They say absence makes the heart grow fonder. I say cream and cream cheese make the heart grow creamier. Sugar makes the heart grow sweeter. Some people have funny valentines, but I have French ones, and this year, I am making my own francophone version of a bleeding heart: Coeur à la Crème with Strawberry Sauce.
I love French terms of endearment for their idiosyncratic charm: mon petit chou (my little cabbage), ma puce (my flea), mon tresor (my treasure), ma poupee (my doll), and ma vie (my life). And while I suppose I could have made cabbage for Valentine's Day, there is one title that we use en famille that I prefer, that is direct and true as love itself: mon coeur (my heart). And while my boyfriend did actually order calf's heart with chorizo as an appetizer last Valentine's Day, I thought it better to go with Coeur à la Crème.
Coeur à la Crème is a traditional dessert that is, conveniently enough, almost always shaped as a heart. It is basically drained dairy, that is flavored and sweetened. The dairy varies from cream to cream cheese to crème fraîche to sour cream to yogurt. I use a combination of whipped cream and cream cheese, sweetened with sugar, peppered with vanilla seeds, and brightened with lemon zest. All around, as a light, pert complement to the thick and creamy heart, is a sea of deep red strawberry sauce.
You will need to go out and by a Coeur à la Crème mold, but if you don't mind it's not actually being shaped like a heart, you could use a sieve for a dome shape instead. But other than this purchase (it cost me under $10, and you'll use it again and again), all you have to do is whip a couple of ingredients together, slather it into the mold or sieve, and go to sleep, or rather to bed. It is Valentine's. When you wake up, it's ready. How many desserts can you make while otherwise engaged?
So don your beret, make like Pepe Le Peu, and whip a bit of Valentine's romance into your life. You can just spoon this up as it is, or dip little Petit Beurre biscuits in, or fresh berries.
This dessert reminds me of a little American term of endearment, to go along with all the French ones: Sweethearts. Bisous!
About the author: Kerry Saretsky is the creator of French Revolution Food, where she reinvents her family's classic French recipes in a fresh, chic, modern way.
- 8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
- 2 cups heavy cream, cold
- 3/4 cup powdered sugar
- 1 vanilla bean, scraped of its seeds
- 1 teaspoon lemon zest
- 1 pound frozen whole strawberries
- 1/2 cup water
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 6 tablespoons sugar
Prepare the Coeur à la Crème mold by lining it with 2 paper towels. Use a pastry brush to lightly brush the bit of paper towel that touches the bottom of the mold with water. This will allow you nestle the paper into the shape of the heart more easily.
In a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the cream cheese until light and fluffy—just about 1 minute. Add in the cream, and beat until just before the mixture looks like whipped cream. Add in the sugar, vanilla seeds, and lemon zest, and whip until the mixture does resemble whipped cream.
Decant the cream cheese mixture into the paper towel-lined heart-shaped mold. Fold the excess paper towel over the top, and set the mold inside a shallow bowl to catch the liquid that will drain out. Chill in the fridge overnight.
To make the sauce, put the strawberries, water, lemon juice, and sugar in a sauce pan on high heat, and simmer for 10 minutes, until the sugar is dissolved and the strawberries are soft.
Use a immersion blender, or a regular blender, to puree the sauce. Strain it through a sieve, and cover. Chill until cold.
Invert the creamy heart in a large, shallow bowl. Pour some strawberry sauce all around the outside, so the heart is floating in a pool of red sauce.