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.
note: Overnight draining removes excess moisture from the ricotta. The result is a dense, creamy mixture with a more intense milky flavor that won't leave the pound cake base of these summery bruschette soggy. The purpose of lime juice in this recipe is two-fold, adding intensity to the fruit mixture and preventing the cut nectarine from turning brown.
- Yield:makes 24 bruschette
- 3/4 cup whole milk ricotta
- Pinch kosher salt
- 4 teaspoons honey
- 1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lime juice
- 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
- 1 large ripe nectarine, diced with skin on
- 1/2 cup whole black raspberries or halved blackberries
- 24 pieces basic pound cake, approximately 2" x 1.5" x 3/8"
Line a wire mesh sieve with a double layer of cheese cloth. Set the sieve over a bowl, leaving room beneath the sieve for liquid to collect. Spoon the ricotta into the lined sieve. Fold the corners of the cheese cloth over the ricotta. Place a layer of plastic wrap over the top of the sieve, covering the cheese-cloth bundle. Place a few glass or ceramic bowls on top of the plastic to gently weight the cheese down and place the whole setup in the refrigerator overnight.
Remove the weight bowls and turn the ricotta out of the cheese cloth into a clean bowl. Discard the cheese cloth and the liquid that drained from the cheese overnight. Add the salt and 2 teaspoons of honey to the pressed ricotta and stir well to combine. Cover the mixture and refrigerate until needed.
In a small mixing bowl, stir together the remaining 2 teaspoons of honey, lime juice and thyme leaves. Add the nectarine and berries, and gently toss to coat with the honey mixture. Cover and set aside until needed.
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). Toasted pound cake pieces may be used immediately or placed on paper towels in a single layer to cool for later use.
To assemble: Place a generous dollop, about 1 teaspoon, of the ricotta mixture on each pound cake base, and spread toward the edges. Scoop up the nectarine mixture by the teaspoon, pressing each spoonful gently against the side of the bowl to allow juices to drain away before placing the fruit on top of the ricotta topped pound cake bases. After assembling all of the bruschette, arrange them on a serving platter, drizzle each with a little of the reserved fruit juice mixture, and serve immediately. (As an alternative, serve the components—toasted pound cake, cheese and fruit mixtures—individually so that guests may assemble their own bruschette.)