I Tried Olive Oil Whipped Cream and It’s a Dessert Game-Changer
Use the common pantry staple to turn any dessert into a restaurant-quality dish in just a few minutes. Here’s why olive oil whipped cream will have your table buzzing.
Virtual cooking events have been a recent highlight of my work life during pandemic times. I was particularly looking forward to one with an invitation boasting a veggie- and olive oil-filled menu where we'd learn cooking techniques to make these earthy ingredients shine. Chef Seamus Mullen, an award-winning chef known for his inventive yet approachable Spanish cuisine (and having cured his debilitating rheumatoid arthritis with diet changes), walked us through the steps to make roasted carrots with olive oil-whipped yogurt and baby leeks poached in olive oil. We were moving onto the third recipe—a creamy olive-oil-based vinaigrette—when Chef Mullen casually mentioned that he also loves to use olive oil to make the most delicious whipped cream. My hands, preoccupied with rinsing vegetables, couldn't get dried fast enough for me to type my question into the event's Chat box. "Did you say olive oil whipped cream?" I finally asked. But the conversation had already moved on, and Chef was answering a flurry of other questions.
After logging off the virtual event, I sat down to enjoy the beautiful veggie dishes I had just prepared, but I couldn't shake the thought of olive oil whipped cream. A Google search provided zilch on the topic and I thought perhaps I had even heard the chef incorrectly. But every time I opened my pantry and saw that bottle of EVOO, the thought of olive oil whipped cream beckoned my foodie-journalist heart to dig deeper.
What Is Olive Oil Whipped Cream?
A few weeks later I was able to get to the bottom of this delicious-sounding mystery. I tracked down Chef Mullen himself for a Zoom interview. It turns out I had heard him correctly, and you can make whipped cream from olive oil, and all kinds of other sweet things, too.
"We often don't think of olive oil as being a natural ingredient for desserts, pastries, and other sweets," said Mullen. "But olives are a fruit, and if you can wrap your head around olive oil being a fruit juice—which it essentially is—then it really makes sense in a lot of dessert applications."
The first time the chef remembers adding olive oil to whipped cream was when he was perfecting an olive oil chocolate cake for one of his NYC restaurants. "Olive oil goes really well with chocolate, and I had made an orange zest-flavored whipped cream to go with it, and I started playing around with the idea of adding olive oil. I tasted it as I went, and the more I added to it, the more I was amazed at how well it went together," recalls Mullen.
Related: Lemon Olive Oil Cake
"So now it's a technique I use quite a bit when making desserts because it takes something that's quite familiar—whipped cream—and makes it a lot more dynamic and interesting," says Chef Mullen. "It's funny, when people taste it who are not expecting it, there's always this reaction like ' Wow, that's really good! There's something really familiar but I can't place what it is.' Because the expectation that olive oil is going to show up in your dessert is something that most people are not really prepared for."
How to Make Whipped Cream with Olive Oil
In typical chef fashion, Chef Mullen says "I usually just wing it," but he also provided the ingredients and steps so you can make olive oil whipped cream at home.
What you'll need:
What to do:
- Using a hand-held mixer or a stand mixer with a whisk attachment, whip the heavy cream and powdered sugar until the cream starts to “mount” and get more stiff. “You’re looking to trap air in the cream, but you don’t want to work it to a point of becoming stiff like butter,” warns Mullen.
- When the cream gets aerated and peaks form, very slowly start to drip in the olive oil, a little at a time, while whisking at the lowest speed. “The olive oil will start to emulsify with the protein in the cream and you’ll start to get a nice creamy texture,” says Mullen.
- You can make this up to a few hours ahead and store it in the coldest section of your refrigerator. “You might need to re-whisk it after being in the refrigerator, and that’s true of regular homemade whipped cream as well, since it can separate over time,” says Mullen. “But you can make it so quickly, so it’s kind of a nice thing to do right in the moment before serving dessert.”
How to Select and Store Olive Oil
Olive oils are classified by the type of olive they're made from, and they come as either a single varietal or a blend of types, called a coupage. "Generally speaking, I stay away from coupages," says Mullen. "Rarely does a blend of two or more varieties elevate the product. Usually a producer is trying to mask a less pleasing taste." He recommends stocking at least two single-varietal types of olive oil for various uses at home.
Common single-varietal olive oils include:
- Arbequina (the fruitiest) - for general cooking (sautéing ing, poaching, pan-frying), to make fruity dressings, pastries, and desserts. Try one like this California Olive Ranch Arbequina ($19, Amazon).
- Hojiblanca (mildly spicy) - for general cooking (sautéing, poaching, pan-frying), to make spicy dressings or drizzle over hummus or vegetables. Oleoestepa Hojiblanca ($23, Amazon) is an option to try.
- Picual (the spiciest) - for general cooking and grilling, to rub onto meats before cooking. Give O-Med Picual Oil ($16, Amazon) a try.
Mullen also recommends looking at the harvest date (usually on the bottom or back of the bottle) before you buy olive oil. "Ideally the harvest date is within the last two years. Olive oil should really be consumed within a year of being pressed, but if it's stored well, it can be of good quality for up to two years."
To store olive oil well, avoid its three enemies: light, heat, and oxygen. "Buy olive oil that's in a dark bottle," says Chef Mullen. "And keep it in a place that is relatively cool, ideally not right next to the stove, such as a pantry where the door shuts. I like to buy olive oil in bulk, in a big tin with a stopper or in a bulk box with a foil-lined bag so no air or light gets in, then you can decant a few cups at a time into a smaller dark bottle with a tight-sealing stopper or lid."
Other Delicious Things You Should be Making with Olive Oil
"In the U.S., we don't think of frying foods in olive oil, but all Mediteranean food that is fried or pan-fried uses olive oil," says Mullen. "Olive oil is a very good and stable oil to fry with. For example, I'll fry chickpeas in olive oil for a quick healthy snack."
Other things you may not think of using olive oil for? "The poaching we discussed in the virtual cooking class is something that's kind of an unusual technique," says Mullen. You can do it by heating enough olive oil (1 or 2 cups) in a pan over low heat so that your food is fully submerged. Mullen suggests using this technique to poach vegetables or fish. "In fact, I just made some salmon last night poached in olive oil where I gently warmed up the oil, infused it with some garlic and herbs, and slipped a piece of salmon into it and then heated it until cooked through and flaky," explained Mullen as my mouth watered. "I'll also add olive oil to meat or poultry any time I'm grilling. I'll rub on a thin layer as a way of seasoning the meat, similar to using salt and pepper."
Can You Use Olive Oil in Any Dessert Recipe?
According to Mullen, the basic rule here is that olive oil can replace the oil in nearly any recipe, including dessert recipes, that call for oil or even melted butter or melted coconut oil. But a recipe where it's imperative that the butter is added cold, such as a pie crust, is not going to work quite as well with olive oil. "Certainly any recipe that calls for vegetable oil or canola oil, you can substitute olive oil and get a great taste and the benefits of using less processed oil and better-for-you fats."