Lauren Chattman / Newsday

Dinner is over, the grill is still warm, and you have a craving for something sweet. What can you improvise, outside and over a fire, besides banana boats and s’mores? If you have a half a loaf of day-old crusty bread, you can make bruschetta.

Wait a second, I hear you say. Isn’t bruschetta like garlic bread but with chopped tomatoes on top? Well, yes, that is one type of bruschetta. But the name, which comes from the Italian verb brusciare, or to burn, simply means toast. As a matter of fact, the chemical reaction that occurs when bread is toasted (called the Maillard reaction, you’ll remember if you were paying attention to your high school chemistry teacher) involves the transformation of starch into simple sugar, resulting in a deliciously caramelized flavor and aroma.

So bruschetta makes perfect sense for dessert. And just as Americans with a sweet tooth turn toast into a sweet treat by sprinkling it with cinnamon sugar, Italians use day-old bread to make rustic little grilled chocolate, cheese, and fruit tarts. You can, too.

For best results, start with leftovers of an artisan loaf. (Flimsy slices of supermarket sandwich bread will turn to dust on the grill.) Before grilling, brush both sides of the slices with olive oil or melted butter. Not only will this add flavor, but it will promote caramelization. And don’t forget to clean your grill grids well before making dessert, so your sweet bruschetta doesn’t have a hint of barbecue sauce.

To finish, raid your fridge and pantry. You could top your grilled bread with a little bit of chocolate, which will get soft and melty. Creamy, mild cheeses (goat cheese, cream cheese, mascarpone) are also good, combined with fruit and sprinkled with a little turbinado sugar or drizzled with honey or maple syrup.

Eve Bishop / Newsday

To make dessert bruschetta, top slices of grilled bread with a cream cheese mixture, peaches, honey and some chopped pistachios.