Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Be my Valentine: Triple Coeur à la Crème & Strawberry Coulis!

It was decades ago when I first read about coeur à la crème in my culinary bible, that is, Fannie Farmer Cookbook. I then became determined to find porcelain heart-shaped molds used in this classic dessert. Wherever The Calm One and I would find our itinerant selves, I went hunting for them to no avail as they were patiently waiting for me in a tiny, crammed-with-goods, British china shop in Gloucester. The Calm One might have decided not to accept the job offer in that town, but I did not reject the pair of dusty molds which the proprietor happily scrambled to find.

The strawberry coulis was made with berries frozen from our potager's summer harvest

But then there were always reasons why I couldn't make it despite having the molds such as I couldn't find cheesecloth or cream cheese which used to be hard to find in France or safe eggs or red berries, at least not all at the same time. Slow-forward many a year and c'est parti/let's begin! Though some may say that this triple coeur à la crème is sufficient to trigger a triple-bypass heart surgery, I am not one of them.

Substitution City

  • Instead of the special molds, use a yogurt container reduced in height with holes punched in on the bottom. Just a double coeur would be possible, but it still will look and taste wonderful.
  • Instead of cheesecloth, use a square of a well worn, thin dish towel or thick paper towels
  • Instead of fresh berries, use frozen, after they are thawed of course
  • Instead of regular eggs, get organic ones

Voila! Most people should be able to try their hand at this luscious dessert.

(enough for 2 heart-shaped special molds and some extra for experimenting. Recipe can be doubled.)
  • Cream cheese, 118 ml/4 fluid ounces
  • Cream, heavy, 118 ml/4 fluid ounces
  • Sugar, 1 T
  • Egg white, free-range, 1
  • Strawberries, frozen or fresh, 473 ml/16 fluid ounces
  • Powdered sugar (icing, confectioner's), to taste
  • Lemon juice, fresh, to taste
The night before, prepare the molds. Gather the ingredients.

Stir the cream into the cream cheese with a fork.

Beat the mixture until it is smooth and thick which should take several minutes.

Using a balloon attachment on a processor or stick mixer, whip the egg white until stiff. (I separate the white from the yolk by cracking the egg into a clean hand and letting the white drip through my fingers into a bowl.) Fold in (placing a spoon under the mixture, bring it on itself, turn the bowl a quarter turn, and repeat) one half of the whites and the sugar until well blended.

Repeat with the remaining egg white and sugar. It will be an airy mass

Rinse out the molds, but do not dry them. Line with small pieces of paper towel and press down to moisten them. If needed, wet the towels with a moistened finger. The more neatly they fit inside the interior of the molds, the better will the finished coeur look.

Working in layers, smooth down the mixture with each addition with a small spoon to ensure solidity. Pack the filling flush with the top edge of the molds.

Put the molds in a covered dish and place in the fridge overnight. If using frozen berries, thaw in the fridge.

About a tablespoon of liquid oozed out from the molds, making the coeur's texture lighter though more compact

The next day, either in a blender/processor or via a stick mixer, puree the strawberries.

Work them in a sieve, with a bowl underneath to catch the juices.

Add lemon juice and powdered sugar to taste. Stir well. Let the coulis settle down for a few minutes so it will become a clear, brighter red.

Using a small brush poached from my water colour kit, I painted free hand the outline of a heart with the coulis. A cutout could be used instead:  fold a square of paper toweling in half, trace a semi-heart, cut out, and unfold. Place the template on the plate and paint around it.

Spooning a small amount of coulis onto the centre of a serving plate, I worked the sauce cleanly out to the template edges and repeated the process as needed to complete the outline. The coulis needs to be fairly thin so not only does it stay put but also not to cause displacement when the coeur is positioned. Extra sauce can be served on the side which I did in abundance!

The plate needs to have a flat diameter large enough for the coeur to be amply surrounded by the coulis. If the heart shape does not come out well, then a thicker circular pool of coulis can be done, perhaps on a smaller plate.

Tipping a mold onto my palm, the coeur neatly slipped out, and I carefully lifted off the wet paper towel.  Gingerly supporting the coeur with my fingers, it was placed off-centre with care onto the coulis. I first outlined an off-centre small heart with a tooth pick/skewer, and then carved it out with a teaspoon. The little heart was filled with coulis. I practiced all these steps with a test round.

The coeur à la crème turned out so stupendous that I decided nothing could be more wonderful than sitting on our sofa, spooning this buoyant cloud of creaminess dappled with tart/sweet coulis into my mouth all day long, day after day, for all eternity. Heavenly, my word!

À la prochaine!

Strawberry heart scones

Guidelines for using raw eggs safely