Consider yourself lucky if you come across a little citrus fruit too small and yellow to be an orange, too plump and round to be a lemon. Bergamot oranges are grown around the mediterranean. The oil extracted from bergamot peel is the fresh scent we know so well in Earl Grey tea but most of the little spherical fruits are used in the cosmetics industry.
It was the year 2000. Each day after school I stopped at the Church Street coffee shop and ordered a mug of earl grey tea with a chocolate chip cookie. I was 17. I didn’t know it then, but bergamot was probably my high school sweetheart. When summer came, I ordered it in a glass on ice and sometimes skipped the cookie. Unlike other high school sweethearts, bergamot grew with me, and I later discovered it in dark chocolate. No surprise to me: it was the dark chocolate in my after school chocolate chip cookie that made the match.
Ten years later. A little box of bergamot oranges was posed unassumingly by clementines and lemons at a small organic grocery shop that I frequent. By rule of thumb, when I see bergamot, I buy bergamot. So four of them went home with me.
The next step: find recipes! Borrow them, make them up, anything to make the bitter perfumed oranges edible, because alone, they are like lemons.
If they had sold these little cookies I discovered on Lucy’s delicious blog, Hungry Cravings, I might have skipped right to it and become a pastry chef. But then, things could always have been different.
my adaptation of Lucy’s recipe for bergamot orange dreams
- 1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
- ¼ cup cornstarch (or potato starch, as I had)
- ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
- 6 ounces (1 ½ sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 1 cup powdered sugar
- 1 tablespoon grated Bergamot orange zest
- 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed Bergamot orange juice
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 350°F or 180°C.
In a bowl whisk together the flour, corn starch (or potato starch in my case) and salt. Don’t be afraid to go a little heavy on the starch and a little light on the flour.
In another bowl, beat at medium speed, using the paddle attachment, the butter and 1/3 cup of powdered sugar until fluffy and creamy. Mix in the bergamot zest, juice, and vanilla extract.
Mix in the dry ingredients until the dough comes together.
Bake for 16 to 18 minutes, until the bottoms are slightly browned, but the tops are still pale.
Note: If you haven’t got very thick or good quality cookie sheets, double them up to help your cookies not to burn on the bottom. I have two types of cookie sheets, one from a consumer cookware shop, and one from a professional cookware shop. The difference was remarkable. The professional sheet yielded a much more evenly baked cookie than the other sheet. Over-baking is a no-no for citrus flavored cookies. The citrus flavor is easily thrown off by the slightly burned flavor. I admit that I sometimes enjoy a very well-baked crust with a lemon curd pie, but these cookies are much more fragrant if not overcooked!
I like to roll the cookies in powdered sugar almost directly after baking. The sugar absorbs some of the cookie’s melted butter, giving a silky effect. But if you prefer the sugar to stay white and snowy, wait until the cookies are almost cooled down before rolling them in powdered sugar.