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.

If you make this recipe, I'd love to see it - tag it #101cookbooks on Instagram!
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Comments

  • 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.

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

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

    SnowMama
  • 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.

    bluebird
  • 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!!

    VeggieGirl
  • 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!

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

    Becky And The Beanstock
  • YUM! 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.

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

    Alice Q. Foodie
  • Heidi, 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 VeganBits.com

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

    bitchincamero
  • crusty nutty bread + butter + brown sugar + fresh local strawberries + thick, rich and tangy yogurt = perfection (but who woulda thought of it but you?) Thanks Claudia :)

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

    vegoftheweek
  • 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!

    Jill
  • 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 www.ifoods.tv so as all the other foodies can see them! Keep up the good work on the design and happy cooking!

    Niall Harbison
  • 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. thanks. 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

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

    Mireille
  • 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

    Nick
  • 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!

    Jen (Modern Beet)
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