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. 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 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!
This recipe was cross-tested in 2022 and updated to halve the recipe to yield 2 Coeur à la Crèmes with enough sauce for both.
4 ounces (115g) cream cheese, at room temperature
1 cup (235ml) cold heavy cream
1/3 cup powdered sugar (1 1/2 ounces; 45g)
1/2 (5 1/2-inch) vanilla bean, scraped of its seeds
1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
8 ounces (225g) frozen whole strawberries
1/4 cup (60ml) water
3 tablespoons (45g) sugar
1/2 teaspoons lemon juice
Prepare 2 (4-inch) Coeur à la Crème molds by lining them with 2 layers of paper towels or damp cheesecloth (see note). Use a pastry brush to lightly brush the bit of cheesecloth or paper towel that touches the bottom and sides of the mold with water. This will allow you to nestle the cheesecloth or paper into the shape of the heart more easily.
In a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat cream cheese on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 1 to 2 minutes. With mixer on medium-low speed, gradually add in a third of the heavy cream; whisk until smooth and combined, stopping to scrape down sides as needed. Gradually add remaining cream; increase speed to medium and whisk until just before the mixture looks like whipped cream. Add powdered sugar, vanilla bean seeds, and lemon zest and whisk until the mixture resembles whipped cream.
Divide cream cheese mixture evenly between prepared molds, spreading in an even layer. Fold the excess cheesecloth or paper towel over the top, and set the mold on a rimmed baking sheet to catch the liquid that will drain out. (If your molds don’t have feet to keep them raised, place molds on a wire rack to keep them suspended over the baking sheet.) Chill in refrigerator overnight.
To make the sauce, combine strawberries, water, sugar, and lemon juice in a medium saucepan over high heat, and simmer for 10 to 12 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until the sugar is dissolved and the strawberries are soft.
Use an immersion blender, or a regular blender, to puree the sauce. Strain it through a fine-mesh sieve, and loosely cover. Chill until cold.
Invert the molds into individual, shallow bowls. Pour about 1/3 to 1/2 cup strawberry sauce around the outside, so each heart is floating in a pool of red sauce. Serve immediately with any extra sauce, or reserve sauce for another use (see note.)
two 4-inch Coeur à la Crème molds
If you don’t have Coeur à la Crème molds, you can use 2 medium fine-mesh sieves instead. Line and fill strainers as directed; place each over a medium bowl to catch any liquid that will drain out. Finish and serve as directed. The presentation may not be quite the same, but the flavors and textures will still be exceptional.
Extra strawberry sauce is great for spooning over ice cream, yogurt, parfaits and more.
|Nutrition Facts (per serving)|
|Servings: 2 to 4|
|Amount per serving|
|% Daily Value*|
|Total Fat 31g||40%|
|Saturated Fat 19g||97%|
|Total Carbohydrate 27g||10%|
|Dietary Fiber 1g||4%|
|Total Sugars 24g|
|Vitamin C 24mg||122%|
|*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.|