The French know their pastries — and so does Roland Mesnier, a former White House pastry chef for the Reagans, the Carters, both Bush administrations and the Clintons. Here, he shares his heavenly recipe for the French dessert coeur à la crème (heart of the cream), taken from his third book, Basic to Beautiful Cakes. 071129
Coeur à la crème
Serves 6 to 8
14 oz. Philadelphia brand cream cheese, at room temperature
6 tablespoons granulated sugar
Pinch of salt
1 1/3 cups creme fraiche
Wet a 15x15 inch piece of cheesecloth with cold water and wring it out so it is damp but not dripping. Place the cheesecloth inside a 9-inch coeur à la crème mold, with the edges overhanging the rim of the mold.
Place the mold on a rimmed baking sheet.
Place the cream cheese, sugar and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, and beat until fluffy. In another bowl, whip the creme fraiche with the whisk attachment until it just holds stiff peaks. Gently fold the creme fraiche into the cream cheese mixture.
Scrape the mixture into the cheesecloth-lined mold and smooth it with a spatula. Fold the overhanging cheesecloth on top of the mixture, smoothing out the wrinkles where possible, so that its surface is completely covered. Gently pat it down. Refrigerate the mold, still on the baking sheet, overnight to allow the excess moisture to drain.
Peel away the cheesecloth that covers the top, and invert the mold onto a serving platter. Lift off the mold and carefully peel away and discard the cheesecloth.
Spoon the sauce (recipe below) around the cake, and let it stand for 30 minutes.
Honey and vanilla sauce
Serves 6 to 8
1/2 cup honey
5 large egg yolks
2 cups half-and-half
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
1 coeur a la creme, drained and chilled, still in the mold
1 ripe mango, peeled, pitted, and cut into thin slices
1/2 pint fresh raspberries
2 ripe kiwis, peeled and thinly sliced
Whisk the honey and egg yolks together in a medium bowl. Combine the half-and-half and the vanilla bean in a heavy saucepan, and bring to a boil.
Slowly dribble 1/4 cup of the hot half-and-half into the egg yolk mixture, whisking constantly. Dribble another 1/4 cup of the half-and-half into the egg yolk mixture, again mixing constantly. Then whisk the egg yolk mixture back into the remaining half-and-half and return the pan to the heat. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon or a rubber spatula, until the mixture shows the first sign of coming to a boil. Quickly strain the sauce into a bowl, and refrigerate until cold.
Peel away the cheesecloth that covers the top of the coeur à la crème and invert the mold onto a large serving platter. Lift off the mold and carefully peel away and discard the cheesecloth.
Arrange the mango slices and raspberries around the cake. Drizzle the honey vanilla sauce and then the raspberry sauce, around the fruit so that strands of the drizzled sauces artfully intertwine. Arrange the kiwi slices around the perimeter of the platter. Let stand 30 minutes before serving.