Summer is an exciting time for fruit lovers. After a winter full of citrus and cold-storage apples, the appearance of sun-warmed melons and berries of every shape and size and stone fruits galore can make even the most even-keeled among us go a bit loopy. Whether you have overindulged your desire at the local farmers' market, received a CSA full of sugary bliss, or just gone a bit bonzo at the grocery store, two truths remain. One, nothing is better than summer fruit, and two, nothing goes smooshy and rotten or moldy faster.
Sure, you can start making jam to salvage bruised fruits or overripe berries, make them into pie fillings to stash away for a winter surprise, or freeze them in batches for future smoothies. But if you don’t have inclination to start canning things, or limited freezer space, roasting those fruits can be a great way to extend their life.
Slow-roasted whole berries or cut up stone fruit with a dusting of sugar creates a jammy cooked fruit in a thick syrup that is ideal for swirling into yogurt, filling shortcakes, making ice cream sundaes, or using as a topping for fancy toast.
Likewise, breakfast or brunch for a crowd can be stressful enough, but especially so in the summer when standing over a hot stove making everyone’s favorite eggs is just more than a cook should have to tackle on a lovely sunny morning. Solution: the sheet pan breakfast, easier to pull off, quick and painless. And when these two concepts collide, you have an easy brunch that highlights everything we love about summer, but without too much fuss.
You can absolutely make a sheet pan pancake or French toast casserole and top with your roasted fruit with delicious results, but to take it to a place that is a little more surprising, try this sheet pan corn cake. Sort of a love child of corn bread and a hoe cake, this corn pancake provides a wonderful nutty receptacle to receive the topping of your choice. It can go savory happily; use it as a base for a new-fangled Benedict, top with scrambled eggs and queso, or smear with pimento cheese and crispy bacon. Make a hash of greens and summer squashes and serve over top, or simply drizzle with honey butter or maple syrup diner style.
But roasted fruit is a match made in heaven. It goes to a place that hits the sweet brunch spot of a dish that skirts the edge of being dessert, but manages to feel like a morning treat in a pretty guilt free way. A dollop of yogurt will take it more in that brunch direction, but ice cream or whipped cream wouldn’t be amiss, leaning it more towards a shortcake place that would be a wonderful light ending to a summer meal.
I grease my pan liberally with bacon fat, because, well, bacon, and it still works with sweet or savory applications equally well—but you can use vegetable shortening or even canola oil on yours.
However you use either of these recipes, your summer will be more delicious for the effort.
Roasted Summer Fruit
Makes 2 cups
1 pint of whole berries, washed and hulled, or cut up stone fruits
2 tablespoons granulated sugar (if you have vanilla sugar, it is a great thing to use here)
Preheat oven to 250°F. Mix the berries or stone fruit with the sugar in a small bowl and spread into a single layer on a small sheet pan. Roast for 90 minutes to 2 hours, you want the fruit to keep its shape and just sort of slump a bit, releasing just enough juices to make a light syrup with the fruit. Scrape all of the fruit and juices into a container and store in the fridge for up to a week.
Sheet Pan Corn Cake
1 ½ cups medium or coarse cornmeal
1 ½ cups fine cornmeal or corn flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/3 cup granulated sugar, plus 2 teaspoons
2 ½ cups buttermilk
1 stick butter, melted
2 large eggs, beaten
1 ½ tablespoons bacon fat or vegetable shortening or canola oil
Preheat your oven to 400°F.
Grease a large baking sheet with a one-inch rim with bacon fat or shortening or oil, being sure to get into the corners.
In a large bowl mix the dry ingredients and set aside. In a smaller bowl, blend the wet ingredients, then pour into the dry ingredients and fold together gently until well mixed. Pour the batter into your prepared pan, and bake at 400 for 13-16 minutes until golden brown on top and bounces back when you press the top. It should be pulling slightly away from the sides.
Cool on a rack for 10 minutes before slicing into squares for serving with the topping of your choosing.