The perfect dessert on a hot summer day, Coeur or crémets is made of whipped crème fraîche lightened with egg white meringue, then left to drain in cheesecloth. Often the mixture, in effect a fresh cream cheese, is molded in a heart shape (coeur). In the Loire Valley where this dessert is most popular, you’ll find porcelain molds, pierced with holes for drainage, in several sizes. An inexpensive alternative is to poke holes in a metal cake pan, heart-shaped or a simple round. To provide a sweet, even fluffier contrast, the mold is traditionally served with Chantilly Cream and, most important of all, fresh red berries arranged in a necklace around the heart.

Serves 6

  • 2 cups/500 milliliters/16 fluid ounces crème fraîche
  • 4 egg whites
  • Fresh raspberries or strawberries, for serving
  • Sugar, for serving

Chantilly cream

  • 1 cup/250 milliliters/8 fluid ounces crème fraîche or heavy cream
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1-quart/1-liter/1 3/4-pint coeur à la crème mold, or 6 individual molds; cheesecloth

Line the molds with cheesecloth. Chill the crème fraîche and whip it in a large bowl until it holds soft peaks. In another bowl, whisk the egg whites until stiff. Stir about a quarter of the egg whites into the crème fraîche, then fold the mixture into the remaining whites. Spoon the mixture into the mold, filling well into the corners, and cover with plastic wrap. Set it on a tray to catch the drips and place in the refrigerator for at least 8 hours. It keeps well for up to 36 hours, setting more firmly and acquiring more taste.

An hour or two before serving, make the Chantilly cream (see glossary). Turn the coeur out onto a flat serving dish and arrange the raspberries or strawberries around the edge. Serve with separate bowls of sugar and chilled Chantilly cream.

photo by France Ruffenach
by Anne Willan, Chronicle Books, 2007.