Is there anything better than chocolate to create a romantic mood with food on Valentine’s Day? I wanted to come up with a chocolate panini recipe that truly was a proper dessert – not just chocolate between two pieces of bread. It wasn’t easy – a chocolate sandwich is the kind of thing you dream about as a kid (along with Cookie Crisp cereal – whose mom let them eat that?!) but most of us rarely, if ever, actually make. Except if maybe you count a Nutella sandwich. Those are good, but you can hardly call it a special occasion romantic dessert. No, I was looking to make something decadent, a little bit refined, but still relatively easy to prepare. I think my Chocolate Raspberry Croissant Panini fits the bill! Want to skip ahead? Click here for the final recipe.
Chocolate Raspberry Croissant Panini…for Two! – Attempt #1
- Bread: Croissant
- Condiment: Raspberry preserves
- “Meat”: Semi-sweet chocolate
- Cheese: None
- Goodies: Crème anglaise
THE INSPIRATION: Valentine’s Day was, for sure, the impetus for my thoughts on a chocolate panini recipe. Now that we’re new parents of a 2-month old, my husband and I will be dining in on Valentine’s Day this year. Nonetheless, I still want to at least make a special dessert for the two of us. Since my husband enjoys croissants (and raisin bread and cinnamon rolls and bagels and pretty much any kind of bread or pastry you can name!) I thought they would be a great choice for the bread in my sandwich. The idea for raspberries also came from him – which actually came as a bit of a surprise, in that he usually doesn’t care for fruit with chocolate. But I totally agreed with him that raspberries and chocolate is a great pairing – plus, raspberries kind of look like little hearts, don’t they? Finally, the idea for crème anglaise came from the many pastry desserts I’ve had over the years that incorporated it – yum! That would be the homemade part of this “semi-homemade” dessert – I think Sandra Lee of the Food Network would be proud!
THE PREPARATION: I started with the crème anglaise. If you’re not familiar with creme anglaise, it’s a thin dessert custard sauce made with sugar, egg yolks, cream and vanilla. It’s fantastic and although it took a little extra time to make, I knew it would be worth it. I did a little online research to find out the basic proportions and made a few adjustments based on the rich, sweet taste I was going for.
In a medium bowl, I whisked together 3 egg yolks with 1/4 cup of sugar and set it aside. Then I heated 1/2 cup of whole milk, 1/2 cup of heavy cream and good vanilla (as my favorite Barefoot Contessa, Ina Garten, would say!) over medium heat in a heavy saucepan, stirring constantly until the milk began to simmer. Then I gradually stirred the milk into the egg mixture – I “tempered” the eggs by pouring just a little of the milk in first to raise the temperature (I could hear Ina say, “You don’t want scrambled eggs!”.
I cleaned my original saucepan, scraping off the inevitable cooked-on bits, and transferred the now-custard back in. I heated the custard over low heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon to try and keep the custard from cooking onto the pot. I took it off the heat once it was slightly thickened and I could draw a line on the back of a spoon (I watched Bobby Flay do this on “Iron Chef” the other night – Alton Brown mentioned this was called napé). Then I strained the custard into a small bowl and let it cool for about 10 minutes.
THE CONSTRUCTION: While the crème anglaise cooled, I got started on preparing the actual sandwich. I cut an opening along the inside of the croissant to create a little pocket to hold the chocolate and raspberry preserves. I spread 2 teaspoons of the preserves within the pocket and then lay about an ounce of semi-sweet Ghirardelli chocolate on top of the preserves (as a Bay Area native, my heart belongs to Ghirardelli…Scharffen Berger would have been great as well!).
With the panini grill at medium height, I grilled the croissant at 350 degrees for 10 minutes until the chocolate had melted.
While the croissant was grilling, I melted more chocolate to drizzle later as a garnish. This time, I used Ghirardelli semi-sweet chocolate chips, melting 1/2 cup of them in the microwave.
I gave a lot of thought to how I wanted this chocolate sandwich to look on the plate – after much deliberation I decided I wanted to see a drizzle of chocolate on the croissant but not on the plate. So once the croissant was done grilling, I transferred it to a piece of parchment paper and did my drizzle on the parchment. Over on the dessert plate, I spooned 3 tablespoons of my crème anglaise to create a little pool in the middle (alas, there was quite a bit of extra crème anglaise, but oh well – it’s not like you can just make 3 tablespoons of it!). Then I centered the chocolate-drizzled croissant amidst the vanilla pool. Finally, I picked out a particularly luscious raspberry from the bunch and placed it where the two ends of the croissant met.
THE RESULTS: A winner right out of the gate! It turned out just as I’d hoped: grilling on the panini press made an already-flaky croissant extra crispy on the outside, while heating the gooey chocolate-raspberry center. The raspberry preserves were an excellent complement to the chocolate (great suggestion, dear husband!) and the crème anglaise provided the rich vanilla flavor and smooth texture that finished off the dessert panino perfectly. I’m definitely calling this a “dessert for two” as it’s probably too rich to be served as an individual serving. It’s just as well…it is, after all, designed for Valentine’s Day!
Click here for the final recipe!
Looking for more great Valentine’s Day recipes? Check these out from my fellow food bloggers: