Strawberries roasted with a little sugar for a long, long time in a low oven become the most wonderful confection that you will feel tempted to just eat with a spoon, alternating with dollops of whipped cream.
Is this jam?
It’s not jam, nor preserve. It will keep in the fridge for few weeks but not for ever like jam, because the sugar content is not very high.
Slow roasted strawberries are berries marvellously shrunk like the tsantsas made by the Amazonian rainforest tribes, sauced with thick and luscious syrup.
The idea comes from chef Michelle Polzine of 20th Century Cafe in San Francisco via Food 52. And I am amazed that it didn’t occur to me before, since I love roasting berries to use in yoghurts, desserts and cakes.
Roasting without much added sugar concentrates the flavour, makes not-so-ripe fruit wonderfully sweet and eliminates some water content from the fruit, which makes it perfect for cake filling.
This is not light roasting though – it’s an industrial approach where a kilo of strawberries is roasted at a low temperature for an eternity.
How to prepare strawberries for roasting
I adore small strawberries. Unfortunately, most strawberry farmers disagree and love selling varieties the size of eggs. I do understand and don’t blame them: it’s a simple calculation of a plant’s yield times price per weight.
But sometimes, usually on the ‘less perfect’ or ‘wonky’ shelf there will be a punnet of berries that you can fit each into your mouth whole.
Small strawberries are just the ticket here, since you won’t have to cut them and thus leach the juices. And they will look prettier.
But of course, larger berries can be used just as well. Large or small, they need to be rinsed and hulled rather than topped and tailed, if you have the patience.
Again, mainly for the aesthetics but also because they will hold the shape better. If you can, let them dry a little after washing. Soggy fruit might turn mushy in the oven.
How much sugar?
The amount of sugar is minimal when compared with jamming or preserving: about 10% of the fruit weight; even less if the berries are super sweet.
Toss them with the sugar in a bowl so they are more or less coated, then find a non-reactive dish (Pyrex, ceramic, stainless steel) that will fit them snugly in one layer.
How to roast them?
Oven temperature should hold at 120C/250F; therefore, gas oven owners are at a disadvantage. On the other hand, I last used one eight years ago: they might make them super-stable now (if they make them at all).
Once you’ve slipped the dish into the oven, it’s only a matter of minutes before an absolutely divine aroma will permeate your house. It’s worth preparing those strawberries for that reason only!
You should leave them be in the oven, only occasionally check if the tops of the berries are not drying out too much as the liquid cooks off. You can turn the ones that are very carefully, or just shake the dish gently.
Roasting time is anything between 3 and 6 hours, depending mainly on the size of the berries and their water content.
They are ready when the juice has thickened and reduced, and the berries are jammy but not chewy or dried out.
How to use roasted strawberries?
Get a spoon and tuck in!
I’m not entirely just being silly: they taste simply epic. The flavour is concentrated exponentially and the amount of sugar is nothing sickly like in jams.
They are not only gorgeous but useful to have in the fridge too. Plain boring vanilla ice cream is transformed into a luscious dessert.
Plain oats and a scoop of Greek yoghurt becomes a decadent breakfast with a tablespoon of those, and it doesn’t even need to be overnight oats.
They will make an elevated strawberry fool, made actually the traditional way which means using roasted or stewed fruit.
And outstanding cake fillings and frostings can be made by folding the roasted strawberries into whipped crem or mascarpone.
Have I mentioned scones and crem tea? These will be lovelier than any jam in the world, whatever you put on first.
But we can do even better!
The best recipe using roasted strawberries
My favourite use of them is as follows:
Bake a simple flat sponge using your own recipe or mine - for the cake base in strawberry crumble cake (ignoring the crumble and fruit).
When it’s cool, top it generously with clotted cream, homemade or shop bought. And finally add to it the crowning glory of slow roasted strawberries, generously.
Cut it into portions and serve straight away. It’s a no-scone cream tea, it’s the ultimate cream tea experience, it’s bliss.
More strawberry recipes
Since I’ve mentioned jam several times, here’s jam: homemade strawberry jam with a twist of lemon and a sprinkle of black pepper enhancing the strawberry flavour.
Classic strawberry fool with fresh fruit: whipped cream, lightly scented with vanilla, layered with barely sweetened strawberry puree.
Strawberry fizz drink, with prosecco and frozen strawberries. It’s a little like kir or bellini, a refreshingly summery prosecco cocktail.
More fruit preserve recipes
Homemade redcurrant jelly is awesome with roast lamb, turkey pie and venison steaks. And this is a super speedy recipe which still makes crystal clear jelly!
Turn fresh sweet, pitted cherries into quick and simple glace cherries, the best and the easiest homemade candied fruit.
Fig confit, confiture with whole chunks of figs in syrup made with port or madeira wine. It is more versatile than jam as you can use it also with cheese and meats.