Valentine’s Day when I was growing up was never about chocolates; we lived on a windy Cape Cod lane lined with cranberry bogs. The chocolate choices in those days were two: Schrafts cardboard hearts from the drug store and Russell Stover boxed chocolates ordained as gifts for hospital patients.
My mother made Coeur a la Creme, which even as a child I knew was far more decadent, far more sublime than the chocolates being peddled as Valentine’s fare. I know now that there are as many Coeur a la Creme recipes are there are hearts to win, but it is basically a lightened, sweetened cheese mixture – goat cheese, ricotta cheese, cream cheese – placed into a traditional Coeur a la Creme mold.
The mold alone is enough to charm anyone who spends time in a kitchen. Heart-shaped, ceramic, the mold has holes that allow the “cheese” to drain, becoming a cool, sweet, pillowy dessert that cries “cloak me in raspberries, strew me with flowers.” Chocolate can only wish to charm the eyes and lips as gloriously as Coeur a la Creme.
The molds are not hard to find; Amazon has plenty, but a simple kitchen colander substitutes perfectly, minus the Valentine’s-ness of having this ceramic heart on your kitchen counter for the week of February 14th. My recipe is loosely adapted from Ina Garten’s.
Coeur a la Creme
This should serve 6, but the other evening it served 4 beloved, coeur-charmed Valentines.
a coeur a la creme mold or a colander
6 ounces goat cheese
6 ounces creme fraiche
1 1/4 cups sifter confectioners’ sugar
2 1/2 cups cold heavy cream
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest
seeds scraped from 1 vanilla bean
Raspberry and Gran Marnier Sauce, recipe follows
fresh raspberries and blackberries to garnish
Place the goat cheese, creme fraiche, and confectioners’ sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and beat on high speed for 2 minutes. Scrape down the beater and bowl with a rubber spatula and change the beater for the whisk attachment. With the mixer on low speed, add the heavy cream, vanilla, lemon zest and vanilla bean seeds and beat on high speed until the mixture is very thick, like whipped cream
Wet the cheesecloth, and ring out the excess moisture. Line a coeur mold or colander with cheesecloth, allowing at least 6-8 inches to hang over the sides. Set the mold on a plate or the colander in a bowl, allowing space below for the liquid to drain. Pour the cream mixture into the cheesecloth, and fold the ends over the top. Refrigerate over night.
To serve, discard the liquid. Unmold the creme onto a serving plate. Drizzle the Raspberry Gran Marnier Sauce around the creme. Garnish with lots of berries.
Raspberry and Gran Marnier Sauce
1 half-pint fresh raspberries
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup seedless raspberry jam
2 tablespoons Gran Marnier
Place raspberries, sugar, and 1/4 cup water in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil. Lower the heat, and simmer for 4 minutes. Pour the cooked raspberries, the jam, and orange liqueur into the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade and process until smooth. Chill.