Olive Oil

Arielle's Big Feast: Powdered Olive Oil

March 20, 2012

We want you to throw big parties, tell us about it, and win big (big!) prizes from Le Creuset. (Find out more here.) 

This is the second of ArielleClementine's Big Feast posts. Go here to read her first post: planning a Science!-themed feast.

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I had never had powdered olive oil before. In fact, I'd never even heard about it until this season of Top Chef, when chef Ty-lor Boring (best name ever) used it to top a cube of watermelon for a modernist cooking quickfire challenge. I so love this sort of magical transformation that molecular gastronomy makes possible. I imagined eating this dish: a sleek cube of watermelon capped with an unidentified, powdery substance that, upon tasting, you realize is something totally familiar and totally transformed. I researched this technique online, and learned that it was actually pretty simple -- all you need is tapioca maltodextrin and any liquid fat. Tapioca maltodextrin is pretty neat stuff- it's derived from tapioca, is near flavorless, and is incredibly lightweight. For these reasons, processed food companies have long used it as a way to add volume, but not weight, to frozen dinners and dry mixes! I call shenanigans.

Anyway, tapioca maltodextrin is also prized for its ability to stabilize liquid fats so they can be turned into powder, so I ordered it to use for Dustin's Science! (exclaimation point intended!) birthday dinner. I had plans to use it for two courses. First, I wanted to make powdered olive oil to top cubes of my favorite local mozzarella as part of a cheese plate. Second, I wanted to use it to make a powdered bacon fat that I could use to dust a sage-flecked miniature funnel cake- the goal being that it would look like the powdered sugar topping on a traditional funnel cake, but taste like bacon. I wasn't sure that the powdered bacon fat would work, because I couldn't find any mention of such a thing online, so I decided to test the tapioca maltodextrin-waters with a simple powdered olive oil trial run (photographed below) and then later a second trail with the bacon fat (in the video below). Read on to see how it all works, and watch a video of my trials, errors and triumphs below! Special thanks to my super talented videographer helenthehanny

 A tiny bowl on a non-molecular gastronomy approved scale (all the recipes I read say that you should use a  scale that can measure down to tenths of grams, but I got by just fine with my standard kitchen scale).

 An errant sprinkling of the tapioca maltodextrin.  It's a feathery, superfine powder, and impossible to use without spilling.

Measuring 16 grams of olive oil to mix with the 5 grams of tapioca maltodextrin.  You want a ratio of about 1 part powder to 3 parts liquid fat.

Adding a pinch of kosher salt.

Oil meets powder! AKA, this bowl is too small.

The mixture should look a bit like a dry, lumpy biscuit dough.

The recipe suggests pushing the mixture through a tamis for a finer powder- I used a fine mesh sieve.

Pretty filaments of olive oil powder.

A final scrape.

Voilà! Powdered olive oil!

The verdict? Absolutely magical -- the stuff melts on your tongue as if you've taken a swig of oil from the bottle. It didn't look quite as powdery as I was expecting, probably because I didn't have a tamis, but the end product was excellent all the same. I used my every-day olive oil for this attempt, not wanting to waste the good stuff, and therefore the flavor wasn't all that it could be. After these trial runs, I decided that I would make a simple garlic-infused oil, and then powder-ize that to top cubes of local mozzarella for a cheese course, and serve the powdered bacon fat with funnel cakes for a 'carnival foods' course.

Up tomorrow: I try my hand at turning apple juice into caviar!


Le Creuset has generously offered to reward our Big Feasters for all their hard work, and as our first Big Feast, Arielle will win, in the color of her choice (flame, cherry, fennel, or cassis): a 4 1/2-quart round French oven, a 10 1/4-inch iron handle skillet, and a 2 3/4-quart precision pour pan. Pitch us your Big Feast at [email protected] for a chance to win $500 in Le Creuset booty.

le creuset dutch ovenle creuset iron skilletle creuset sauce pan

Inspired to play with molecular gastronomy at home? Check out a very cool Molecular Gastronomy kit from Molecule-R, available in the shop now! 

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • gluttonforlife
  • LocalSavour
  • hardlikearmour
  • meganvt01
  • dani
I have always loved food. My favorite books as a kid always featured food (eg. The Berenstain Bears Get the Gimmies- so much candy!) and I loved cooking shows like Yan Can Cook and The Frugal Gourmet. I started cooking the Thanksgiving dinner for my family when I was 13 years old. I have food52 to thank for inspiring me to come up with my own recipes, as well as for introducing me to a community of fantastic cooks and their amazing recipes. I try my best to cook locally and seasonally, and I tend to prefer straightforward, simple recipes where the ingredients get to shine. I live in wonderful Austin, Texas with my husband, Andy (a video game programmer) and my son, Henry (an 8-month-old who loves to eat).


gluttonforlife March 24, 2012
Radical! (for Food52) Love it!
LocalSavour March 21, 2012
Wow-wee Arielle! This looks and sounds fantastic - perhaps next time I will get an invite (hint, hint!). Can't wait to see what little Henry's palate craves as he grows. Congrats on the party!
arielleclementine March 21, 2012
thanks, friend! it'd be pretty great if henry grew up craving powdered fats!
hardlikearmour March 20, 2012
WoW! I had been considering pitching a party idea for later in the summer, but there's no way I could come close to this! Maybe once little Henry is older you should become a professional party planner.
arielleclementine March 20, 2012
oh man! thanks, HLA!! you should definitely definitely pitch your party though- everything you make is outstanding!
meganvt01 March 20, 2012
That video was so fun and totally inspiring. I never would have tried that on my own but you make it seem approachable. I am so looking forward to the next part of the party!
arielleclementine March 20, 2012
thanks so much meganvt01! it's especially nice of you to say that after watching me bungle it up a bit!
dani March 20, 2012
Looking forward to the next installment. Loved the video! So much fun!
arielleclementine March 20, 2012
thanks marm!
ricman525 March 20, 2012
Incredible - how did the bacon fat version turn out? Any issues with the "more-viscous-at-room-temperature" fat?
Miranda R. March 20, 2012
The powdered bacon fat will show up later in the week!
arielleclementine March 20, 2012
thanks! the bacon fat powder turned out great! in fact- i made the powder a few days before the party and it kept beautifully in the pantry until then- no issues whatsoever!
Miranda R. March 20, 2012
Stay tuned - arielle is unstoppable!
drbabs March 20, 2012
Arielle, you are my hero. What an inspiration!
arielleclementine March 20, 2012
aww shucks, drbabs! thanks so much :)
sygyzy March 20, 2012
Arielle, I left some comments on your YouTube video. Hopefully they are helpful.
arielleclementine March 20, 2012
hi sygyzy! they were helpful! the package of TM and the recipes I referenced (here's one: http://www.seriouseats.com/recipes/2011/09/olive-oil-powder-maltodextrin-modernist-cuisine-recipe.html) all said the powder should be 31-34% the weight of the oil, but i completely agree with you- in all cases i ended up just mixing in more powder to make it look right, and i totally believe you that the powder should be even drier than i made it. any ideas about why the recipes specify this ratio?
sygyzy March 21, 2012
I don't know why they say this but just trust your gut and add more.
arielleclementine March 21, 2012
haha! love it. it felt weird to abandon the rigidly-scientific process, but i didn't know how else to make the recipe come out right. seems like it almost never hurts to trust your gut in the kitchen.
aargersi March 20, 2012
This is SO cool! You guys are doing a completely amazing job - what a party!!!!
arielleclementine March 20, 2012
eee! thanks, Abbie!!