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

by Julie Ruble on October 11, 2010 · 43 comments

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

Ingredients:
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

Directions:
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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{ 42 comments… read them below or add one }

Wei-Wei October 11, 2010 at 11:56 pm

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! :D

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Julie @ Willow Bird Baking October 12, 2010 at 12:06 am

It DOES limit the flakiness! And the buttery taste is just aaaamazing!

Thanks, Wei-Wei :)

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Meghan October 12, 2010 at 12:07 am

Sigh. As if I needed another reason to procrastinate…

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Julie @ Willow Bird Baking October 12, 2010 at 12:09 am

This one’s a REALLY really good one, though! ;)

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Christina October 12, 2010 at 4:16 am

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.

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Julie @ Willow Bird Baking October 12, 2010 at 6:10 am

Hurray! They are so, so good, Christina!

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Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella October 12, 2010 at 6:35 am

Congratulations Julie! What wonderful news for you! I can’t wait to read all about it! :D

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Julie @ Willow Bird Baking October 12, 2010 at 6:37 am

Thank you so much, Lorraine! We both have big news lately :D

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Barbara Bakes October 12, 2010 at 8:52 am

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!

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Julie @ Willow Bird Baking October 12, 2010 at 2:01 pm

Thanks so much, Barbara! I’m thrilled!

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Leslie October 12, 2010 at 9:15 am

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.

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Julie @ Willow Bird Baking October 12, 2010 at 2:01 pm

Thanks so much Leslie! I fixed it!

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Jessica October 12, 2010 at 9:42 am

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

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Julie @ Willow Bird Baking October 12, 2010 at 2:25 pm

Thanks, Jessica! Hope you enjoy!

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Jules October 12, 2010 at 10:22 am

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 :-D

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Julie @ Willow Bird Baking October 12, 2010 at 2:24 pm

Hurray, Jules! Eat a sincerely authentic croissant for me!! :) Thank you!

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natalie (the sweets life) October 12, 2010 at 1:27 pm

voted for you!

paninis are my favorite, and I’m so glad you’ll be in San Fran!! :)

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Julie @ Willow Bird Baking October 12, 2010 at 2:24 pm

Thanks so much, Natalie!! I’m glad you’ll be there too!

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Ayisha October 12, 2010 at 1:50 pm

Julie–

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

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Julie @ Willow Bird Baking October 12, 2010 at 2:24 pm

Thank you so much, Ayisha! I love keeping up with your blog!!

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naomi October 12, 2010 at 2:08 pm

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.

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Julie @ Willow Bird Baking October 12, 2010 at 2:23 pm

Naomi, I know you’d make some amazing croissants, girl! I’m sure they’d be adorable somehow ;) Maybe mini croissants?

Thanks so much!

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Megan October 12, 2010 at 2:52 pm

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

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Julie @ Willow Bird Baking October 12, 2010 at 2:59 pm

Thank you, Megan :)

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Maranda October 12, 2010 at 4:55 pm

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

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Julie @ Willow Bird Baking October 12, 2010 at 5:11 pm

Yes — the French toast cups!!! :) Thank you Maranda! SO excited!!

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Mary October 12, 2010 at 5:36 pm

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.

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Julie @ Willow Bird Baking October 12, 2010 at 5:38 pm

Hurray, Mary! Join in the fun! You will love the process — it’s lonnng but so rewarding in the end. Thanks so much for voting!!

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Joanne October 12, 2010 at 6:29 pm

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!

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Julie @ Willow Bird Baking October 12, 2010 at 8:34 pm

So true, Joanne! I loved SD so much. I can’t wait for SF!!

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Betty @ scrambled hen fruit October 12, 2010 at 11:47 pm

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. :)

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Julie @ Willow Bird Baking October 12, 2010 at 11:51 pm

HA, you might want to get started right now! Midnight here in Charlotte, but it’s never too late for croissants! :)

Thanks, Betty!

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Chicago Cuisine Critique October 13, 2010 at 5:43 pm

Wow, this looks fantastic!

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Julie @ Willow Bird Baking October 13, 2010 at 7:18 pm

Thank you, CCC!!

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Monica H October 14, 2010 at 3:02 am

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

Congrats, I’m excited for you!

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Julie @ Willow Bird Baking October 14, 2010 at 7:08 am

Thanks so much, Monica!!

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Julie M. October 15, 2010 at 7:19 am

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.

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Julie @ Willow Bird Baking October 15, 2010 at 7:23 am

I cannot believe I’m going to SF! Crazy!! This was my winning entry: http://willowbirdbaking.wordpress.com/2010/10/03/blueberry-stuffed-french-toast-bowls/

And creme brulee French toast?!?! MUST MAKE!! That sounds amazing!

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Jacqueline Gates October 16, 2010 at 3:32 pm

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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Julie @ Willow Bird Baking October 16, 2010 at 3:40 pm

Thanks so much, Jacqui! I hope you will love them! They’re so rewarding to make yourself!

Hope you love the panini too :)

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Keri February 27, 2012 at 3:18 pm

Oh, wow, I’ve been looking for good vegetarian recipes to make for my new housemate and these look fantastic. Can’t wait to try them!

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Julie @ Willow Bird Baking February 27, 2012 at 5:37 pm

I hope s/he loves them! They’re one of my favorite sandwiches everrr! :)

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