I was inspired by a recent trip to an olive oil farm to do a little baking with olive oil. Vegetable oil, canola oil and other flavorless oils are the standard when it comes to baking. Olive oil isn’t often used because it has a distinct, and sometimes strong, flavor that just isn’t going to enhance all recipes. That said, olive oil can be a great addition to a recipe when that fruity, olive flavor is allowed to stand out and these Orange Olive Oil Muffins are a great example of that.
The muffins use olive oil as their primary fat, where other similar recipes might use butter, and get most of their flavor from the oil itself and from the orange juice in the batter. Since there aren’t too many competing flavors here, the flavors of the olives do stand out. They don’t make the muffin savory (there is plenty of sugar to keep them sweet), but they do make the muffin richer and more complex than a plain oil would. Fresh orange juice gives these muffins a bright citrus flavor without overwhelming the olive oil. Sprinkling the tops of the muffins with sugar before baking makes the tops crispy and adds a nice contrast to the fluffy interior of the muffins.
The key to baking with olive oil is to choose an extra virgin olive oil that you really like the flavor of. You’re not going to like the flavor any more once it’s in a muffin or cake, so choose something good to start out with. These muffins are great with plain oils, but I also tried them with the incredibly good Mandarin Olive Oil from Ojai Olive Oil that really brightened up the orange flavor even more. That particular oil has an amazing mandarin orange flavor and is as good for dressing salads as it is for baking up muffins like these.
Orange Olive Oil Muffins
2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 large egg
1/4 cup olive oil
3/4 cup orange juice (freshly squeezed)
sugar, for topping
Preheat oven to 375F. Line a muffin pan with 12 paper liners.
In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder and salt
In a medium bowl, whisk together egg, olive oil and orange juice. Pour into flour mixture and stir until just combined and no streaks of dry ingredients remain.
Divide evenly into prepared muffin cups. Sprinkle muffin tops with sugar.
Bake for 16-18 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean and the muffin tops spring back when lightly pressed.
Cool muffins on a wire rack.