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We were having dinner guests and I wanted to celebrate the first beautiful sun-filled weekends we’ve had around here.  That meant some kind of dessert with strawberries.  I saw this Strawberry Panzanella recipe on 101 Cookbooks this week and was intrigued.  I’ve made traditional panzanella, a bread salad, with tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, and onions but never had I thought of a sweet, fruity version.

 

The result was a twist on strawberry shortcake.  The bread was caramelized and crunchy and the soft, mushy strawberries were a good complement.  In hindsight, I would have cut my bread cubes even smaller because they get so crunchy that smaller is better for eating.  I also think I overcooked the brown sugar so it became lumpy as you can see from the spotty coverage of the bread in the pictures.  It was still really tasty but it would have been better if I removed it from the heat once the brown sugar dissolved.  Regardless of my several shortcomings, I really enjoyed my first strawberry panzanella and so did my guests!

 Strawberry Panzanella (Crunchy, Caramelized, Strawberry Shortcake)

Adapted from Heidi of 101 Cookbooks

  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter

  • 1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 
couple pinches of fine grain salt

  • 1 pound loaf of hearty, substantial day-old bread, cut into 1-inch cubes

  • 1+ pint basket of ripe strawberries, trimmed and cut into matchsticks
  • a 7 or 8 ounce container of plain (Greek) yogurt

  • poppy seeds for garnish

1.     Preheat oven to 350F degrees. In a large pot melt the butter. Stir in the sugar and salt. Stir until the sugar dissolves and remove from the heat. Add bread cubes and toss, coating the bread cubes. Toss for a minute or so to get decent coverage.

2.    Pour the bread out onto a baking sheet and arrange them in a single layer. Toast for about 15 minutes or until bread is well toasted, tossing every 5 minutes to make sure all bread surface areas get golden and crunchy.

3.     In the meantime, place half the chopped strawberries in a small bowl and mash them with the remaining 2 tablespoons of brown sugar. I found a potato masher works well for this. Keep mashing until berries are super juicy and appetizingly chunky – this is your dressing.

4.     When the bread cubes are done toasting (and have had a few minutes to cool and crisp up), toss them in a big bowl with the mashed berries. Add the remaining chopped strawberries and toss a bit more. Give the yogurt a good stir, and serve on the side garnished with poppy seeds (feel free to sweeten it a bit to your liking).

 

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