My fruitful quest for something new, or: how I met the bergamot

So here in Turin they organise all kinds of cultural events, and a couple of weeks ago it was time for the Salone del Gusto. The Salone del Gusto is essentially a really big, really overpriced, really pretentious farmers’ market. You go, you pay twenty pop to get in, you get minuscule samples of foods from all over Italy (and indeed from all over the world) and if you can afford it, you shell out a couple of tenners here and there to get your hands on some exclusive <insert product> from the only region in the world where they produce <previously mentioned product> in the authentic, traditional method. No, I didn’t forget to edit my rough draft – you can actually insert just about any product there and someone probably sells it at the Salone del Gusto.

At twenty euros, the tickets were priced rather steeply, and I was close to bailing on the whole thing. Of course, the Slow Food mafia knows that there’s always going to be idiots like me who would never miss out on an opportunity to see this much food from such a variety of places, so they get away with charging this much. Despite all my protestations of what extortionate prices these criminals were demanding for their stupid pretentious event, I ended up paying and heading down with a mate to check it out, hoping to find some exciting new things  I’d never seen before.

The place was gigantic. There were 5 different halls, all divided into sections that represented different regions of Italy, or in the case of the last hall, different countries of the world. Unfortunately I couldn’t stay all day, so we had to be selective. We briefly loitered around Piemonte, tried some olive oil in Tuscany, but then headed straight down to Calabria.

We weren’t sure why, but we both turned out to be pretty excited about this region of Italy. It’s not really a place where lots of people go all the time, or that is positively represented in the media. Around Italy, the Calabrians are mostly known for eating some really spicey shit and making tax-money disappear in the bottomless pits of shady local real estate projects. But Calabria was the region that made our visit worthwhile, and that made me slightly less resentful about having had to pay so much to get in. Of all the regions we saw that day, the Calabrians were the most generous with their samples, handing out sausages, ‘nduja, spicy peppers, and making conversation with everyone while they were at it. More important than that, though, they were the region that managed to amaze me the most with the food they introduced me to: Calabria is home to two fruits that I never even knew existed. One was the anona, a funky-looking thing with a soft, almost liquid pulp inside, pretty tasty.

The other one, the winner of the day, the undisputed champion of the Salone del Gusto, was the bergamotto, or bergamot orange. This thing rocks my world.

Oh, bright green beauty

Oh, bright green beauty

As you can see, they come in all kinds of shapes and sizes. Lemon for scale.

As you can see, they come in all kinds of shapes and sizes. Lemon for scale.

The bergamotto, the man told me, is a citrus fruit that grows only in the south of Calabria (although people from the south of Italy often say stuff like this). It’s used mostly for making essential oils and skin products, although you can also eat it. In fact, if you’re from the UK, you’ve probably consumed it indirectly tonnes of times in your life: I never realised this, but Earl Grey tea is flavoured with an essence extracted from bergamot skin. In fact, when you take a good sniff of a bergamot, or when you give the fruit a cheeky wee taste, it actually tastes really similar to Earl Grey. It’s the weirdest sensation, eating a fruit that tastes like a tea – although of course in reality the opposite is true. Either way, the bergamotto was a wonderful discovery for me, and seeing that they were being sold in bags of two kilos for only three euros, my friend and I each decided to take a bag. Surely these things were going to be ace in cakes, and this way we could have a bake-off. I went for a classic citrus dessert, a tarte au citron, but with bergamotto instead of lemon. A tarte au bergamot. It was every bit as awesome as expected.

If you can ever get your hands on a couple of bergamots, buy them. Do it. If not, make a tarte au citron, and use some lemons – not quite as interesting as the bergamot, but definitely pretty tasty.

It's like earl grey cake, but better

The tarte au bergamot starts with a shortcrust kind of pastry. Use:

  • 175 gr flour
  • 100 gr cold butter
  • 50 gr icing sugar
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 tbsp cold water.

The filling is made up with the following:

  • 60 ml bergamot juice
  • the zest of one bergamot
  • 100 ml fresh cream
  • 5 eggs
  • 200gr sugar

If you have a food processor, bring it out now. I used Blenderman’s blender, but it was having a pretty hard time. Pop your flour, butter and icing sugar in the food processor and whizz it all up so it becomes looks like crumble for your apple crumble. (If you don’t have a food processor or blender, imagine you’re actually making crumble.) Now add your yolk and water, blend some more, then tip the dough out onto a sheet of baking parchment. Work it out into a circle that’s a little bit larger than your baking tin, try to spread it out as evenly as possible. I used a combination of a rolling pin and my fingers for this, but see what works, the dough can be a bit delicate and sticky sometimes.

Now when you’ve got a good circle, take the whole sheet, turn it upside down, and try to work the dough into the tin so that it’s covering the whole bottom and you’ve got a nice edge on the side. You can push the dough against the side of the tin to hold it up, it’ll come loose whilst you’re baking. Remember that the cake is only going to be as high as its lowest point, as later on you have to fill it with a liquid bergamot filling: if some points are particularly low,use some of the dough from other, higher sides, to patch it up. Use a fork to press little holes in the bottom, but don’t poke them all the way though the dough.

the bergamot, it's bloody great bergamot, it's bostin' mate

Now you’ll have to do some blind baking: get yourself some baking beans, or just any type of dry beans, line your dough with baking parchment, top with the beans and pop the shortcrust in the oven for about 12 minutes on 200 degrees. Next, remove the baking beans, put the empty shell back into the oven for another 10 minutes or so, until it’s got a nice golden brown look. Take it out to cool down, and in the meantime, make the filling.

Check out my baking beans

Check out my baking beans

Beat your eggs together, then add sugar, bergamot juice and zest, and cream. Mix it all up properly. When your shortcrust shell has cooled down, fill it with your bergamot liquid, and put it back in the oven at a slightly lower temperature, 175 degrees. Leave it there for another 35 – 40 minutes. The filling should be solid, but still slightly wobbly. If the crust looks like it’s going to burn, cover the whole lot with some baking parchment or tin foil, until the filling is cooked properly.

Before serving up, top with some icing sugar (mainly because it looks nice, it’s sweet enough as it is). All hail the bergamot!

Ooh oohhh ohhh bergamoooooot you are my loooovvveeee taaaake me nowthis broadcast has been brought to you by the awesome bergamot

This entry was posted in Baking, Desserts, Italian and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to My fruitful quest for something new, or: how I met the bergamot

  1. Anonymous says:

    Ja, heel goed dat je niet op die paar centen (sprak ik vanuit een luxestandpunt) hebt gekeken. Het bijbehorende verhaal was weer een genot om te lezen en je tarte au bergamot wil ik zeker eens proeven. Misschien kun je er op sinteravond een maken?


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