Coeur a la Creme is rarely seen on dessert menus, which is too bad as it’s both rich and light at the same time, a perfect accompaniment to fresh berries and stone fruits and fun with lightly sweetened, crisp cookies. It’s also lovely with sliced pound or chiffon cake. I clearly remember the first time I had it. It was 1978 and I had gone on a mini-vacation to Carmel to attend a photography exhibit with a friend. It was on the dessert list and, as I’d never heard of it before, I decided, why not? It was plated as a molded heart (Coeur a la Creme, for those of you who don’t speak French, means “Heart of Cream”) surrounded by raspberry coulis, raspberries and strawberries and a few cookies to spread it on. I remembered it as firmer than the ones I make now, but it was lightly sweetened and an impressive end to the meal.
I’ve tried several recipes over the years, and I now have it down to a science of sorts. I use Neufchatel cheese, which is essentially the same as cream cheese but with a bit less fat and calories but cream cheese is fine and will hold it together well if you need to transport it. I’ve also made it with mascarpone cheese, which works well too but is not quite as smooth and light. You can purchase a large heart-shaped mold if you like, or several small heart molds, but you can also use a sieve and unmold and decorate it as I did in the main photo above. Most recently we served it alongside our Deep Down Orange Cake, molded into small bundt cakelets. I thought that we’d have enough for several days but the reality was quite different — it was gone in a matter of a few hours as we all kept going back for “just a little more.”
The Queen’s Coeur a la Creme
12 ounces Neufchatel or cream cheese, softened
1–1/4 cups confectioners’ sugar
2–12 cups heavy cream
2 teaspoons Rain’s Choice pure Vanilla Extract
1/2 teaspoon Rain’s Choice ground Vanilla Bean Powder
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1 pint fresh raspberries or a mix of fresh raspberries and strawberries
1/2 pint fresh raspberries or 1 package frozen unsweetened raspberries, thawed
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup raspberry jam or currant jelly
1 teaspoon Rain’s Choice pure Vanilla Extract
2 tablespoons Raspberry wine
a squeeze of fresh lemon juice
Coeur a la Creme
Place the cream cheese and confectioners’ sugar in medium mixing bowl, and using an electric mixer or hand mixer, beat for two minutes until the mixture is very light. Scrape down the bowl and switch to a whisk. Slowly add the heavy cream, vanilla, lemon zest and lemon and the ground vanilla bean powder, then turn up mixer speed and beat until the mixture is very thick, like whipped cream.
Line 8 1/2-cup heart molds or one large heart mold with double layers of dampened cheesecloth. Spread cheese mixture evenly in molds. Wrap cheesecloth over cheese mixture.
Place molds on a tray. Refrigerate at least 6 hours or overnight.
Place raspberries, sugar and 1/4 cup water in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, lower the heat, and simmer until it begins to thicken some. Place raspberries, jam or jelly and raspberry wine into a food process and process until smooth. Chill. Makes about 2 cups.
Unfold cheesecloth from tops of mold(s). Unmold onto plates. Add raspberry sauce and garnish with raspberries and mint sprigs. Serve with raspberries and strawberries, the rest of the raspberry sauce and plain cake slices or thin cookies if you wish.
Note: If you don’t have a coeur mold, you can use any mold that allows the excess liquid to drain from cheese, or, you can place the cheese mixture into the cheesecloth and then into a strainer over a larger bowl. Let it drain according to the directions, then place in small ramekins or a bowl and serve sauce and fruits on the side.
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