Heart of Cream

This dish, like so many others, has become needlessly consigned to a specific holiday, but such a rich dessert should grace our tables much more often. Most recipes for coeur a la creme have only four ingredients—crème fraiche, cream cheese, egg whites and sugar—though the misguided might add vanilla or lemon. For years I’ve been making a coeur a la crème using cottage cheese for convenience, but this year, I’ve upped my game and made crème fraiche, which is not difficult, a little goes a long way, and keeps quite well.

You can make a simple crème fraiche by adding a packet of culture to store-bought dairy, but that’s a slacker’s option. Me, I trotted down to the Mississippi Farmer’s Market and bought lightly pasteurized  milks that retained enough lactic bacteria for the process. I mixed a cup of milk and a quarter cup of buttermilk along with a heaping tablespoon of store-bought sour cream to make a bit of a bite.

I kept the starter out overnight. By morning, it had thickened to a dense slurry. I added a half cup or so of this culture to a quart of whole cream from the supermarket, and it worked like a charm, producing a thick, tart crème fraiche. If you’re so inclined, the culture can be tended as you would a sourdough, and in time will mellow and deepen. I find it not worth the bother.

As to the coeur itself, if you happen to frequent the kinds of stores that sell such things as stainless steel strawberry stem removers,  chromium banana slicers, and cast-iron hot dog toasters, then you’re likely to run into these cute little ceramic heart molds with holes that are made specifically for a coeur a le crème. Since I am most assuredly not the Williams-Sonoma-type, I went to the Dollar Store and found a purple plastic, heart-shaped container with Ninja Turtles embossed on the front (“Be My Bodacious Valentine!”). It was just the right size, about a pint.

I burned holes in the plastic with a hot nail, and lined the mold—for that’s what it had become—with damp cheesecloth, mixed one cup of the crème fraiche with six ounces of cream cheese, blended in two stiffly-beaten egg whites and a tablespoon of confectioner’s sugar.

After filling the mold, I placed it uncovered on a plate in the coldest part of the refrigerator for several hours. After inverting the mold onto a plate and removing the cloth, I added a puddle of pureed raspberries, though any kind of berry would have been good, depending on your mood, though bananas would be tricky.

2 Replies to “Heart of Cream”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.