Apple, Brie, and Toasted Pecan Panini (& Voting Now Open in Project Food Blog Round 4!)

Willow Bird Baking is a contestant in Project Food Blog, a contest comprised of a series of 10 challenges to find the next food blog star. Voting for Challenge #4 is now open! To vote for my Croissant Tutorial to win this round, register for a Foodbuzz account. Once you’re registered, sign in and go to my Croissant Tutorial entry here. To vote, click the heart next to the words “Vote for this Entry.” I am so grateful for your support!

A few of years ago, back when I was still working in a developmental neuroscience lab (sounds fancy, but you can think of it as “playing with tadpole neurons”), I was given a travel stipend to head to San Diego for a conference. To put this trip in perspective for those of you who are jet-setters, I had never in my life been west of Missouri. Even that 12-hour Missouri trip had always been taken by car; I had only been on a plane once when I was 8 years old. I was also 22 years old and poor, so the last thing I expected was to suddenly be able to fly off to beautiful California for a visit.

Apart from being terrified of the plane, I was over the moon about traveling 2,500 miles away from everything familiar. I traced the distance on maps and looked through photos of the city, trying to get a grasp on the journey I was about to embark upon. My awesome sister, Sarah, volunteered to fly out and show me around, since she loves the city.

Every part of that trip was incredible: walking into the raspberry scented hotel lobby each night and seeing the lights of downtown all around my window, walking past flowers that seemed overwhelmed by their own huge blooms, eating pastries above the surf in La Jolla — and the HILLS! Hills like I’d never seen, rolling all around with houses creeping stealthily up their sides and staring off into the Pacific Ocean.

My sister rented a convertible and even though it was November, we drove with the top down to Coronado Island. We stopped into a little restaurant, Cafe 1134, for lunch. We weren’t expecting much, but ordered some panini. As we each took our first bites, our eyes met, and we realized we had just walked into something special. These were no ordinary panini. These were extraordinary panini: warm, melty, amazing! Even after a fancy seafood dinner, pasta in Little Italy, breakfast by the shore, and an Indian feast in La Jolla, we both still think of those panini as one of the best meals we ate in San Diego.

They’re just sandwiches, right? Wrong! They can be transcendental.

What perfect, amazing timing for this post. I’m so excited to share with you that I’m about to embark upon my second journey to the West Coast. I’ve just been chosen as the Nature’s Pride Bread Ambassador and awarded a trip to San Francisco.

How fitting is it that, just as I’ve discovered I’ll be returning to California, I’ve also found another transcendental panini — this time from my own kitchen, with my own homemade croissants! My sister Sarah isn’t going to believe me when I say that these are as good (if not better) than the panini at Cafe 1134, but perhaps I’ll make her a believer with a bite!

Everything about this panini is incredible. The buttery, fresh croissants embrace crisp apples, creamy brie, toasted pecans, bright rosemary, and a drizzle of sweet honey. The flavors melt and meld into a gorgeous medley of sweet and savory. I swooned. I devoured. I wished I hadn’t frozen the rest of the croissants.

Have you made your croissants yet? I’ll let you in on a little secret: I tried “handmade” croissants from a Charlotte bakery, and scout’s honor, homemade was about a billion times better. That being said, making these panini is an urgent matter. Even if you have to pick up some croissants from your local bakery to try this, you should do so as soon as possible!

What are your special travel memories? What food reminds you of your trip?

Apple, Brie, and Toasted Pecan Panini

Recipe by: Willow Bird Baking
Yield: 3 panini

3 big croissants (preferably homemade!)
1 large apple (I use Gala), cored and sliced relatively thin
2 teaspoons chopped rosemary
1 8-ounce round of brie, sliced
1/2 cup pecans, chopped
honey for drizzling

Toast the pecans: Place nuts in a dry skillet over medium-high heat and stir constantly. Once they begin to toast (when you start to smell them), shake pan to ensure all sides of the nuts are toasted evenly and none of them burn. Pour out onto a plate to cool while you assemble the sandwiches.

Preheat panini press to medium and spray with cooking spray. Slice croissants open and layer brie slices, apple slices, a small handful of nuts, a generous pinch of the chopped rosemary, and one more slice of brie on top. Drizzle with honey and replace the top of the croissant. Grill on panini press for a few minutes, checking periodically, until cheese is starting to melt and croissant is toasted. I finish mine in the microwave for about 15 seconds to get the cheesy nice and melty. Serve warm.

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41 responses to “Apple, Brie, and Toasted Pecan Panini (& Voting Now Open in Project Food Blog Round 4!)

  1. Mmm, that sounds amazing! I never really like croissants in sandwiches (gasp! But they’re too flakey…) but I think that panini-pressing it sounds awesome too. Condense that butter! πŸ˜€

  2. Sigh. As if I needed another reason to procrastinate…

  3. Christina

    Aaaaah now I really want to try making these! They’ll have to wait another month or so til I have an oven again (FINALLY!!!) but when that happens I am making one of these! Nom.

  4. Congratulations Julie! What wonderful news for you! I can’t wait to read all about it! πŸ˜€

  5. I don’t know what sounds better, your lovely trip with your sister or the panini – it sounds like a must try. Congrats on being chosen as the ambassador!

  6. Just a quick FYI – one of the photos near the end of the croissant phototurial is missing. Photobucket says removed?

    I voted for you! Good luck!

    And those sandwiches sound awesome.

  7. this looks amazing, Julie!!!! I will be making it!

  8. I’m going to Paris on Friday (sounds exotic, but for me it’s just a hop on a train)–and if that won’t inspire croissant-making I don’t know what will πŸ˜€

  9. voted for you!

    paninis are my favorite, and I’m so glad you’ll be in San Fran!! πŸ™‚

  10. Julie–

    Congratulations on your exciting news! Wow! I’m so happy for you and I voted for you too. :o)

  11. This sandwich looks awesome!

    Yay, for you, Julie. Congrats is an order!

    I love this and, confession, I have never made home made crossiants. I’m a encouraged to do so now. Thanks.

  12. What an incredible sandwich! It looks amazing. Especially with that homemade croissant.

  13. Congratulations!!!!!!! Was it the french toast cups??? You are awesome! I hope you have a great trip!!!! This sandwich looks SO good!

  14. Mary

    I’ve been baking a long time….never made croissants. I’m on the verge of a breakthrough! Thanks….found your site for the first time today…voted for you and plan to visit you daily.

  15. Congrats on getting to go to the Foodbuzz festival! That’s so awesome! I’ve been to san diego once and from what I remember, the food was downright dreamy. And it’s so true that a good panini can make or break your day. And your dinner. This panini combo sounds delicious. I love the mix of sweet and savory!

  16. I love all of the flavors in this sandwich- I think I want one for lunch tomorrow. I may need to make those croissants earlier than I had planned. πŸ™‚

  17. Ooh these look so melty and gooey and buttery. Yummy!

    Congrats, I’m excited for you!

  18. Pingback: Individual Cranberry & Pecan Croissant Bread Puddings « Willow Bird Baking

  19. I’m so dang jealous you’re going to San Fran!! What was your winning entry? These sandwiches look perfect; I’m sure the croissant is what’s throwing it over the edge of delicious. It looks perfect!

    And with regards to food memories, I have lots (don’t all foodies?). A couple that instantly come to mind are leg of lamb; my grandmother used to make it every christmas dinner, and creme brulee french toast; it takes me back to this past summer up in Vermont.

  20. Ok you have officially inspired me to attempt to make/master croissants instead of driving 35 minutes to the nearest genuine French bakery!

    But in the meantime, I’m going to use this filling in my fave panini bread …

    Utterly luscious!
    And I’m off to vote for you, in deep appreciation for the yummies to come.

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