Strawberry Panzanella

Strawberry Panzanella Recipe

This strawberry panzanella recipe was inspired by a childhood of picky eating. Extremely picky eating. My sister Heather was the fruit eater of the family. I, on the other hand, threw away every apple placed in my lunch bag from the time I was in kindergarten all the way through sixth grade - five days a week. Not a fact I'm proud of. The one fruit I did like was the strawberry, but only if my mom allowed me to dunk the perfect berry in plain yogurt, and then in a bowl of brown sugar. I wish I was kidding. With all the delicious strawberries turning up at the market right now, I decided to remix these favorite childhood flavors into a sweet strawberry panzanella. I tossed the bread cubes with a sweet brown sugar glaze, mashed the better part of a basket of strawberries into a dressing, and then served it up with a dollop of slightly tangy yogurt - simple and delicious.

Before I get too far ahead of myself, there are some rules to know when you enter panzanella country. As you can imagine, success starts with your choice of bread. Not all bread lends itself to a stellar panzanella. Choose wisely or all your efforts will be for naught. I encourage you to seek out bread that is the opposite of, say, Wonder Bread. Seek out a loaf that is dense, crusty, hearty, dark, and country-style. If the gods are smiling on you, you'll find a loaf that is all of these things, and is nut-studded as well. The bread needs to be dried out - let it sit out for a day, maybe two. This way it that will retain its structure (and not go to mush) in the midst of all that sweet berry juice - a key to a good panzanella whether you are talking strawberry or a more typical summer version. To further deter the mush (and to add another layer of flavor), I used a buttery, brown sugar glaze on the bread cubes before they went in the oven - it becomes a sugar crust.

Panzanella Recipe

I'm going to remix this recipe a hundred different ways throughout the remainder of the year using different fruits, berries, nuts, and the like. It's totally hassle free, pretty on the plate, and unbelievably flavorful. Perfect as a brunch component, or as a not-to-sweet dessert served family-style. Hope you like it as much as I do.


Strawberry Panzanella Recipe

When shopping for strawberries I prefer ones that are on the smaller side, fragrant, and a deep red in color. The bread you see in the above photo is a loaf of Acme Bread's walnut levain. I suspect their whole wheat seeded loaf would be perfect as well. Use a serrated bread knife to cut the bread into cubes. To veganize the recipe toss the bread cubes with olive oil / brown sugar (but don't heat it) before baking, and skip the yogurt.

1/4 cup unsalted butter
1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons natural cane sugar OR 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

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. 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.

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.

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).

Serves 6 or so.

*I use one of my favorite raw brown sugars in this recipe to get the best brown sugar flavor (alternately, seek out a great muscavado sugar), but for those of you who want to swap in honey or agave nectar - I suspect it would be equally tasty.

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Your Comments

Jen (Modern Beet)
April 17, 2008

Wow Heidi! I had never thought of making a fruit panzanella! This looks unique and delicious and quite perfect for the springtime potluck I'm going to this weekend. Thanks!


April 17, 2008

Mmm, perfect timing for this creation. I just bought two boxes of fresh strawberries yesterday. I bet a good dense German bread would go well in this or at least a multi grain bakery loaf. Sounds great!

- The Peanut Butter Boy


April 17, 2008

Another creative recipe to try someday...a splash of good quality balsamic vinegar, maybe? I've always liked reading your blog. Justs beautiful. Merci.


April 17, 2008

Hi Heidi, I am going to make this for a brunch I'm attending this weekend!
One question: how big is the basket of strawberries? At WF you can buy small or large.

Heidi note: Hi Rachel, I'd go for an overflowing pint-sized basket. The problem with just buying a single pint though, is that if you like to snack on the berries as you are making a recipe like this you are likely going to run short of berries in the end ;) -h


Niall Harbison
April 17, 2008

Hi There, I just stumbled accross your blog on by using stumbleupon and am loving the design! I dont normally stop at blogs relating to food as I already have 20 in my RSS feed and dont even have time to read them! I do like the design though and the use of photos is awesome. I started off blogging as well and always tried to keep a clean design like yours but it aint always easy with all the things you have to fit in! If you feel like showing off any of the cool food pics i'd love to see them on my site for foodies so as all the other foodies can see them! Keep up the good work on the design and happy cooking!


April 17, 2008

Lovely recipe and photos- I can not wait to make this for my parents during a visit home next week! I have been looking for an innovative dessert recipe! Thank you again, Heidi!


April 17, 2008

The strawberries are looking good this year! Last week I purchased a big basket on sale and I'm still eating them.


Claudia @ cookeatFRET
April 17, 2008

crusty nutty bread + butter + brown sugar + fresh local strawberries + thick, rich and tangy yogurt



(but who woulda thought of it but you?)

Thanks Claudia :)


April 17, 2008

Oooh - I love simple desserts! I'm not a huge baker (I have no patience), but this looks fabulous!


April 17, 2008

This looks wonderful, quick, and easily vegan-izable. As strawberries seem to have become a year round crop at the farmer's market, I may just have to try this recipe soon.
Thanks for the inspiration.
(Oh, and I too like to snack on my fruit as I'm preparing a dish. All that luscious ripeness is too hard to resist!)

Jane of


Alice Q. Foodie
April 17, 2008

Oh man, I did exactly the same thing - throwing the apple away EVERY day of elementary school, and it haunts me to this day!


April 17, 2008


Can't wait to try this and add rhubarb for some tartness!

Alice Q. Foodie: how would you make this vegan? What would you sub. for the butter?

Heidi note: Bluebird, I updated the head notes with a vegan tip.


Mmmm. Carbs, fresh in-season fruit, and creamy yogurt. Plus a few pinches of salt for sharpness. This is my kind of dessert.


April 17, 2008

This sounds great and I can't wait to try it. While probably not getting the same results as a panzanella would, I have started making my Strawberry Shortcake with a cornbread base and yogurt topping...very tasty!


April 17, 2008

Haha, cute story!! I've always been a fruit-lover (and a veggie-lover - hence my nickname, VeggieGirl, haha).

Panzanella salads are always so refreshing - thanks for the recipe!!


April 17, 2008

Thanks for adding the vegan tip, Heidi! This is perfect for a baby shower brunch I am hosting this weekend!
Sorry Alice Q. Foodie, I meant to ask Jane for the vegan-izing tip.


Yum! That looks great! It seems like it could be a good way to use left over slices of bread as well.


April 17, 2008

Thank you Heidi, I was looking for a simple dessert for a dinner gathering tomorrow night and this looks absolutely perfect! YUM!


Erin in AK
April 17, 2008

The link to your "favorite raw brown sugars" isn't working. Would you mind trying again? I'd love some recommendations.



April 17, 2008

Yummm... I just adore strawberries and tomato panzanella, what a great way of combining both concepts! I think that strawberries + mozzarella + balsamic vinegar would be out of this world - have to try that yet.

Thanks for the recipe and lovely pic, Heidi.


April 17, 2008

Hmmm-hmmm-hmmm...this is like a sophisticated version of my favorite summer breakfast, strawberries on toast with honey! Lovely!


April 17, 2008

This does look delicious! For those of you looking for vegan options, maybe coconut oil/coconut butter instead of butter and make a cashew cream sauce (raw cashews, chopped dates, agave to taste) to drizzle on top intead of yogurt...


April 17, 2008

i too would be curious to see what your favourite brown sugar is (as the link is not working). thanks. sounds delicious.

Heidi note: Thanks Alison, it should be fixed now.


April 17, 2008

I also grew up eating strawberries dipped in not yogurt, but sour cream, and brown sugar, and have often wondered how I could transform that taste memory into some kind of delicious treat! What a creative interpretation. I can't wait to try it!


April 17, 2008

Ack--so jealous of you Californians with your early spring strawberries!! Will be waiting until July here in NY I suspect....


April 17, 2008

Seriously? Strawberries already? We won't see them in Michigan for 2 months! So jealous. Has the CA economy improved yet? Maybe I should move there, just for the year round farmer's markets......


tiny morsels
April 17, 2008

I can only hope my 2-year-old picky eater grows up to be as adventurous as you are with food today.

And forget dessert, I'm thinking of making this for lunch! This recipe looks awesome.


April 17, 2008

I want this now! Sounds soooo good. Your food combo's are always things that I love! Can't wait to try this. Thanks!!


Gina Johnson
April 17, 2008

This looks amazing and easy!!! I can't wait to try it!


April 17, 2008

color me guilty on the apple tossing, too! while the guilt haunts me, i do recall that the apples would get kind of warm/dented in my locker/bookbag, rendering them far less palatable! but will cop to eating them anyway when my mother cored and filled them with nut butter--i think we've atoned well since, heidi!


Deborah Dowd
April 17, 2008

This is such a great idea- a nice hearty wheat bread or ciabatta- or if you reallt want to make it into a little richer dessert, what about a cubed chocolate babka?!


April 17, 2008

Oh my...

I used to throw away my bag lunch apples too. In fact, every day that I was in high school, I would toss my peanut butter sandwich and my Granny Smith apple into the trash and buy a fundraiser candy bar from a band geek. I swear, I bought at least one whole uniform for the marching band, if not several.


April 17, 2008

To Vegan-ize, use soy yogurt!


The Spotted Apron
April 17, 2008

Wow! I love this recipe. It's so perfect for summer. I think I will make it for a dinner party we're hosting this weekend.


April 17, 2008

I love strawberry and the idea with bread sounds yumm:), and in india this is the season for strawberry will surely try this weekend.


April 17, 2008

I got your book for my birthday yesterday and Im loving it! :D


April 17, 2008

Oh man! This looks delicious and brings back so many memories of bygone childhood summers. I must make this...


April 17, 2008

Heidi, Have just come out of making this recipe. It is A*W*E*S*O*M*E*! Light, delicious, satisfying and leaves you feeling so goood! btw, I am on a diet and this fits well into my scheme of things. I was bothered by the butter, so this is what I did: I used a one inch slab of my own multigrain bread which was just waiting to be used like this :), I buttered it lightly with margarine and thus used maybe 3 tsp of margarine. Then I cut it up into cubes tossed it in 3 tbs of brown sugar and baked it like you suggested.

And I used low fat yoghurt which I made at home...

Thanks is brilliant!


April 17, 2008

I had forgotten dunking strawberries as a kid. We used to use sour cream and brown sugar. The yogurt sounds (slightly) more healthy. Thanks for the memory jog.


Niall Harbison
April 18, 2008

Now this is something that I just have to try! I have been making recipes all my life but have never come accross anything like this before, strawberries?? It sounds weird but I bet it is one of those things that work really well!


April 18, 2008

This is something new that I could try with strawberries. I love strawberries :)


April 18, 2008

Oh dear! Why would anyone want to do this with that most delicious, most gentle, most uncomplicated,summer berry?.What's wrong with fresh, sunwarmed, unadulterated, strawberries? A little icing sugar or fresh cream if you wish but butter, bread and brown sugar? Not for me thanks.


April 18, 2008

That's so funny, I was the exact opposite :) I was the kind that was made fun of for actually getting the beets and string beans!


April 18, 2008

This looks deliciously healthy! I have some blueberries that I might try it with, do you think it'll work with any fruit, basically? Thanks, Heidi!


April 18, 2008

Yes, I'm afraid I'm with AnnieM

It's an interesting notion, but the strawberry season here is so short I don't think I'll be trying it. Although the bread & berry combo can be good, I don't think you can beat a proper English Summer Pudding but really for once you really do need white bread. Good white bread, but white bread nonetheless.

I can't help thinking that sourdough or levain would kill the scented perfection of the strawberries.


April 18, 2008

Heidi I am such a huge fan of yours, you inspire me with new recipes every week. For this recipe can I add extracts to spice it up? I like adding butter extractes and halving the butter I get the taste with less fat, Can I add vanilla extract?



April 18, 2008

As soon as passover over- I am making this dish. A wonderful desert!!


April 18, 2008

when i read this recipe i thought 'strawberries and bread?' i had no idea what a panzanella was. but since nearly every recipe here is so unusual and delicious and this seemed so easy, i made it and gobbled it up just now. it was unbelievably good!!! crunchy, gooey, caramely, juicy, all at the same time. thank you once again for a great recipe. can't wait to see what you have in store next....mmmm.


April 18, 2008

Yummy. Quick question. I live in Texas where the humidity is nothing short of...hell... when trying to dry out bread it instead turns moldy. Would you suggest maybe heating it in the oven on very low heat for a while and if so about how long do you think would be good. I don't want to bake it I realize,just dry it out a bit.
Thanks for any feedback.


Mrs Redboots
April 18, 2008

I had never heard of a panzanella until I read this recipe - which looks to me like an interesting (and rather more complicated) take on Summer Pudding - the one where you line a pudding-basin with bread, fill with summer fruit you have warmed with a little sugar until the juices _just_ run, top with more bread and leave in the fridge overnight; serve with thick cream.

Your recipe looks delicious, but I'm not sure I'd waste early strawbs on it - maybe later in the season when there's a glut and people are making jam.....


April 18, 2008

Same as Erin and Ginger with strawberry season not *quite* here in Utah (snowed only a few days ago, but great for us ski bums). But I couldn't wait long enough for summer, so I also did a more traditional panzanella recently, too--

Strawberry sounds like it would have been a great Easter morning brunch--if I lived in the tropics! Ha. This summer it'll happen.


April 18, 2008

To all veganizers:

1. Earth balance makes a good vegan soy margarine vs. using butter. Works just like butter in recipes.

2. Silk soy yogurt vs. regular.


April 18, 2008

Isn't every child a picky eater in some way or another? I like this post though - the strawberries look yummy.


April 18, 2008

I'm going to Spain next saturday and we were looking forward to gizzilions of strawberries in cream.But Now You've shown me a better way


April 18, 2008

had a breakfast for dinner party last night with your coconut macaroon pancakes, poached eggs and this panzanella (used ezekiel bread). . .highest, highest compliments!!


April 18, 2008

What an interesting twist on strawberries. Sounds like a good breakfast.


April 18, 2008

I JUST realized you were a vegetarian (just read the last 5 entries)

I am slow. But I am a bit wistful as well. For you see, I love your recipes and now I know I will never get a crusted lamb recipe from you. :)

Hope all is well!


i love it!!! i love baking with bread... like puddings!! but they are more complicated!! on the other hand your pancetta was quick and uncomplicated..



April 19, 2008

yummy it's too tasty


Life Chef
April 19, 2008

This reminds me of a sort "light" dessert that I make when the peaches are in season here in Georgia. When their not in season and I need a "take along" dessert in a pinch, I'll use frozen fruit instead. I love the idea of using a hearty bread for crunch texture!

I'd been making this "healthful" dessert using simple whole fruit compotes (recipe at mixed with an oat and brown sugar topping for texture, then poured over angel food cake (cuz it's fat free). The recipe for an Oat Berry Topping is here.

Still it always turned out light and refreshing. I'm going to try a new version incorporating some of your techniques.

And as always... fantastic picture and wonderful post. Thans for all you do!


April 19, 2008

Excelent site. Strawberries - LOVE it! Thanks for sharing.


April 19, 2008

Wow this sounds really delicious. I just found out I'm going to be helping host the Bridesmaid's Luncheon for a friend's wedding so I'm starting to think about good brunch recipes -- this will definitely go on my list of things to try!


April 19, 2008

Heidi, it's like you're looking over my shoulder at the farmer's market, telling me what to buy. Your recipes are amazing. Thank you so much.


April 19, 2008

Looks so lovely! Oh, I can't wait until our strawberry season.


April 19, 2008

I just happened to have all of the ingredients on hand, and was really floored by the results. The stale end of a loaf of country levain transformed in to the most ridiculously caramelized, buttery, sugary cubes of deliciousness. I baked them at 400 degrees for around 10-15 minutes, adding a bit of maple syrup to thin out the glaze without using more butter- ridiculously good.


White On Rice Couple
April 20, 2008

Our Chandler strawberries are doing wonderfully this year. When a few more come out, we'll try this dish. I also enjoy the smaller, deeper colored strawberries. They have so much wonderful flavor!


veggie in the south
April 20, 2008

Thanks for sharing this recipe and the Spring Tabbouleh. I prepared both for a date Friday night and now my bf thinks I'm a goddess!


April 20, 2008

Wow - what a great idea! I can't wait to get fresh strawberries and try this recipe.


The Spotted Apron
April 20, 2008

I was so intrigued by this recipe that I made it for guests this weekend. I really loved the result even though I had several shortcomings. I overcooked the brown sugar and should have cut my bread cubes smaller. But despite it all, it still tasted really good. You can check out my mistakes here...


April 21, 2008

What a great, quick recipe. I tried it over the weekend when I bought some strawberries that actually smelt like strawberries, were small and dark red just as you described they should be.
Your sweet went down a treat with my family and my son suggested that next time I could add some cinnamon to the breadcubes (his favourite spice) which could be quite nice?