Coeur a la Creme – Valentine’s Day Hearts
When Rich’s parents downsized and moved from the area, his mother gave me a small Coeur a la Creme mold. She had clearly enjoyed making them – she also had a full set of matching ones that she brought with her, so she could make them for the grandsons, but this was an extra. With the influx of things from her kitchen, it got put away somewhere safe – surely I’m not the only one who does that? – and I didn’t really get around to using it.
But Valentine’s Day is coming up – and I feel a little better, and have a little more energy than I have the last few years, and wanted to do something nice. (Besides – there’s this blog… ) And this sounded interesting, and easy.
You may (or may not) have noticed that I don’t generally write about desserts. There are several reasons for that. One is that so many other blogs do… the field is really rather crowded. Another is that, when I can barely manage the energy to make dinner, I’m not fooling around with dessert. I assume that people who really want one have already found an easy (probably purchased) solution. The primary reason, though, is that we really don’t eat them, much. I don’t eat sweets. He’ll eat them, but isn’t really interested. So, between us, I normally just don’t bother.
But I still do like to make something nice for a holiday. It is part of the whole “This is a special meal” atmosphere, I think… a little extra fuss, a little something we don’t do every day… I usually then make something fruit based, so it’s a little sweeter than the rest of the meal.
Coeur a la creme is perfect for this. The heart itself is a rich, creamy cheese base, served with berries – either fresh or in a simple sauce, which may or may not be sweetened. The creaminess balances the tartness of the berries, so you notice the sweetness of the fruit… it really doesn’t need any added sugar.
I looked through my books, and online, to find the correct recipe for the Coeur – and found there is no consensus at all. I suspect – but this is merely a guess – that originally one simply made a rich, creamy, fresh cheese and molded it in a heart… and one day I would like to try that. For now, though, I sorted through mixtures of varying assortments of cottage cheese, cream cheese, yogurt, mascarpone, and heavy cream (whipped or not.) I decided that, for this special occasion, I would like to make it richer, so I mixed cottage cheese and cream cheese. (Another time, I may try it with cottage cheese and yogurt… less rich, but with a tanginess I enjoy.)
If fresh berries were in season, I’d just serve them in their glory – but, well, it is February. I bought a bag of frozen berries. And to add a little more interest, and a light touch of sweet to the berries, I added just a little orange juice – and then decided to add a little orange flower water to the coeur. (That was from Rich’s mother, too… if I didn’t have it, I would have substituted a half teaspoon of vanilla, probably – or possibly orange extract if I had it.)
Actually making it was very simple. I combined cottage cheese, cream cheese, and orange flower water in a mini food processor, and whipped it until smooth. I took my coeur mold, placed it on a plate to catch any whey that drains off, and lined it with a dampened coffee filter. (Traditionally, one used cheese cloth… but this worked well.) I mounded in the cheese to fill the mold, and then refrigerated it. And, because I only had one mold, and not everyone has even that, I put the rest in a strainer, also lined, and put that over a bowl, also in the refrigerator.
Now for the raspberry sauce. I took the frozen berries, and put them with the orange juice in a small heavy saucepan. I heated them gently, to thaw them, and then heat and soften them, crushing them with a silicone spatula. Then I poured them into a fine strainer, and pushed them through, to remove the seeds. (If this wasn’t for a special meal, I might not be that fussy…) I discarded the seeds, poured the puree back into the pan and simmered it a few minutes, just to make it a bit syrupy. Then I added a few whole (still frozen) berries, so they would thaw, and put it into the refrigerator.
One of the useful things about this dessert for a special meal is that it is make-ahead… You should do all the prep at least four hours before eating – the night before is even better. I made this before lunch, and we ate it for dinner. When we were ready, I poured the sauce into a shallow bowl, reserving the whole berries (which is where I went wrong…) Then I very easily unmolded the coeur, and placed it in the middle of the lake of sauce (and didn’t take a picture of it in its pristine loveliness.) And we’ll draw a veil over my next bright idea… but you saw the picture…
We romantically shared the one heart between us – with a kiss over the plate… and decided this was a definite repeat actually on Valentine’s Day.
There was really enough raspberry sauce for two plates with one coeur each, though I served it all with the one. We ate the other later, as a spread on crackers – and the orange flower water tasted a bit odd in that, though it worked wonderfully with the berries. Friday, I’ll give Rich my heart, and have the Blob a la Creme myself.
Yields Serves 2
- 1/2 cup cottage cheese
- 4 oz cream cheese
- 2 t orange flower water (or 1/2 t vanilla)
- 1 c frozen raspberries
- 2 T orange juice
- Blend the 2 cheeses and orange flower water in a food processor or mixer until smooth.
- Line molds with damp coffee filters, cheesecloth, or paper towels. Pour the cheese mixture into the molds. Refrigerate at least four hours.
- Place berries and juice in a small saucepan, and heat. Mash the berries. If desired.strain the fruit through a fine strainer to remove seeds. Simmer sauce 3-4 minutes to thicken slightly. Refrigerate.
- When ready to serve, spread sauce on deep plates or shallow bowls. Gently unmold cheese, place carefully in the middle of the sauce.