I love having a dessert recipe in my backpocket that's simpler to make than it looks. These are the ones you break out for get-togethers, the ones that people think you spent all afternoon on and you really spent no more than 15 minutes of active time. This is one such dessert.
Usually my go-to party dessert are my brownies. They're super simple, decadent, and when sprinkled with a little powder sugar, they seem far fancier than the effort they require. But in the warmer months, I love working with the fruits that are in season, so when I saw the recipe for Blackberry Squares recently on Tracy Benjamin's beautiful blog, Shutterbean, I knew I wanted to do a riff on them with my new obsession: roasted strawberries.
Have you made roasted strawberries before? I first read about the approach from Heidi Swanson's book Supernatural Everday. My version differs a bit in using honey and more balsamic vinegar, but the end result, I imagine, is much the same: berries that soften and become quite delicate and decadent, releasing their thick juices along the way. I'll often save some of the juices to spoon over ice cream or yogurt. This, my friends, is summer encapsulated.
Roasting the strawberries is really the most labor intensive part of this recipe, and it could hardly be categorized as such. It does take about 40 minutes, but that's not active time — it's just do something else while the strawberries roast time. Other than that, you're just slicing puff pastry, mixing up a little goat cheese, baking the squares and topping them with a roasted berry. Easy, pretty, and delicious.
A few quick notes on the recipe: You're in charge of the timing here. If you want to roast the strawberries in the morning and put together the rest of the recipe later that day, go right ahead. Do note that the strawberries and puff pastry bake at the same temperature, so feel free to have them in the oven at the same time, too. The mint leaves are simply a pretty garnish and don't add much in terms of flavor. If you'd rather use a little basil or rosemary sprigs, those would be pretty as well.
Roasted Strawberry Goat Cheese Squares
Makes about 12 squares
puff pastry, thawed
strawberries, washed and hulled
extra virgin olive oil
Dash black pepper
goat cheese, room temperature
leaves fresh mint, garnish
Allow puff pastry to come to room temperature. For most store-bought brands, this takes 30 to 40 minutes. Preheat oven 350°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment and set aside.
Hull the strawberries and cut them in half lengthwise. If they're very large berries, you can quarter them instead. In a medium-sized bowl, combine the maple syrup, balsamic vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper. Add 1 tablespoon of the honey and whisk to combine. Add the strawberries and toss until the berries are fully coated.
Turn berries out onto baking sheet and roast until the fruit has softened and the juices are just beginning to thicken, about 40 minutes.
While the berries are roasting, in a small bowl, mix together the goat cheese, lemon zest and remaining tablespoon honey. Set aside.
On a lightly floured surface, cut the puff pastry into roughly 3-inch squares. Place each on the parchment-lined sheet about 1 inches apart. Score a quick square shape into the center of each pastry, taking care not to cut all the way through.
Dollop a small spoon of the goat cheese mixture onto each square. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes until golden. Let squares cool slightly, at least 10 minutes.
Then place a small mint leaf on the center of each and top with a syrupy roasted strawberry. Serve warm or room temperature. Best served the day they're made.
Related: No Bake Strawberry Icebox Cake
(Images: Megan Gordon)