Coeur à la Crème
If food is about life, then there is probably a story for every food creation known. Somewhere in the vicinity of 32 years ago, I wrote down 5 recipes I’d located for the ethereal dessert known as Coeur à la Crème in my now worn homemade recipe book. This must have been a chic and seemingly new dessert in the early 1980s. I must have bought the unique heart-shaped ceramic dish necessary to make this dessert, but I don’t recall when or where. The dish has holes in the bottom to let the whey of the dairy ingredients drain. Linda remembers the unveiling of this creamy white dessert at a family gathering, complete, I am sure, with strawberries and raspberries and a sauce flavored with a little bit of kirsch. I don’t. So when I moved 6 months ago, and packed up more than 20 years of kitchen paraphernalia, I almost didn’t bring the dish. But something made me wrap it up and pack it along; that, I remember, was a conscious decision amidst the chaos of boxes and bubble wrap.
When we considered what lovely offering we would showcase from our collection of world famous food for Valentine’s Day, I remembered the Coeur à la Crème dish, and I knew where it was! How wonderful to resurrect this memorable creamy dessert and for it to be chic once again. I searched online and found a number of differing recipes, some with sour cream, some with cottage cheese, or heavy cream, as well as cream cheese. I forgot about those 5 recipes I had written down, so long ago. So we went with the recipe that I am sure I made many years ago.
I’d forgotten the texture and the taste. It is a light and airy mixture, a sublime taste of non-too-sweet cheesecake without the density of a cream cheese mass or taste of a competing crust. The berry sauce is a burst of refreshment melting against that divine creaminess. It was better than I remembered.
The rest of the life story goes like this. I did some more internet research on the origin of this lovely Coeur à la Crème, translated literally as “heart of cream.” It appears that the Marie-Antoine Carême, "the king of cooks and the cook of Kings," and father of haute French cuisine in the early 1800s for European royalty, introduced and adapted the recipe from his travels to Russia. The local significance of this, more than 200 years later, is that the Academy of Culinary Arts at Atlantic Cape Community College (ACCC), just a few miles from our home, has named their teaching restaurant Carême’s, in honor of this grandiose master chef, of which I am a student! The Academy may seem humble in its locale and surroundings, but it is worldly in every other way.
To possibly the very first celebrity chef, Marie-Antoine Carême --opulent, elegant, lavish and prolific, and to all the chefs at the Academy of Culinary Arts who, by their work, honor the restaurant’s namesake, and to everyone celebrating Valentine’s Day, enjoy this heavenly, creamy, cloud-like dessert, from our heart! And if a heart, like a circle, is an unbroken line, then I have come full circle in my life’s story.
Coeur à la Crème
Cheesecloth Acidulated water (water and lemon juice) 3/4 pound large curd cottage cheese 1 cup heavy whipping cream 1/4 pound cream cheese, room temperature 2-4 tablespoon powdered sugar 1/2 teaspoon vanilla pinch of salt 1-1/2 cups berries (raspberies, strawberries, and blueberries. Can use a mix of all and save some berries for garnish) 3 tablespoons Turbinado sugar (sugar in the raw) 1 tablespoon water
Dip piece of cheesecloth into acidulated water. Wring dry and use to line 1 quart coeur à la crème mold, allowing 2 inch overhang on all sides.
Rub cottage cheese through fine strainer or food mill.
In a medium mixing bowl, whip cream until stiff peaks form. Set aside.
In a large mixing bowl, using an electric mixer, beat cream cheese until light and fluffy. Add cottage cheese, sugar, vanilla and salt and beat until light and creamy. Gently fold in whipped cream.
Turn in to prepared mold, smoothing over top. Cover with hanging cheesecloth. Place mold on wire rack set over a pie plate. Refrigerate at least 6 hours, preferably overnight (whey will drain, leaving the ‘heart’ off the cheeses).
For the berry sauce, add berries, sugar and water into medium saucepan. Over medium heat, stir berries until berries release their juices and liquid resembles a light syrup. Cool.
To serve, unwrap top of mold and invert onto flat serving platter; remove cheesecloth. Top with berries sauce and fresh berries.
Photos by Linda Taylor