Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Sweet at heart Coeur a la creme

Photo Steve Shanahan

First published Canberra Times February 8, 2012.

If you’re out to make an impression on Valentines Day, the luscious and very French Coeur a la crème with raspberry coulis might just give you the edge. A picture of pure white cream floating in a scarlet sea of raspberry coulis, makes a voluptuous statement, perfect to impress the object of your desire.

Despite its glam looks, it’s an easy dessert to make and the most basic of cooks can achieve excellent results by following the recipe step by step. The windfall here is that you won’t even need to turn on the oven.

You do have to be a bit organised for this one, as you’ll need to make it at least one day before your guerre de l’amour begins. To ensure your campaign’s success, it’s important to have the right materiel on hand.  You will need about ¾ of a metre of muslin or cheesecloth, as the cream cheese is moulded into shape and wrapped in muslin, then left to drain in the traditional French way. This will take about 24 hours in the fridge.

To make my dessert, I used a set of four 7 centimetre heart shaped Coeur a la crème moulds that I bought during my travels in France last year. They have small holes in the base to allow the liquid to drain from the cheese. The heart is the traditional shape for presentation of the dessert, although there are as many restaurants now serving it in freeform shapes too.

You can purchase these moulds through online outlets or specialty kitchen shops. If you don’t have the moulds, you can just as easily spoon the cream cheese into the muslin, creating a freeform teardrop shape, which bears more of a likeness to a true heart in any case. The shape will not make any difference to the end result.

This quantity makes four individual portions. So, if you serve this to your Valentine, and don’t achieve the success you desire, you will have two left in reserve for further sorties.  

They will keep for 3 to 4 days in the fridge and I find that the flavour improves the longer you leave them. Alternatively, leftover portions can be wrapped in the muslin, placed in a freezer bag and frozen. Any leftover raspberry coulis can be used to drizzle over ice cream or yoghurt or kept frozen for later use.

Tip: Muslin or cheesecloth can be bought at fabric shops very cheaply or Wheel and Barrow sells food grade muslin in packs for approximately $7.00.  Make sure all ingredients are very cold. The ceramic Coeur a la Crème moulds retail in Australia for about $20.00 each.

1 cup cream cheese
⅔ cup pure cream
¼ cup icing sugar, sifted
1 tspn lemon juice
1 tspn grated lemon rind
½ tspn vanilla paste

Raspberry coulis
2 ½ cups fresh or frozen raspberries, if using frozen, remove from freezer 15 minutes before cooking, to allow them to soften
¼ cup sugar
juice of half a lemon
2 tbsp Framboise or a fruit Liqueur (optional)

Cut the muslin into 8 squares, approximately 20x 20cm size. Wet the muslin squares under cold water and line 4 Coeur la crème moulds with 2 overlapping layers of the dampened muslin, letting the excess hang over the sides of the moulds.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a beater attachment, beat the cream cheese until it is smooth and velvety, scraping down the bowl as needed. Gradually beat in the sifted icing sugar, vanilla, lemon juice and rind and beat again until very smooth. 

You will now need to scrape the beaten cream cheese mixture into another large bowl. Again, using the mixer bowl, (no need to wash it) fit the whisk attachment to the machine and whip the pure cream until it just holds stiff peaks. Using a spatula, gently stir a small amount of the whipped cream into the cream cheese mixture to loosen it, and then add the rest of the whipped cream, folding in gently with a spatula to hold the air in.

If using the moulds, divide the mixture among the individual moulds lined with the damp muslin. Fold the excess muslin over the top and pat gently to ensure it settles to the bottom. Place the moulds in a tray in the refrigerator to catch the liquid that will drain.

If you are not using the moulds, for each serving, place 2 squares of damp muslin, one on top of the other, on a clean work surface. Place 2 to 3 tablespoons of the cream cheese mixture in the centre of each piece of muslin. Gather the muslin up and tie the top with a small piece of string or a rubber band to make 4 teardrop shaped balls. Repeat for all four servings. Set the balls of cream cheese in a strainer over a bowl to allow them to drain.

Place the moulds or balls in the refrigerator overnight for at least 12 hours to drain and dry out. I find leaving them an extra day provides an even better result. But this is entirely up to you.

To make the coulis, place half of the raspberries in a bowl and mash gently with a fork or potato masher until only just crushed. In a medium saucepan, combine the mashed raspberries, whole raspberries, sugar, lemon juice and alcohol if using. Place over medium to low heat and gently simmer until the raspberries have softened and begun to release their juices, about 5 minutes. Cool completely and set aside or refrigerate until ready for use.

When you’re ready to serve, unfold the muslin from the tops of the cream cheese moulds and lifting carefully turn the cream cheese out onto individual plates. If using the teardrop shapes, cut the string or rubber bands and peel away the muslin and plate up. In both methods, the muslin will come away easily without sticking. Spoon an indulgent amount of the raspberry coulis around the cream cheese to serve.