Valentine’s Day Dishes with Heart
Homesteading and farming folk are a practical lot, but that doesn’t mean they lack a sense of romance. On the contrary, to make it as a homesteader or farmer in this world takes oodles of heart, dedication, commitment, and love. Love for the land, work, animals, family, and each other.
I still believe the surest way to a man or woman’s heart is through the belly. A hearty roast dinner, a prettily iced cake or simple stewed tomatoes, especially when created with your own produce, is love on a plate. The eggs my hens give me make me love them even more. I feed and care for them with love and they love me back with the bounty of their healthy, nutritious, and delicious eggs – and the occasional cuddle.
Here’s a perfect dish for Valentine’s Day, or really any time you want to say “I love you” with food. Coeur â la Crème. It’s French for Cream Heart. The heart comes from the traditional mold used to press this dessert, but any mold or form withsome holes will do: a berry bowl, cheese mold, or cheesecloth-lined sieve or colander will all work well. But, if you feel like splashing out, special moulds are available online and from kitchen and baking supply shops. My own set of molds were handmade by Quebec potter, Edith Bourgault http://www.artetmanufacture.com/and I love them.
Think of this classic, not-too-sweet French dessert as sort of a super-rich, crust-less, no-bake cheesecake. As for the sauce, well, anything you or your amour’s heart desires is fine, from a drizzle of pure maple syrup to a splash of Grand Marnier. But my preference – and the traditional approach – is a red fruit sauce – raspberry or strawberry – but blueberry is lovely too. I included a Coeur a la Crème recipe in my book – “Happy Hens & Fresh Eggs; Keeping Chickens in the Kitchen Garden” – with a maple-blueberry sauce, and it is delish!
Coeur a la Crème with Raspberry-Orange Sauce
Traditionally this recipe calls for fromage blanc, which is just about impossible to find in North America. Instead, I use decadent mascarpone, which is available in most grocery stores. If you can’t find that, cream cheese will do; buy the fattiest kind you can find. The addition of soft goat cheese (chevre) adds a lovely tang. Most recipes for Coeur a la Crème don’t call for whipped egg white, but I find adding it makes the end result lighter and fluffier. Seriously, who wants to be weighed down on the most romantic night of the year?
2 free-run egg whites
¾ cup 35% cream (whipping cream)
1 Tbsp. icing sugar
¾ cup room-temperature soft goat cheese
¾ cup room-temperature mascarpone
1 tsp pure vanilla essence
2 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
¼ cup liquid honey
2 cups raspberries (frozen wild berries have the best flavour)
¼ cup liquid honey
2 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/3 cup freshly squeezed orange juice; use blood oranges if they’re available, the color is lovely
- Cut as many pieces of cheesecloth as you'll need to line the moulds in a double layer, with enough extra cheesecloth draping over the sides as will fold over and cover the filling. Rinse cheesecloth in cold water, wring dry, and shake out, getting rid of any loose threads; line the molds with the cheesecloth, arrange on a tray with raised edges, set aside.
- Add the egg whites to a bowl that has been wiped clean with a drop of vinegar or lemon juice, and whisk with an electric beater until stiff peaks form. Set aside.
- To a large bowl with electric beaters, or the bowl of a stand mixer, add the whipping cream and icing sugar and whip the cream to soft peaks; set aside.
- In a large bowl, with an electric beater or in the bowl of a stand mixer with the whisk attachment, blend the goat cheese, mascarpone, vanilla, lemon juice and honey until very smooth; stopping every now and then to scrape down the sides of the bowl.
- Add the whipped cream and whipped egg whites to the cheese mixture and very gently fold it in, until well combined.
- Transfer the cheese and cream mixture to the cheesecloth-lined molds and wrap the extra cheesecloth over the top of the cheese mixture. Place a light weight on top – a plate or something not too heavy – and set the tray into the fridge to drain and set for at least 4 hours, though overnight is better.
- While the molds are setting in the fridge, make the sauce. The sauce can be made up to 2 days in advance and stored covered, in the fridge.
- Into a saucepan over medium heat, add the raspberries, honey, lemon and orange juices. Bring up to a simmer, stirring often.
- Reduce heat to low and simmer for about 20 - 30 minutes, or until sauce has thickened somewhat and reduced to about 1 cup. Set aside to cool, then cover and refrigerate. Now, I don’t mind the crunch, but if a more refined sauce is preferred, pour through a sieve while still warm, then discard the raspberry seeds.
- To serve, peel the cheesecloth away from the now set cheese heart, lay the serving plate on top of the mold and invert.
- Lift off the mold and gently peel away the rest of the cheesecloth; inspect for cotton threads left behind!
- Spoon some sauce onto the plate and over the heart, and offer more at the table in a little jug.
Makes 4 individual moulds or 1 family-size heart and about 1 cup of sauce.
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