The most heavenly dessert. Think strawberry shortcake meets Tiramisu! Tastes like a perfect combo of the two but this is so quick and easy to throw together with just a few simple ingredients making it the perfect elegant dessert to whip up for last minute company. This is a dessert version of Panzanella, the classic Italian bread salad where toasted bread cubes get tossed into a savory mixture of fresh tomatoes, basil, garlic, and vinegar and soften as they soaks up all the delicious flavorful juices. In this sweet version I borrowed the same method using strawberries in place of tomatoes, basil sugar and/or Basil simple syrup in place of the vinegar, and sweet and buttery brioche bread for the croutons, then top it all off with a sweetened mascarpone cream for the perfect creamy Italian finish. The result is sheer bliss. One bite of this and you’ll never look at Panzanella or Strawberry Shortcake the same way again.
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Inactive Time: 10 minutes
- For Brioche Croutons:
- 4 slices brioche
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 tablespoons mint or basil sugar
- (Recipe below)
- 2 cups fresh strawberries, stemmed and sliced
- 1/3 cup mint or Basil sugar (recipe below)
- Splash of mint or Basil simple syrup, optional
- 2 tablespoons orange liqueur
- 1 cup sugar
- A few sprigs fresh Basil
- 1/3 cup water if using part of the sugar to make simple syrup
Combine sugar and basil in a food processor and process on high a few seconds until the Basil is fully combined into the sugar.
Remove and set aside 1/3 cup for the strawberries and another 2 or three tablespoons for the brioche croutons, and use the rest to make simple syrup to add to the strawberry mixture, if desired. To make the simple syrup combine 1/3
cup of the basil sugar with with 1/3
cup water in a small sauce pan and heat in stovetop over medium heat until almost boiling and sugar dissolves. Remove from heat and cool before using.
In a bowl combine sliced strawberries, 1/3 cup basil sugar and a sprinkle of fresh Basil, if using. Add in a splash of orange liqueur, and a splash of the Basil simple syrup, if using. (By a splash I mean aim for approximately one or two tablespoons of each so you don’t overdue with liquid as the strawberries will also release juice as they macerate in the sugar.)
Stir well and let strawberries release their juice into the mixture while you make the croutons.
For Sweet Brioche Croutons:
Spread a small pat of butter, roughly 1/2 tablespoon or so, on one side of each brioche slice and place the slices on a sheet pan. Sprinkle reserved Basil sugar evenly on top of each slice. Bake at 350 approximately 7-10 minutes until the slices are well toasted and the the sugar topping is crunchy. Remove and cool while you make the mascarpone cream topping.
For the Mascarpone Cream:
In a standing mixer with whisk attachment or in a bowl with a hand mixture combine 1/2 cup mascarpone, 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream, and 1/3 cup granulated sugar and whip on high until well combined and the heavy cream thickens up in the mixture-a couple minutes or so. Add in the vanilla and 1 teaspoon or so of zest if using and mix again on medium speed for a few more seconds to incorporate.
To Assemble Panzanella:
Cut toasted brioche into approximately 1-2 inch cubes and toss into the macerated strawberry mixture until well combined. Divide among short parfait glasses and place generous dollops of mascarpone on top or layer alternating cream and Panzanella mixture in each glass. Garnish with a fresh sliced strawberry and Basil sprig on top and serve!
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