Anybody who has eaten in a contemporary Italian restaurant is likely to be familiar with the tasty simplicity that is bruschetta. It's little more than toasted slices of bread topped with flavorful combinations of whatever beans, vegetables, herbs, and cheeses suit the mood or happen to be on hand. For Italian chefs and home cooks alike, bruschetta is an easy and infinitely versatile preparation for delicious canapés, appetizers and accompaniments that look attractive without being expensive. By substituting pound cake for the bread and crowning it with sweeter, fruit-based mixtures, you have bruschetta dolce. It's a a fantastic opportunity to take advantage of beautiful summer fruits and the residual heat of the grill, and it makes the ideal finale to your next summer barbecue.
What to Put on Your Bruschetta
Although it's not a classic Italian preparation, bruschetta dolce is nonetheless at its best when prepared according to the basic tenets of classic Italian cooking—freshness, flavor and simplicity. Select only one or two key flavors, perhaps a perfectly fresh fruit and a creamy, mild cheese, and then choose a few simple accents, like toasted nuts or fresh herbs, that will enhance and round out the base flavors and textures. Bear in mind that the same tricks used to make simple savory bruschette so satisfying apply just as well to bruschetta dolce, so don't be afraid to use them. Add smoothness and aroma with a drizzle of spicy olive oil; bring out overall flavors with a pinch of salt; make fruit flavors stand out against rich, fatty backgrounds with a dose of citrus juice or a complementary vinegar.
How to Build Your Bruschetta
Because these two- or three-bite morsels are meant to be eaten casually and, more or less, tidily out of hand, there are a few structural points to keep in mind when conceiving a bruschetta dolce masterpiece. Use pound cake sliced thinly enough so that it doesn't overwhelm the other flavors and textures of the bruschetta, but thickly enough to endure toasting without falling apart and to support toppings and absorb their juices without going limp—somewhere between 3/8- and 1/2-inch generally works well. Though bruschetta dolce can be as simple as a little seasoned fruit on top of pound cake, it is important to drain the fruit of any juices that may have collected before placing it on the toasted cake to prevent sogginess. A base layer of a dense spread—such as drained ricotta, blue cheese, or nut butter—can also help to protect the cake from structure-threatening juices while simultaneously serving to hold toppings in place and add flavor.
Beyond these guidelines, the possibilities for bruschetta dolce are limited only by your imagination. The recipes below have been included solely as inspiration. I encourage you to use whatever beautifully ripe, flavorful fruits you can find and have fun playing around with the rest.
About the author: Amanda Clarke is a recovering restaurant pastry chef with a background in architecture. She lives in Brooklyn, New York, where she writes, tests, and develops recipes and works on freelance food-styling gigs between walkings and feedings of her two dogs and husband.
- Yield:16-20 bruschette
- 1/2 pound fresh sweet cherries
- 1 1/2 teaspoons butter (7 grams)
- 2 teaspoons dark brown sugar (8 grams)
- 3/4 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
- Pinch salt
- 16 - 20 pieces basic pound cake, approximately 2" x 1.5" x 3/8"
- Melted butter
- 3 tablespoons nutella
- About 2 tablespoons toasted blanched hazelnuts, coarsely chopped
Rinse, stem, pit, and quarter the cherries.
Place a small sauté pan over medium-high heat and add butter. When butter has completely melted and begins to foam, add cherries. Sauté, tossing regularly to ensure even cooking, for one minute.
Sprinkle the cherries with the brown sugar and continue to sauté for a few more seconds, just until sugar melts.
Remove the pan from the heat, add vinegar and salt, and toss cherries to distribute. Pour mixture into a wide, shallow bowl to cool.
Brush pound cake slices lightly with olive oil; place on the grill until toasted (alternatively, you can place cake slices in a grill or sauté pan or under the broiler). Remove toasted cake pieces to a paper towel-lined tray to cool completely before assembly.
To assemble: Spread each cooled cake base sparingly with about 1/2 teaspoon of Nutella. Arrange about a teaspoon and a half of the cherry mixture, reserving juices, over the Nutella on each base. Sprinkle each bruschetta with a few pieces of toasted hazelnut. Arrange on a serving tray, drizzle each with some reserved juice, and serve immediately.