To say that the heat of New York City was unbearable this past weekend hardly gives a full impression of just how hot the sun was, how heavy the air was, how the temperature reached unhealthy levels and forced many into the artificial air conditioning of whatever store or café was nearest. It was horribly, disgustingly hot, and the mere act of breathing was an unpleasant chore.
These are the summer days that are so easy to forget about when, in the midst of a cold February, one wistfully imagines July days spent lakeside drinking lemonade and dipping strawberries into freshly-made whipped cream. These fantasies do not transition into reality in New York City, or if they do, I certainly have never seen them.
No matter the weather, though, summertime is a lovely time to sample all the fruits that the season has to offer (even if certain recipes use the frozen variety of said fruits). Which is why I decided to brave the oven and try this recipe for a mixed berry strata. I, of course, stayed far away from my kitchen while this was baking, but once the strata cooled and I took a bite, I decided that it was well worth it.
Stratas are generally considered a brunch dish, which are usually made with layers of ingredients placed over a base of bread and cheese and baked in an oven. These components are found in this dessert strata, as well. The final result is something less cohesive than a pie or a tart, as there is no crust, and once plated, looks similar to a crumble.
I brought it into my office, and one person told me that it reminded him of the French Clafouti, with a custard-like consistency (in order to achieve this, make sure that you use both whole milk and ricotta). Other co-workers were pleased with the berry tartness combining with the sweetness of honey and juice.
Ingredients:2 tbsp. butter
3 tbsp. honey
4 large eggs
1/2 cup whole milk ricotta
3 tbsp. sugar
1 cup whole milk
1/4 cup orange juice
4 slices of bread, torn into 1-inch pieces (about 4 cups)
1 16 oz. bag frozen mixed berried, thawed and drained
1. Melt the butter in a small saucepan over low heat. Turn off the heat, add the honey, and stir to combine.
2. In a large bowl, beat the eggs. Then combine with the ricotta and sugar. Add the milk, orange juice, butter and honey mixture, and bread. Stir to combine. Gently fold in the berries.
3. Place the ingredients in a 10-inch round baking dish. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, up to 12 hours.
4. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Bake the strata until golden on top and baked through, about 40 minutes. Let stand 5 minutes before serving. Spoon into dishes and serve.