Coeur à la Crème
Reading Time: 4 minutes
Celebrate Valentine’s Day by making your sweetheart this decadent (yet surprisingly light) heart-shaped cheese dessert that originated in the Loire Valley of France centuries ago. The name coeur à la crème means “hearts of cream,” and cheesemakers traditionally form it in a heart-shaped mold. If you don’t have one of those, you can make it in any shape, but you might have to call it something else — like fromage à la crème!
The three kinds of cheese that make up my recipe for this dessert are cream cheese, mascarpone, and chèvre (or fromage blanc if you’re using cow milk instead of goat). There are other renditions of this recipe that use a variety of combinations of creamy cheeses, but this is my favorite. The tricky part for those wanting to make this cheese entirely of goat milk is that the mascarpone is made with heavy cream and this cream cheese recipe uses some heavy cream along with milk. Unless you have a mechanical cream separator, you’ll have trouble getting heavy goat cream since goat milk fat molecules are so small they don’t separate out naturally like cow milk butterfat does. When I make this dessert, and all the cheeses are made from scratch, I use cow cream for the mascarpone, the heavy cream part of the cream cheese, and goat milk for the rest.
My own goats are dry at this time of year, so I have to buy milk to make this cheese, but if you’re still milking from last season or have already kidded and have fresh milk now, by all means, use it!
If you need to buy grocery store milk to make these cheeses, avoid ultra-pasteurized milk as they are too damaged to make cheese. For the heavy cream, if all you can find is ultra-pasteurized, that’s okay, but if you have a source for low-temperature pasteurized cream, that’s better. If you have fresh and clean raw milk, just cut all your culture amounts in half. And one last tip, if you’re going to buy cow milk for any of the cheeses, non-homogenized milk will work better than homogenized.
For every two heart-shaped desserts, you will need:
- ½ cup each of cream cheese, mascarpone, and chèvre or fromage blanc
- ½ cup whipping or heavy cream
- 1/16 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 tablespoons powdered sugar
- Fresh or frozen fruits such as raspberries, strawberries, and blueberries
- Melted chocolate for drizzling over the heart (optional)
Cream Cheese Recipe
- HEAT: Heat 6 cups of whole milk and 2 cups of heavy cream to 72 degrees Fahrenheit. Remove from heat.
- CULTURE: Sprinkle 1/16 teaspoon of Mesophilic culture over the surface of the milk and let it rehydrate for a minute or two before stirring it into the milk with an up-and-down motion.
- COAGULATE: Dilute one drop of rennet in 1/8 cup of non-chlorinated water. Stir into the milk/cream mixture with the same up-and-down motion. Cover and let sit for 24 hours, maintaining the temperature as best you can.
- CUT: Cut the curd into vertical strips about 2 inches wide. Let stand for 5 minutes.
- SCOOP: Scoop the curds into a cheesecloth-lined colander; tie corners of the cloth together to form a bag and let drain for 12 hours (shorter for a thinner consistency; longer for thicker).
- SALT: Remove from cheesecloth and add ¼ tsp of non-iodized salt to taste.
- REFRIGERATE: Store in refrigerator for up to two weeks or freeze.
- HEAT: Heat 1 quart of heavy cream or half-n-half in a heavy pot or double boiler, continuously stirring until it reaches 190 degrees F.
- STIR: Stir in ¼ teaspoon of tartaric acid dissolved in ¼ cup warm water and gently stir until the cream thickens slightly (several minutes).
- SIT: Remove pan from heat, cover and allow to sit for 15–20 minutes.
- POUR: Pour thickened cream into a triple-layer cheesecloth in a strainer over a bowl. Wrap the edges of the cheesecloth over the curds.
- REFRIGERATE: Refrigerate for a few hours or overnight.
- REMOVE: Remove from cheesecloth and stir with a fork.
- EAT: Use in your favorite recipe or refrigerate for up to two weeks.
Chèvre/Fromage Blanc Recipe
- HEAT: Heat 1 gallon of pasteurized milk (goat milk for chèvre; cow milk for fromage blanc) to 72 degrees F in a large pot.
- CULTURE: Sprinkle 1/8 teaspoon of Mesophilic onto the surface of the milk. Let sit for a minute or two to rehydrate, and then stir in. Cover the pot with a lid and let “ripen” for 2 hours.
- COAGULATE: Dilute two drops of rennet in ¼ cup non-chlorinated water and then stir gently into ripened milk. Cover pot and let sit at room temp for 12–20 hours.
- SCOOP: Gently ladle the curds into a fine cheesecloth (butter muslin). Tie up cloth and hang over a sink or in a big pot for 12–20 hours.
- SALT: Add a little non-iodized salt and mix into cheese with a fork.
- EAT: Eat within two weeks or freeze for several months!
Putting the Couer à la Crème Together:
- Make or buy cream cheese, mascarpone, and chèvre or fromage blanc.
- In one bowl, beat the cheeses with an electric beater until light and creamy. Add vanilla extract and set mixture aside.
- Whip heavy or whipping cream and sugar in another chilled bowl until soft peaks form.
- Fold the whipped cream into the cheese mixture and spread it into coeur à la crème forms lined with fine-woven cheesecloth. Fold extra cloth over the top of the cheese.
- Place in a basket or strainer over a bowl to catch any drips, and refrigerate for several hours or overnight.
Turn the heart-shaped cheese onto a plate and garnish with berries, berry sauce, or compote. Drizzle with melted chocolate if desired.