Alibi V.14 No.4 • Jan 27-Feb 2, 2005 

Eating In

Bergamot-scented Apple Crumble

The flavor of Earl Grey without the tea

One of the best ideas I've come up with lately was this bergamot-scented apple thing. When my family came to town for Thanksgiving, I dusted off the dishes and got cooking. But when it came time to make the traditional apple pie, I realized that all of my Pyrex pie plates had been reassigned to potted plant drip-catching duty. The closest thing my cupboard held was a 10-inch cake pan. So the pie became a deep-dish apple tart-thing with a crumble top. To spice it up a bit, I added a few drops of essential oil of bergamot to the tossed apples. The result was fantastic, full of apple flavor, but the mysteriously citrusy bergamot aftertaste was addictive.

Essential oil of bergamot comes from the rind of an Italian citrus fruit that looks like an orange, but is believed to be a cross between a sweet lemon and a sour orange. The oil is what gives Earl Grey tea its distinctive citrus note. You can use the tea to infuse milk or cream and churn it into Earl Grey ice cream or Earl Grey crème anglaise. But if you want to isolate the delicate bergamot flavor from the strong black tea, buy yourself some bergamot oil. It's available at natural foods stores.

The second time I made this dish, for a recent dinner party, I didn't have time to make a pie crust. In a hurry, I tossed sliced apples with some flour, a little sugar, juice of a lemon and drops of bergamot oil, and threw them straight into the pan, topped with the crumble topping. Without a bottom crust, the tart became a pleasantly light finish to an otherwise heavy meal.

Now I think the easiest and tastiest method is to use a lot of buttery crumble topping.

Bergamot-scented Apple Crumble


Crumble topping:

1 cup unflavored oatmeal

3/4 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 cup butter, cut into 1/4-inch cubes

Apple mixture:

2 1/2 pounds tart apples

2 tablespoons flour

Juice of 1 lemon

4 drops essential oil of


Heat oven to 350°.

1) In a mixing bowl, combine oats, sugar, flour and salt. Add butter and work into flour mixture using a pastry blender, two knives or your palms. Set aside.

2) Peel, core and thinly slice apples. In a large bowl, toss apples with flour, lemon juice and bergamot oil.

3) Dump apples into a big pie plate, cake pan or any other smallish ovenproof dish. Sprinkle crumble topping over apples and bake for 45 minutes or until topping is golden brown and a knife inserted all the way into the crumble meets little resistance.