This is the most amazingly delicious dessert imaginable - make it for someone you love very, very much!
The cast of characters - cream cheese, heavy cream, powdered sugar, vanilla extract, and vanilla bean seeds - Hello! What's not to love? I can't think of a more perfect Valentine's Day Dessert.
You'll also need some cheesecloth and a coeur a la creme mold. Alternates for both listed further down, so keep reading.
This is a traditional French porcelain coeur a la creme mold. I'm not at all fond of the shape this porcelain mold gives to the finished creme. I decided to make my own. Here's how.
I found an inexpensive plastic candy dish, drilled holes in the bottom, and voila, a DIY coeur a la creme mold.
You don't need a heart-shaped mold to make this yummy dessert. You can use a mesh sieve if you prefer.
The French porcelain molds have little feet on the bottom. My homemade mold doesn't, so here I'm using a mixing bowl to suspend the mold and catch the liquid as it drains.
A bird's eye view of the set-up.
Before we begin mixing the ingredients together, let's line our mold with cheesecloth. You can use coffee filters or paper towels if you don't have cheesecloth.
Time to mix the ingredients. In the bowl of a stand mixer, place the softened cream cheese and sift the confectioner's sugar on top.
I always sift clumpy ingredients like powdered sugar and cocoa powder. Just push the lumps through with a spatula or wooden spoon.
I know I sound like a broken record, but I LOVE by BeaterBlade attachment. LOVE, LOVE, LOVE. If you own a stand mixer, you need to get one!
Combine the sugar and cream cheese and beat on high for 2 minutes, then add the vanilla extract and vanilla bean seeds.
To extract the vanilla bean seeds, split the bean in half...
And scrape out the seeds with back of your knife.
Mmmm. Look at all of that yummy flavor!
Don't throw that vanilla bean away - use it to make vanilla sugar. Simply submerge used seed pods in granulated sugar and store in an airtight container. Keep adding bean pods and sugar and you'll always have a supply for cookies, desserts, beverages... whatever. Good stuff!
Beat in the vanilla extract and vanilla bean seeds. See all those yummy vanilla specks?
Add the heavy cream and replace the paddle with the whip attachment. Beat on high until stiff peaks form.
Pour the mixture into the prepared mold. It's okay to have a little extra - the mixture will shrink a little as it drains.
Wrap the excess cheesecloth over the top and place the mold in a container to catch the liquid that will eventually seep out.
I ran into an unexpected problem when I placed my filled mold in my mixing bowl to drain. The mold was kind of top heavy and it kept tilting sideways, so I placed some plastic wrap around the rim of the bowl which held the mold firmly in place.
Dairy products are notorious for absorbing refrigerator odors - not that there are any in MY refrigerator, but you never know when one of the teens is going to put some leftover Chinese take-out in there. So just to be on the safe side, wrap your Coeur a la Creme well with plastic before it goes into the fridge overnight.
Here we are after 24 hours. See how the creme has compressed a bit. The cheesecloth is saturated with moisture.
and look at all the liquid that drained into the bowl.
Time to place the finished Creme on a serving dish.
Remove the mold. Lift straight up so you don't mar the soft surface of the Creme.
Carefully peel away the cheesecloth which leaves a neat textured impression.
If I was serving this dessert on a white platter, I would have made a red fruit sauce (strawberry, raspberry), but since I'm using a red platter, I thought a chocolate sauce would be more appropriate. I made a simple sauce by combining 1 part chocolate to 2 parts heavy cream, over med heat; stirring constantly until combined. Allow to cool before using.
I garnished with some wild black raspberries I had stashed in the freezer. Voila!
Coeur a la Creme
6 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons confectioner's sugar, sifted to remove lumps
1 1/4 cups heavy cream, cold
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
seeds from 1/2 of a vanilla bean
In the bowl of a stand mixer, using the paddle or BeaterBlade attachment, slowly combine the softened cream cheese and the confectioner's sugar until the risk of spewing powdered sugar all over your kitchen has passed; increase speed to high and beat for 2 minutes.
Turn the mixer off; add vanilla extract and vanilla seeds, mix to combine on low.
Add cream and continue to mix on low until incorporated (scrape sides of the bowl if needed).
Turn mixer off and replace the paddle attachment with the whip attachment; whip mixture on high until stiff peaks form.
Pour mixture into a cheesecloth lined mold.
Place mold in a bowl to catch the juices that drain.
Cover well with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
Unmold, garnish, and serve.
makes about 1 1/4 cups
4 ounces bitter-sweet chocolate
8 ounces heavy cream
In a heavy bottomed pan over med heat, melt chocolate and cream together; stirring constantly. Cool before using.
adapted from Barefoot in Paris by Ina Garten
Tip: Cream cheese will dry out quickly if exposed to the air, so be sure to keep it wrapped while coming to room temperature. If you're pressed for time, you can quickly bring cream cheese to room temperature by placing it in a sturdy zip-top storage bag and knead it for a few minutes. It will soften up in no time flat.