Welcome to Catalan Cookery! I hope you enjoy reading about my culinary adventures and delicious experiences in Catalonia, Spain.

Come check out my current blogging project,
Scrumptious Company, in which I chronicle my once-a-week dinner parties with pictures and recipes.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Olive Oil Update

I’m off to a great start with the olive oil project. Last week alone, I experimented with three different textures: olive oil jellies, olive oil ‘caramel’ and olive oil foam.

By ‘jellies’ I don’t mean jelly or jam or anything spreadable – I’m talking about those sugar-covered, fruit-flavored squares found in fancy candy stores. Gourmet gumdrops, if you will. But for this project, instead of using fruit, I used extra virgin olive oil.

Here’s how it's done: For the first step, I dissolved sugar, isomalt (a sugar substitute, but more on that later) and glucose (a pure form of the simple sugar) in hot water. I then added this to a blender, and while the blender was running, slowly drizzled in the olive oil. (It’s the same basic technique you follow anytime you make vinaigrette – slowly drizzling in the olive oil while vigorously whisking away at the vinegar, in order to combine the two into an emulsion.) I then added the seeds from a vanilla pod, dissolved some gelatin into the mixture, and poured it all into a rectangular plastic container. About an hour in the fridge was all it took, and the sheet of olive oil-flavored gelatin had firmed up to the perfect jelly-like consistency. Armed with a ruler and a sharp knife, I sliced the sheet into rectangles about an inch by a half inch wide. All that was left to do was dip these perfect little rectangles into sugar. And voilà, homemade olive oil candies! Super delicious!

The olive oil caramels were a blast to make. Not your typical caramel, they’re better described as drops of liquid olive oil encapsulated in a sugar (actually, isomalt) shell. Isomalt, the sugar substitute I had mentioned earlier, looks and behaves a lot like sugar. It’s well suited (more so than regular sugar) to being melted down, and blown or sculpted into special shapes and structures (a lot like molten glass).

So for this project, I melted a handful of isomalt in a little pot over a low flame. When it had become a hot liquid, I dipped the bottom of a circular tube (the pictures below show both a small silver cookie cutter and a longer white plastic tube) into the isomalt. I lifted the tube, with a thin film of liquid isomalt stretched across its base. I then poured about a teaspoon of olive oil into the top of the tube, which dropped through the tube, encapsulating itself as it sank, into a little teardrop of isomalt. Within seconds, the isomalt hardened to a glass-like consistency. The resulting ‘caramel’ was seriously cute!

The third olive oil texture I worked on was foam. We did about seven different trials, changing variables slightly at each turn, in an attempt to create the perfect mousse-like texture. My final trial yielded a consistency that was perfect – airy and light, but still substantial and very creamy.

Here’s basically what I did: Just like with the jellies, I had to again combine the olive oil and water into a thick and creamy emulsion. To do this I needed some help from a few specific chemicals – sucroester, which is an emulsifier for water, and mono-disaccharide, which is an emulsifier for fats. So I dissolved the former in the water and the latter in the oil, slowly whisked the oil into the water the same way I did for the jellies, and then added this emulsified mixture to a siphon. After a few hours in the fridge, the olive oil mixture was ready for action. All it took was a quick squeeze of the siphon trigger, and I had instant olive oil foam!

So, it was a pretty eventful week! And don't worry - There's more to come. In fact, as far as olive oil is concerned, we've only just begun...


  1. Interesting stuff.
    Can you use tapioca maltodextrin to make a saliva soluble olive oil powder?
    That could be interesting as a coating on a protein.

  2. Wow, the pictures really help me understand the concept of olive oil foam... radical!
    This whole experience looks beautiful and I am so happy for you that you are doing this!!



  3. Kate, it is so fun to read each and every update--I feel like I'm right there with you!
    Your descriptions capture everything so beautifully. Can't wait for the next installment! Love you, xoxo, Mary

  4. The olive oil bon bons are fun huh?

    Oh, and if it comes out of a siphon, we call them 'espumas' Kate, not foams, hehe.

    Sounds great!

  5. Keith - Totally! Maltodextrin is exactly what we use to make an olive oil powder. Have you used it before in other applications? Fill me in!

    Mary & Meg - Thank you both for your kind words. I'm so glad you're enjoying the blog.

    Jorge - Thanks for the constructive criticism ;). I'll try 'espuma' on for size tomorrow morning!

  6. hi Kate. I tried making the olive oil candies but it doesn't turn out right...i get it to set but the texture is off. I was wondering can you share your recipe? if you can thanks in advance if not its okay i will keep trying. -Joey

  7. Hi Joey. Sorry, but I only just saw your comment. I'd be happy to share the recipe with you. Email me at KateFrench23@gmail.com, and I will (very proptly this time, I promise) send it to you. Thanks for reading.