A Heart of Cream

When considering my penchant for cooking with lots of cream and butter, some friends tell me that they think my heart pumps cream; others say butter or chocolate.  I assure them that my blood runs as red as theirs and, thanks to pharmaceutical technology, without bad cholesterol and other annoying blockages. Is does not mean that I shouldn't be a little more careful but, when it comes to Valentine desserts, I simple can't help myself!

This Valentine's Day will be shared, as I mentioned last week, with very dear friends S.  ('star' of last week's post) and Our Friend Barbara (affectionately known as OFB). They will come over after we get home from work. There will be no big, elaborate, romantic dinner. Instead, we will get hors d'oeuvres from Trader Joe's, serve them in front of the television and hunker down in front of a silly romantic comedy. The movie of choice this year is Down With Love, and along with Ewan McGregor and Renée Zellweger, Chocolate plays an important supporting role.

Both S. And OFB love their chocolate. Mark, however, does not. So it is my job as chef to find something that will make everyone happy. Sometimes this is a daunting task, but this time it was a breeze. I made this dessert last year for Mark and it may be the one chocolate dessert he loves. It is a coeur à la crème au chocolat. It falls somewhere between mousse, cheesecake and heaven. While Mark despises cheesecake, he rather loves this for its light, creamy texture, and also because the chocolate is not overpowering. And, of course, presentation is 9/10ths of success; this dessert is a show stopper.

This recipe has been in my repertoire since just after I graduated from college.  I did not have the appropriate mold at the time. But, I did have a 7-inch round cake tin which I pierced in a decorative manner (not that the design of the holes means anything), and made do. Eventually, I got a real mold (as pictured above) and I use it from time to time to make sweet or savory coeurs à la crème. I know the molds are available in individual serving sizes, too, but if I buy one more gadget, kitchen utensil, or serving piece... I will be facing an unpleasant divorce! And the irony of a divorce over a Valentine's dessert would just be so wrong!

I hope you enjoy this light and exquisite dessert, and I wish you a very happy and chocolate covered Valentine's Day!

- David

Coeur à la crème au chocolat

8 ounces cream cheese, softened
1 1/4 cups heavy cream
2 ounces semi-sweet chocolate (about 1/3 cup)
2/3 cup confectioner's sugar, sifted to remove lumps
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 16-ounce bag frozen blackberries or raspberries
1/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon Chambord or Grand Marnier

Cut a double thickness of cheesecloth to 18-inches square. Rinse to remove sizing and squeeze to damp-dry. Line a coeur à la crème mold and set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, beat the cream cheese on high speed until light and fluffy. Add 1/4 cup of the cream and beat to lighten the cheese.

Melt the chocolate in the top of a double boiler (or in a metal or glass bowl over simmering water).

Add the chocolate, confectioner's sugar and vanilla to the cream cheese mixture and beat to blend, scraping down the sides of the bowl as you go.

In a clean bowl with clean beaters, beat the remaining cup of cream until they reach soft peaks. Fold them into the cheese/chocolate mixture until no steaks are visible.

Pour mixture into prepared mold and wrap overhanging cheesecloth over the top, pressing down lightly to ensure the mixture if conforming to the mold. Put mold onto a plate to drain (the reason the mold has holes!) and refrigerate for at least 8 hours or over night.

Make the sauce. Put berries, sugar and liqueur in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil and then let simmer for 10 minutes. Force the berry mixture through a fine sieve and discard seeds and skins. Refrigerate the sauce until, ready to use.

Unmold the coeur onto a decorative plate and stew fresh berries around the edges. Serve small slices with sauce drizzled over top, and pass remaining sauce around the table.

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