A Toast to Summer Desserts and Drinks

From cream puffs to martinis, the following eight recipes feature the unique fruit bergamot

Text and food styling by John F. Carafoli
Photography by Francine Zaslow

I am always looking for new adventures, especially when it comes to cuisine and culture. I love going to Northern Italy, the birthplace of my grandparents. However, last February my curiosity about Southern Italy led me to Calabria. From Rome, I boarded a plane to the Reggio di Calabria, across the Strait of Messina from Sicily.

On this trip, I learned about the unique fruit bergamot (bergamonte). This pear-shaped citrus, slightly green in color, is the result of cross-breeding lemon and orange trees. It was the component of the original Eau de Cologne developed in Germany in the 17th century. The inside has a sour, bitter taste and is not edible. It is the outer skin of the nearly ripe fruit that is prized for its fragrant essential oil. Most of us know its scent and flavor from Earl Grey Tea. However, it is also used in versatile ways, as I discovered on this exciting journey. Bergamot is found in famous French perfumes, soaps, candy, marmalade, liquors and aromatherapy. Bergamot has also been noted for its medicinal properties and is said to have a calming effect when a few drops are applied to the skin.

Bergamot Vodka Martini


If you love the scent of bergamot, this is the perfect drink! Chilled straight up, stirred, not shaken, with a twist of fresh bergamot if available, or the peels of an orange and a lemon.
Note: If you can find fresh bergamot in season, make your own bergamot vodka. (See recipe, at right).

4 ounces vodka
Twist of fresh bergamot (in season) or orange
and lemon
1/2 drop of bergamot oil (use sparingly)
Ice cubes

1. Chill martini glasses in the freezer.
2. Pour the vodka and extract into a cocktail shaker with 5 to 6 ice cubes and stir gently for five to 10 seconds—do not shake!
3. Strain into the chilled martini glasses. Serve straight up.
Garnish with a twist of bergamot, or orange and lemon twists.

Bergamot-Infused Vodka

You can buy a variety of citron vodkas in your local liquor store. For a more authentic flavor, make your own with the bergamot in season. Once you have tasted your homemade variety, you will not go back to the store variety.
Use bergamot in season or to simulate the bergamot flavor, use the peel from both an orange and a lemon. Another option is to use a drop or two of the bergamot oil in the vodka—but use it sparingly!

1 bottle (700ml) 80 proof vodka
Peel of a large bergamot (if in season)
or an orange and a lemon
1/8 teaspoon of superfine sugar

Slice the peel from one bergamot, if using, or any of the other two citrus fruits, making sure to remove the pits. Put the peel into the vodka bottle, add the sugar and shake well. Let the vodka infuse for 3 to 4 days or longer, if you prefer. Chill the vodka in the freezer. Serve in chilled shot glasses.

Bergamot Panna Cotta


This is one of my favorite summer desserts. Served on a base of fresh summer strawberry or raspberry purée, or with an assortment of berries on the side.

5 cups heavy cream
Thinly pared zest of 1 lemon and 1 orange
4 teaspoons unflavored gelatin
2/3 cup cold milk
2½ tablespoon bergamot extract
1 cup powdered sugar
1/4 cup orange juice
Raspberry or strawberry purée
Candied orange for garnishing the cups

1. Pour 3¾ cups of cream into a saucepan, add lemon and orange zest. Bring to a boil, then simmer until reduced by one-third. Remove the cooked lemon and orange zest. Set aside.
2. Sprinkle the gelatin over the milk in another small saucepan and soak until softened, about five minutes. Stir over low heat until the gelatin dissolves completely. Add to boiled cream mixture, along with two teaspoons of bergamot. Allow this combination to cool.
3. Whip the remaining 1¼ cups cream with powdered sugar and remaining ½ teaspoon of bergamot to form a firm consistency. Fold into the cooled cream, and mix in the orange juice.
5. Place a piece of cooked lemon and orange zest in each of the eight (6-ounce) custard cups, and pour in the cream mixture. Cover and refrigerate for at least two hours or overnight.

When ready to serve, place each custard cup, one at a time, in warm water for a few minutes to loosen the dessert. Run a knife inside each cup, turning out the contents onto small dessert plates covered with raspberry purée. Garnish top with slivers of orange and lemon peel.

Bergamot Honey

I drizzled this over Pecorino cheese as an appetizer with a glass of white Ciro, Calabria’s flagship wine. It can be found at Blanchard’s Wine & Spirits in Hyannis. These flavors make the perfect combination.

Take one jar (8-ounce) honey
(I used Pure Cranberry Bog Honey from Crow Farm in East Sandwich), and stir in one drop bergamot oil. You may use a larger jar if you like, but only use another half drop of the oil, as it is very intense.


Earl Grey Chocolate Cake


Lisa Cavanaugh of the Spice Merchant in Mashpee Commons gave me this unique recipe using Earl Grey tea.

2 teaspoons of loose Earl Grey tea
or 3 bags of Earl Grey tea
1¼ cup water
Boil the water and steep tea for 5 to 8
minutes, strain, cool and reserve 1 cup
1¾ cup all-purpose flour
2 cups sugar
¾ cup 100 percent unsweetened
cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon sea salt
2 eggs
1 cup buttermilk
1 stick butter (8 ounces), melted
and cooled
1½ teaspoons bergamot extract

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and sea salt.
3. Add the tea, eggs, buttermilk, melted
butter and bergamot extract.
4. Whisk to combine, but do not overbeat.
5. Pour batter in a buttered 10-inch
Bundt pan.
6. Bake 35 to 40 minutes. With a small knife, test for doneness. When cool, remove from pan and drizzle the glaze on top or dust with confectioners sugar.

Glaze for chocolate cake:
1 cup confectioners sugar
1-to-2 tablespoons orange juice
1/2 teaspoon bergamot extract

Stir the orange juice into the sugar. Add the bergamot extract and mix to incorporate.
May be thickened or thinned by adding more sugar or juice.

Bergamot Whipped Cream

This recipe may be cut in half, depending upon how many people you are serving. Bergamot may be used in the cream puffs, served with the chocolate cake or any of your favorite desserts.

1 cup cold whipping cream
½ teaspoon bergamot extract
1 teaspoon confectioner’s sugar

Pour the cream into a large, chilled stainless steel bowl and whip until stiff peaks are just about to form. Beat in bergamot and sugar until peaks form. Make sure not to over-beat—if you do, the cream will become lumpy and butter-like.

Créme Anglaise


In Calabria, I tasted this rich, creamy sauce served over a small puff pastry filled with whipped cream. Crème Anglaise is the ideal ending to a light summer meal. Puff pastry shells may be purchased from the Whole Foods pastry department in Hyannis or your favorite bakery.

2 large egg yolks
1 cup heavy cream
1/3 cup white sugar
½ teaspoon each of orange liqueur,
such as Grand Marnier and Limoncello
1½ teaspoons bergamot extract
6 to 8 puff pastry shells

1. Whisk egg yolks, cream, sugar, liqueurs and bergamot extract in a small saucepan until smooth.
2. Place saucepan over medium-low heat and cook. Stir constantly with a rubber spatula, scraping the bottom until the mixture is hot and thickens; about 6 to 8 minutes.
3. Remove from heat and strain to remove any over-cooked particles of egg. Allow mixture to cool. Serve over mini puff pastry shells filled with fresh plain or bergamot whipped cream.

Bergamot Olive Oil Cake


I made this cake several times. It is wonderful served by itself or with a dollop of whipped cream. Alternatively, you could present a single serving with sweetened fruit, like raspberries or strawberries on the side.

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 ¾ cups sugar
1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt
½ teaspoon baking soda
1 ½ teaspoon baking powder
1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 ¼ cups whole milk
3 large eggs
1 tablespoon each grated lemon and orange zest
¼ cup fresh lemon and orange juice
1 tablespoon bergamot extract

1. Heat the oven to 350° F.
2. Butter a 10-inch Bundt pan.
3. In a bowl, whisk the flour, sugar, salt, baking soda and baking powder. In another bowl, whisk the olive oil, milk, eggs, lemon and orange zest, juice and bergamot extract. Add the dry ingredients; fold until just combined. Do not over mix.
4. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 1 hour, until the top is golden and a cake tester comes out clean. Let cool for 30 minutes.
5. Remove sides of pan and let cake cool for several hours before serving.

For the glaze:
Mix 1 cup confectioner’s sugar with 1 to 2½ tablespoons orange juice and ¼ teaspoon bergamot extract. Drizzle over top of cake and sprinkle with the zest of an orange.


Food-grade essential bergamot oil:
Atlantic Spice Company
2 Shore Road, North Truro

Great Cape Herbs
2624 Main Street, Brewster

Bergamot extract:
The Cook Shop
Lemon Tree Village
1091 Route 6A, Brewster

Spice Merchant
Mashpee Commons
12 Central Square, Mashpee

Bergamot fruit
(available only January to March):
Sid Wainer & Son
Gourmet Outlet
2301 Purchase St., New Bedford

White Ciro, Calabria’s flagship wine:
Blanchard’s Wine & Spirits
167 Corporation Road, Hyannis

Pure cranberry bog honey:
Crow Farm
192 Route 6A, Sandwich

With Special Thanks
Mary Rose Antiques, 159 C Main St., Sandwich, 508-360-0418, for loaning plates and background fabrics for the photo shoot.

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