In concluding a summer meal, it can be nice to strike a balance between the hastily improvised "berries and cream" and the fully orchestrated lattice-top pie.
Quicker than a crisp and dressier than a shortcake, a gratin is a layer of fresh fruit piled into a shallow baking dish, dressed up with crumbs or sweetened fresh cheese, and run under a broiler. The topping browns and the fruit is warmed just enough to release a bit of juice. We wanted to find the quickest, easiest route to this pleasing dessert.
Start with perfect berries: ripe, dry, unbruised, and clean. Toss the fruit with just 1 tablespoon of sugar and a tablespoon of kirsch (a clear cherry brandy; another eau de vie can be substituted). For the topping, combine soft white bread, brown sugar, cinnamon, and butter in the food processor and top the berries with the fluffy crumbs. Instead of broiling the gratin, which can produce an uneven crust, simply bake at 400 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes. Serve with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.