When I was catering, often I would be asked to make a dessert with no sugar. Enter coeur a la creme. This soft cheese is packed into individual cheesecloth-lined, heart-shaped porcelain molds (so it is very pretty) and allowed to sit overnight to drain off extra whey, leaving a dense, creamy mousse-like concotion. It combines the fruit and cheese course. Serve the chaste heart of cheese, with a dessert spoon and small butter knife, at holiday brunches or dessert with a choice of fresh fruit sauces (everyone usually uses some of all three) and butter cookies. Each sauce recipe makes about 2 1/4 cups. The coeur can also be made savory.
Makes 6 molds
8 ounces natural cream cheese, at room temperature
1/3 cup powdered sugar
1/2 vanilla bean, scraped
1 1/4 cups heavy (whipping) cream, whipped
6 fresh grape leaves, for serving
Cut a large piece of cheesecloth and fold in half. Cut 6 squares of cheesecloth that will fit into 3-inch porcelain molds with 2 inches of overhang all the way around. Soak in a bowl of water with a tablespoon of fresh lemon juice and a pinch of baking soda added for 10 minutes. Wring out. Line each heart mold with a double thickness of the damp cheesecloth, with the excess hanging over the edges. Place the molds on a baking sheet that will fit in the refrigerator.
In the workbowl of a food processor or with an electric mixer, combine the cream cheese, powdered sugar, and the insides of the vanilla bean until just smooth. Add the whipped cream. Beat until just evenly combined.
With a small rubber spatula, scrape the cheese mixture into each mold, level with the top of the mold. Fold the cloth over the top to completely cover the cheese and pack the cheese down by pressing with your fingers. Place the molds back on the baking sheet and cover with plastic wrap. Place in the refrigerator to drain 2 to 8 hours. Prepare the fruit sauces and refrigerate until serving.
To serve, unfold the cheesecloth and invert the mold onto a serving plate lined with a grape leaf. Peel off the cheesecloth carefully; a lovely delicate design will be embossed on the surface. Serve immediately with a choice of cold fruit sauces.
1/4 cup Cherry Marnier or créme de cassis
3/4 cup strawberry jam
1 pint basket fresh strawberries, washed and hulled
Combine the Framboise and jam in a saucepan and heat until melted. Place the berries in a bowl and coarsely crush with a potato masher. Add the Framboise and jam; stir to combine. Place in a storage bowl and cover. Let stand at least 1 hour in the refrigerator to meld the flavors and exude some juice. Stir before serving.
One 12-ounce package unsweetened frozen raspberries
3 tablespoons golden rum
3/4 cup red currant jelly
Place the berries in a bowl and let stand at room temperature to defrost and exude some juice. Combine the rum and the jelly in a saucepan and heat until melted. Add to the berries and pass the mixture through a sieve or food mill to remove seeds. Place in a storage bowl and cover. Let stand at least 1 hour in the refrigerator to meld the flavors.
3 tablespoons Drambuie or brandy
3/4 cup apricot jam
Two 15-ounce cans unsweetened peaches packed in fruit juice
Combine the Drambuie or brandy and jam in a saucepan and heat until melted. Place the peaches in a food processor and pulse to coarsely purée. Add the Drambuie or brandy and jam; pluse a few times to combine. Place in a storage bowl and cover. Let stand at least 1 hour in the refrigerator to meld the flavors.
Savory Coeur a La Creme
A great appetizer. As beautiful as it is delicious.
8-12 edible flowers or herb leaves
8 ounces mascarpone Italian cream cheese
8 ounce container fresh whole milk ricotta
1/2 cup (40g) grated parmesan
1/4 cup (60ml) heavy cream
1 garlic clove, crushed (optional)
Extra virgin olive oil, to drizzle
Baby carrots, crisp-steamed zucchini, raw radishes, celery sticks and lavash crispbreads, to serve
Cut 8 squares of muslin to fit four 1/3 cup (80ml) coeur a la creme molds with plenty of overhang. Dampen with water, then layer 2 pieces in each mold. Place 2-3 flowers or herb leaves in the base of each.
Combine cheeses, cream, garlic and 1 teaspoon salt in a bowl with a fork until smooth. Pack into molds, pressing down well, then cover with overhanging muslin. Place on a tray and chill overnight. Bring the cremes to room temperature for 10 minutes before serving.
Unmold cremes onto a serving platter. Drizzle with olive oil, then serve with vegetables and lavash to spread.
Recipe and text copyright Beth Hensperger 2017
Please enjoy the recipe and make it your own. If you copy the recipe and text for internet use, please include my byline and link to my site.