Valentine’s Day when I was growing up was never about chocolates; we lived on a windy Cape Cod lane lined with cranberry bogs. The chocolate choices in those days were two: Schraffts cardboard hearts from the drug store and Russell Stover boxed chocolates ordained as gifts for hospital patients.
My mother made Coeur a la Creme, which even as a child I knew was far more decadent, far more sublime than the chocolates being peddled as Valentine’s fare. I know now that there are as many Coeur a la Creme recipes are there are hearts to win, but it is basically a lightened, sweetened cheese mixture — goat cheese, ricotta cheese, cream cheese — placed into a traditional Coeur a la Creme mold.
The mold alone is enough to charm anyone who spends time in a kitchen.
Heart-shaped, ceramic, the mold has holes that allow the “cheese” to drain, becoming a cool, sweet, pillowy dessert that cries “cloak me in raspberries, strew me with flowers.” Chocolate can only wish to charm the eyes and lips as gloriously as Coeur a la Creme.
The molds are not hard to find; Amazon has plenty, but a simple kitchen colander substitutes perfectly, minus the Valentine’s-ness of having this ceramic heart on your kitchen counter for the week of Feb. 14th. My recipe is loosely adapted from Ina Garten’s.
Coeur a la Creme
Makes enough to fill one coeur a la creme mold (4 generous servings plus four more)
Coeur a la creme mold, colander, or sieve
6 ounces goat cheese
6 ounces creme fraiche
1 1/4 cups sifted confectioners sugar
2 1/2 cups cold heavy cream
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest
Seeds scraped from 1 vanilla bean
Raspberry and Grand Marnier Sauce, recipe follows
Fresh raspberries and blackberries or edible flowers to garnish