Gratins, those wonderfully hearty and wholesome dishes made by browning a dish under high heat until gooey and slightly crisped, need not be reserved for savory fillings. Fruit gratins are soul-satisfying on a cold evening when you want to bundle up with a bowl of comforting dessert. Read on to learn how to bake a warm winter fruit gratin, and four different toppings you can try out at home.
The most basic component of making a fruit gratin is making a fruit filling, deciding on a topping, and cooking it under the broiler to soften the fruits, release their juices, and slightly brown the topping. From there, you can play around with different filling add-ins to complement the fruits, as well as different toppings to make your browned crust.
To make the filling, simply chop or slice your fresh fruits of choice. If you like, add in honey, lemon or citrus juice, fruit liqueur, and/or baking spices—all to taste. Pour fruit filling into a fire-safe casserole dish, and you’re all set to select your toppings.
Once you select your topping from below, the last part of making the gratin is to cook it. Traditionally this is done under the broiler, because this will cook your fruits fast while achieving a nice brown crust. This will happen fast once you put your gratin in the oven, in a matter of mere minutes, so watch it carefully and check every minute or so to see if it’s done. Depending on the size of your casserole dish, the gratin should take anywhere from 2 to 5 minutes to cook—that’s it!
Here are four topping ideas to use with your fruit gratin, along with recipes to try them out.
This is one of the simplest methods to bake a fruit gratin, and certainly the easiest to whip up at home with few ingredients. Here’s how: Prepare a fresh whipped cream from scratch using heavy cream and sugar—or use a quality store-bought whipped cream—and spoon over your sliced fruit filling in a gratin dish. Broil until the topping is browned and serve. Recipe to try: 10-Minute Fruit Gratin from NYTimes.com
If you like a cream sauce that’s slightly thicker, richer, and creamier than whipped cream, try making your fruit gratin with the Italian mascarpone cheese. Its texture is somewhere between yogurt and cream cheese, and has a wonderful softness that lends itself well to both sweet and savory dishes. To use it in your gratin, spoon it plain (or with citrus zest mixed in) over your prepared fruit filling, and broil until brown. Recipe to try: Fresh Fruit Gratin from LATimes.com
In this slightly more involved method, an egg-based custard sauce is poured over the filling to create a thicker, creamier layer of golden crust over the browned fruits. There’s more work involved in making a custard from scratch, but the payoff is a more indulgent gratin. Recipes to try: Mixed Berry-Almond Gratin from Eatingwell.com and Apricot Custard Gratin from PCC Natural Markets
Just grains or nuts (dairy-free)
If you’re going for a completely dairy-free fruit gratin, skip the cream toppings altogether and stick with either chopped nuts or a sprinkling of grains (such as rolled oats) for the topping. This method is similar to the familiar fruit crisp, but here you’re only sprinkling a small handful of your crunchy topping over the fruits, as opposed to the all-over coating with a crisp. To do it this way, first broil your fruits until bubbly and softened, then add the nuts or grains over the top, and broil for just another minute or two, until browned.
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