I am often asked what type of fats and oils I use for my baking and cooking. So today I thought I would share with you the oil I have chosen to use.
For most of my bread baking, that is yeast breads, muffins, pancakes, coffee cakes and other quick breads I use Extra Virgin Olive oil. When I first began making all of my bread from freshly milled flour way back in 1991, I used the popular vegetable oils sold in the store. I didn’t know better.
But my continued research about the processing done to most of our food, led me to discover that these highly processed oils were not at all healthy.
My studies led me to Olive oil – after all it does seem to be the oil of choice in the Bible. Olive trees grow throughout the Mediterranean region and olive oil is of course the primary source of fat in the Mediterranean diet, which is considered to be one of the heart healthiest diets in the world.
But not all olive oil is the same. There are many levels of processing done to olive oil which greatly alter both its flavor and nutritional benefits. Real extra virgin olive oil is the least processed of all, which is why it is my oil of choice in my baking and cooking.
Olive Oil % Acidity – What It Means
To earn the label of Extra Virgin olive oil, the oil must be cold pressed from the olives, using no chemical solvents. But more specifically, one of the main parameters to classify the quality and labeling of olive oil is a % acidity. To gain a labeling of Extra Virgin Olive the oil must have an acidity of 0.8% or less.
If you are like me, you might be wondering what exactly this acidity means. Some consumers confuse a lower acidity with intensity of flavor of the olive oil but that is not completely accurate. Neither is this acidity a measure of the acid level of the olive oil – in other words this is not a pH measurement
Acidity in olive oil refers not so much to the taste, but rather to the presence (or lack thereof) of free fatty acids in the oil. The percent acidity is more of an indication of how much or how little oxidation has taken place in the oil prior to and during the pressing of the oil.
In my Sue’s Healthy Minutes podcast episode, The Facts About Fats, I give a brief discussion of the chemical structure of fats and oils. I explain how the carbon/hydrogen chains of fatty acids are joined by weak chemical bonds, which allow the oil to be saturated or unsaturated in varying degrees.
Olive oil is made up mostly of monounsaturated fats and more specifically fat compounds known as triacylglycerols. Chemically speaking these are molecules made up of three fatty acids linked to a glycerol molecule. These compounds are naturally formed within the olive itself as the fruit develops.
The % acidity in olive oil is the result of the degree of the breakdown of these triacylglycerols and a measurement of the free fatty acids now present in the oil.
Now I realize that all of this scientific information may seem dry and boring to you but hang with me while I explain further, as this is really important information for you, the consumer, to know what to look for in olive oil and why.
This link between the glycerol and the three fatty acid chains is weak. This weak link can easily be broken if the olive fruit is damaged during harvest, or by poor storage practices. Long delays between harvesting and extraction, as well as careless extraction methods can all lead to the break-down of the triacylglycerols in the oil leading to a higher % acidity in the oil.
The free fatty acid level in the olive oil is thus a direct measure of the quality of the oil, and reflects the care taken right from the blossoming of the olives, to its extraction and the eventual sale and consumption of the oil.
This % Acidity then measures how much of these free fatty acids are in the olive oil; therefore the % acidity is a general indicator of the quality of virgin olive oils. Therefore, the lower the percent acidity of a virgin olive oil, the better. And as stated earlier, to be classified as an Extra Virgin Olive Oil the oil must have an acidity of 0.8% or less.
Oils labeled only as virgin olive oil can have an acidity level as high as 2%. All olive oils with an acidity over 2% are classified as oil for refining purposes only and are considered not fit for human consumption.
So now you may be asking – how do I know the quality of olive oil I am buying? Unfortunately, the olive oil industry, like other food industries, lacks integrity.
Studies and testing on Extra Virgin olive oil sold here in the USA found that about 73% of the most popular brands of olive oil sold in the US, had been adulterated by lesser quality oils and did not pass the scientific testing for Extra Virgin Olive Oil despite what their labels declared.
Many years ago, we were actually using an olive oil that was labeled First Cold Pressed Extra Virgin Olive oil. After learning of the common disreputable practices in the industry, we had the oil tested – only to discover that it contained only a fraction of actual OLIVE OIL! This is indeed concerning.
So, what are we the consumer to do? The answer is to only buy olive oil from a reputable source that you trust. And also, to look for an oil that is bottled in the country of origin.
At Bread Beckers we have chosen a reputable supplier of Greek Extra Virgin Olive Oil from the Isle of Crete.
Olives and olive oil are inseparable from the culture and cuisine of Greece. Greeks consume more olive oil per person than anyone else in the world. So, it is no wonder, that in an average year, the small country of Greece produces the third largest amount of olive oil in the world. Olive oil has played a major role in Greek history, culture and cuisine for centuries and remains a key element in their famously healthy Greek Mediterranean diet.
The olives for most Greek olive oil are grown on small family-owned farms. This small-scale production enables the farms to give the attention to detail necessary to achieve the highest quality extra virgin olive oil. So, no wonder Bread Beckers chose Greece as our source.
We sell 3 brands of bulk Extra Virgin olive oil here at Bread Beckers in either 3 and 5 L tins or a 5 L box all to protect from exposure to light.
Agrelia is our most popular brand. The acidity often varies with the olive harvest but is tested and guaranteed to be 0.8% or less.
It is sold in 2 sizes – a 3 L and 5 L can.
Our Cretan O2 brand comes in 3 L and 5 L black tins and has an acidity level of 0.2% or less indicating an exquisite quality extra virgin oil
Our Peza brand of Extra Virgin Olive oil comes in a 5 L box with a plastic insert and a spout for dispensing – this oil has an acidity level of 0.5% or less.
We also carry a line of specialty infused Extra Virgin Olive oils by Olivelle.
Olivelle also uses only the highest quality Extra Virgin Olive oils. All of their oils are sourced from single estate olive oil farms with an acidity between 0.2 or 0.3%. All of the Olivelle infused oils are 100% vegan using only essential oils or natural flavors to infuse their oils. If you haven’t tried these amazing oils, you are missing out.
They will truly brighten the flavor of any favorite dish or baked good, whether savory or sweet.
You can check out all of these oils on our website . Or better yet – come into the store for a tasting. You will be glad you did.
I find it interesting that years ago when I was unknowingly using an adulterated olive oil in my baking – I found that it often lent a bitter taste to some of my baked goods – especially muffins and coffee cake. I thought it was normal for olive oil.
Today – I realize that this off flavor is definitely not normal and was only because the oil was very poor quality and not Extra Virgin Olive oil at all.
I use our Greek Extra Virgin Olive Oil or the Olivelle infused olive oils in most all of my baking and the flavor is absolutely delicious with no bitter taste at all.
I encourage you to try some of our Extra Virgin Olive Oils – I know you will be as pleasantly surprised as I was with their incredible flavor.
For even more information about fats and olive oils and so much more check out Sue’s Healthy Minutes Podcast on your favorite podcast platform.