kim Boyce, and I’m happy for the reminder to try it.

Panna Cotta with Olive Oil and Thyme from Taste with Your Eyes sounds like my idea of heaven.

If you want to replicate the olive oil ice cream you’ve had in restaurants, I’d suggest this recipe from David Lebovitz’s book, The Perfect Scoop, via Serious Eats.

And finally, for a more traditional take, try Portuguese food expert David Leite’s Lemon and Black Olive Cookies.

Editor’s note: This is a new column by Vanessa Barrington. For the lighter side of all things foodie, read Overcooked weekly. Overcooked: helping you make the most of today’s trendiest ingredient…before it’s overdone. Be sure to catch Vanessa’s original EcoSalon column, The Green Plate, on the environmental, social, and political issues related to what and how we eat.

Photo Courtesy of Lori Lynn at Taste with the Eyes.

Vanessa Barrington

Vanessa Barrington is a San Francisco based writer and communications consultant specializing in environmental, social, and political issues in the food system.