I put the word dessert in the title of this recipe to make sure that this crisp, gooey temptation didn't accidentally find its way into your lunch. Or dinner. This isn't a meal. It's not a snack. It's really not for breakfast. Truly. I'm warning you. Just trying to do my duty.
This is all dessert. Here's what's involved: Nutella (obviously). Cream cheese. A sprinkle of salt, and the best crusty Italian bread you can find, sliced as thin as you can.
When all of this is heated up in the oven, with a crisp toasted exterior and hot, gooey interior, oozing with tangy cream cheese and the scent of chocolate and hazelnuts, you'll see what I mean. A drizzle of chocolate makes it extra impractical for breakfast or lunch. This is dessert, in the guise of a sandwich.
You might be a little confused by the sprinkle of salt inside, which lends a bit of savory dignity. The unsweetened cream cheese and Nutella play well together, too, with restraint; this isn't a too-sugary dessert. Even so, don't be fooled. This is all dessert, all the way.
A bowl of berries rounds it out. Place two golden halves of one of these sandwiches on your guest's plate, surrounded by sliced strawberries and there won't be a doubt in their mind: this is a dessert to end a meal magnificently, with a nod to childhood comfort and the indulgence of a grown-up dessert.
But if, after all my persuasion, you decide to ignore my warnings and take this decidedly dessert-ish sandwich off road on a trip to breakfast or midnight snack, who am I to stop you?
Hot Baked Nutella & Cream Cheese Sandwich
8 slices soft yet crusty Italian bread
4 ounces cream cheese, cut into 4 cubes and softened
4 to 6 tablespoons Nutella
Melted chocolate, to garnish
Fresh berries, to serve
Heat the oven to 450°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment or a Silpat. When the oven is hot, lay each slice of bread on the baking sheet and put in the oven. Turn the oven to BROIL and toast the bread for 2 to 3 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from the oven.
Spread a softened cube of cream cheese on the toasted side of four slices of bread, one cube to each. On the other slices, spread a thick layer of Nutella. Sprinkle each slice very lightly with salt.
Put the sandwiches together and put back in the oven. Broil for 1 1/2 to 2 minutes on each side. Remove when both sides of the sandwich are toasted golden brown.
Cut each sandwich in half and drizzle with melted chocolate. Place on plates and surround with fresh berries. Serve immediately.
More Dessert Sandwiches: Rethinking Dessert: 7 Sweet Sandwiches
(Images: Faith Durand)