My mom says when she was a girl, she could eat a loaf of Italian bread in one sitting. This, beyond her sense of humor and strong will, is how I know we’re family.
It’s not at all uncommon, when driving home from Dominick’s with bread I’ve purchased, for me to tear off a chunk with my hands and bite right in, crumbs falling on my lap and the steering wheel.
Taken out of the oven, with steam slowly escaping, Italian bread cracks along the top and smells like a bakery in the morning, heady with yeast and sweetness.
The golden crust reveals an interior pillow of downy softness and air holes, the foundation of roast beef sandwiches, toast with butter and jam, stuffing, or even a snack of Nutella in the afternoon.
Also, Italian bread is the foundation of crostini, which is essentially toasted slices baked with toppings, be they prosciutto with cheese or figs with honey.
So when I contemplated using up the last of some bread this week, it had to be a matter of creativity and invention.
There were s’mores crostini (topped with Nutella, then marshmallows – too sweet, and easily burned), bittersweet chocolate crostini (bleh, needed something more) and apple cinnamon crostini (which I never did get around to).
The winning recipe seemed as odd of a combination as the sandwich I constructed at my work desk a few days ago, a Pepperidge Farm double-chocolate cookie hugged by two saltines – which, if you’re asking, was quite good, in fact.
These crostini are topped by sliced pears marinated with maple syrup (of all things!) and then kissed by crumbled Parmesan cheese. They’re subtle in their sweetness, enough that you’ll eat a few before realizing what’s happened.
Indeed, in the course of making six or so, I ate them all.
Every. Single. One.
I think there might be half a slice waiting for me in the fridge, but not for my lack of wanting it immediately. Rather, after trying several other slices (namely, a few burnt s’mores), my waistline about to burst, I just couldn’t fit anything else in.
Lovely as an appetizer or tasty snack, these little toasts even make a delightful meal, particularly when you eat enough of them and, ahem, you will.
Quick note: Christmas is coming! So are more cookies, I promise. The many, many I have baked already are viewable here, and you won’t go wrong with any of them.
Although, if I had to pick, I might say the rosemary and the chocolate chip… Okay, also the goofy cowboy ones could be called favorites. Still, my favorite, favorite recipes are yet to come, so stay tuned!.
Cooking by the Numbers…
Step 1 – Prep
Prep your ingredients. Use a good quality serrated bread knife to carve off six thick slices of French bread.
Wash your fruit thoroughly. Using a sharp chef’s knife, cut thin slices from each pear.
When you get towards the center, you can remove the core and stem area at the bottom of the fruit with a paring knife or the tip of your chef’s knife.
Lay out all of your prepared ingredients, so your mise en place is ready to go.
Step 2 – Toast the Bread
Preheat oven to 350°F. Place bread slices on a buttered cookie sheet or one lined with a Silpat. Toast the bread for 10 to 15 minutes.
Or, feel free to use a premium toaster oven to get the same effect in three or four minutes.
Step 3 – Add the Syrup
Place the pears to a small bowl and slowly add the maple syrup, ensuring full coverage. Let soak for around 10 minutes.
Step 4 – Cheese It Up
Place the toast on a buttered cookie sheet, or one lined with a Silpat or another type of silicone liner.
Layer three to four slices of pear onto each bread slice. Drizzle on any remaining maple syrup from the bowl and then sprinkle on a generous amount of Parmesan cheese.
Step 5 – Broil
Broil for in the oven for 10 minutes or so, until you see the cheese start to turn a nice crusty brown in spots. Your pear slices will soften and the syrup will infuse itself into the rest of the ingredients.
As a finishing touch (purely optional), microwave two tablespoons of salted butter and lightly drizzle over the top.
Plate and serve warm or room temperature and watch the smiles appear around the table. An easy-peasy lazy weekend breakfast or brunch whipped up in no time at all.
What about you? Do you have any scrumptious crostini topping suggestions? Let’s hear them in the comments below! Or try some of our other favorite variations:
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Photos by Mike Quinn, © Foodal / Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details. Originally published December 5th, 2008 by Shanna Mallon. Revised and updated November 8th, 2017, with additional writing by Mike Quinn.
*Nutritional information derived from a database of known generic and branded foods and ingredients and was not compiled by a registered dietitian or submitted for lab testing. It should be viewed as an approximation.
About Shanna Mallon
Shanna Mallon is a freelance writer who holds an MA in writing from DePaul University. Her work has been featured in a variety of media outlets, including The Kitchn, Better Homes & Gardens, Taste of Home, Houzz.com, Foodista, Entrepreneur, and Ragan PR. In 2014, she co-authored The Einkorn Cookbook with her husband, Tim. Today, you can find her digging into food topics and celebrating the everyday grace of eating on her blog, Go Eat Your Bread with Joy. Shanna lives in Nashville, Tennessee, with Tim and their two small kids.