Monday, March 7, 2011

Romantic Desserts

Originally posted 2/10/11

Good morning!  Today is my last Valentine’s post….so if you were over my Valentine’s ideas…..I’m almost done.  Don’t worry;)  By now I am sure you are locking in your V-day plans…..Or are you more of a last minute guy/gal?  I just asked Chris what our plans are and he said “I don’t know.  Nobody really likes romance do they?”  Sure, Chris….keep telling yourself that.  So far, my V-day plans sound awesome;) 
Anyhoo, if you are still looking for some ideas, I have some dessert ideas for you.  The first is super fancy…..and by that, I mean it looks and sounds fancy, but it is actually really easy.  It is a Strawberry Balsamic Couer a la Crème.  Fancy sounding, right?  A Coeur a la Crème is a French dessert typically associated with Valentine’s Day because it is usually made in a heart shaped mold.  The second is chocolate dipped strawberries, with a special twist.  Let’s start with the Coeur a la Crème, shall we?

I am going to start with a picture of the finished product so you have an idea where I am going with this…
It is normally eaten sort of like a custard or crème brulee type dessert.  I serve mine like a dessert “dip”.  I serve it with sugar cookies or shortbread cookies.  Heart-shaped…..of course!  You will seriously not believe how good this is.  It is creamy and fruity and so crazy good.

Ok, let’s start with the filling….
Super easy….I use two 8 ounce packs of cream cheese, vanilla extract and powdered sugar.  Many Coeur a la crèmes use mascarpone cheese, heavy cream, gelatin, etc.  I keep mine simple.
I beat the ingredients together for only a minute, tops.  I am not trying to make a frosting here, and I don’t want to make it too light.  I just want to flavor the cream cheese and this is the easiest way to do it.
After I mix it together, I put it into a dish and in the fridge to chill.  I line a dish with plastic wrap so that it will unmold easily when I am ready for it.  I really packed it down into the dish because I didn’t want any air pockets.  This needs to chill in the fridge for at least 2 hours.  It would be super cute if you had a heart shaped dish…..I didn’t, and I will be forever haunted by that;)
The strawberry balsamic topping is also super easy.  I know some of you are kind of grossed out by the idea of strawberries and balsamic vinegar together.  Give it a chance….It really works!  I love the sweet and sour combination. 
I use chopped fresh strawberries (defrosted frozen strawberries would work too), strawberry jam, sugar and balsamic vinegar.  If you have a fancy “aged” balsamic, by all means, use that.  It just means you are fancier then me;)  I only had regular balsamic….
I put the strawberries into a sauce pan with about 1 tablespoon of water and about 3 tablespoons of sugar.  The water just helps get the sauce going.  I let the strawberries simmer over medium heat for a few minutes. 
Next, I added the jam and balsamic and heated that through.  The jam will thicken the sauce.  You want a nice thick sauce to go over the cream cheese mixture.  If it is too thin, it will slide right off.  I pop the sauce in the fridge to chill a bit, but you can let it sit out and come to room temperature if you want. 
Once the cream cheese mixture is thoroughly chilled, I inverted it onto a platter.  If you lined the dish with plastic wrap, it will come right out.  If you didn’t, start over….and this time listen to me!;)  I pour the sauce over the top and serve with cookies. 
You will love this….and you will feel super fancy telling people you made a “Coeur a la Crème”. 

Now, as promised….chocolate covered strawberries with a special twist.  I stuff mine with cheesecake!  Chocolate covered strawberries almost seem mandatory for Valentine’s Day.  I keep seeing a commercial on TV for a company that delivers chocolate covered strawberries, and they start at $30 for 6!  That blows my mind because they really are the easiest thing to make!  I am all for flower delivery, but I almost think I would be angry if Chris sent me chocolate covered strawberries for V-day because I would know how expensive they are.  Put that money towards something useful…..like gettin’ mama a new pair of shoes!
I used dipping chocolate, cheesecake filling and strawberries.  Pretty sure I came in at under $30;)  I used the chocolate that comes in its own bowl, ready to melt.  You can really use any kind of chocolate though.  A dark chocolate bar would be great too.  I also used the ready made cheesecake filling because it was “ready made”.  Duh.
I started by cutting the strawberries little bottoms off so that they would stand up on their own.
Next, I used a melon baller to hull the strawberries and give the cheesecake a place to go.
I melted the chocolate according to the package directions.  I used a fork to dip the berries because I had already cut the tops off.  Normally, those green tops would be your handle….Then, I put the berries in the fridge to let the chocolate harden.
Finally, I piped the cheesecake filling into the berries.  I have a fancy contraption for piping.  If you don’t, you could always use a food storage bag with the corner snipped off, or…you could spoon it in.  I think piping is the prettiest way to go…..
I popped the berries back in the fridge until I was ready to serve them.
Ta-da!!  These would be lovely with a sprig of mint for garnish.  Unfortunately, my mint is buried under a couple inches of snow.
I think that these are so much more impressive then regular chocolate covered strawberries.  The cheesecake really takes them over the top.  Don’t you want to make these for your sweetie on Valentine’s Day? 

I hope you have a fantastic Valentine’s Day!  If you try these recipes, which I really hope you do, take some pictures!  I would love to see your creations….unless they are better than mine.  Then, keep them to yourself;) 

Strawberry Balsamic Coeur a la Crème
2 8 ounce packages cream cheese, at room temperature
3 Tablespoons powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup strawberries, chopped
1 Tablespoon water
3 Tablespoons granulated sugar
1 cup strawberry jam
3 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar
With a hand mixer, beat together cream cheese, powdered sugar and vanilla extract, just until mixed.  Put mixture into a plastic wrap lined dish.  Pack mixture down to avoid air pockets.  Chill in refrigerator for at least 2 hours.
To make the sauce:
Add chopped strawberries to a sauce pan with 1 tablespoon water and granulated sugar.  Simmer for about 4 minutes, or until berries are starting to soften.  Add jam and vinegar and heat through.  Let sauce come to room temperature or chill in the refrigerator.
Unmold cream cheese mixture onto serving platter.  Top with sauce.  Serve with sugar cookies or shortbread.

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