White Chocolate Coeur de la Crème
It was no surprise to anyone that after 8th grade graduation, I sobbed for weeks.
I didn’t just cry at the pre-ceremony event, the actual ceremony, and the post-ceremony party. Instead, weeks into summer, I broke down whenever I heard the Vitamin C graduation song or saw a friend’s face. Looking back at the past, it’s ridiculous and a little embarrassing, but not surprising. I was always an overly sensitive kid.
I remember once, when I was in middle school, unearthing a box of old school reports from my elementary school teachers. I’d opened and read every report written about me since the first grade. I don’t know what I expected, but I was disappointed to see the same thing written every year: “While Elissa shows a clear passion for learning, she needs to control her emotions. She feels everything a little too much.”
Reading those papers, I felt like my sensitivity was a major weakness, my biggest flaw. If only I could learn to make my heart a little tougher, life would suddenly make sense. But I felt like I couldn’t change what was so clearly part of me. My life was overflowing with sensitivity.
Fast forward four years, and my sensitivity certainly hasn’t left. I’m consumed with sympathy when I hear about earthquakes or hurricanes or oil spills around the world. If I make a rude offhand comment to my mother in the morning, it drenches my entire day with guilt. And I still cry when I watch the Lion King. It’s just so sad.
But somehow, something has changed. I graduated Monday night on my school’s football field. I didn’t cry when I walked into the main gym for the last time and saw my entire senior class in blue gowns and square caps. I kept it together when my mother presented me with the purple lei she’d secretly bought for me, just for this occasion. My heart didn’t break when I finally saw my parents in the crowd, smiling like 150 watts.
Because I didn’t spend the entire time crying, I’ll remember things about this graduation that I can’t remember from 8th grade. I’ll remember how A- kept knocking off my graduation hat, so I couldn’t get it straight during the actual ceremony (thanks a lot.) I’ll remember the way the knots of my cords felt against the back of my neck, and the melody that C- and M- played on their cellos. And surreal and dreamy as it might be, I’ll remember the snapshot image of everyone’s caps suspended in the air, like they could float there forever.
It’s Wednesday – a lifetime of hugs, handshakes, photographs, laughs, and memories later. I still haven’t shed a tear. It’s not that I’m not sad to leave high school, because I am. I’ll miss my morning carpool with C-, my doodles in first period with M-, and watching Battlestar Galactica in E-‘s basement with a pillow clutched to my chest. In a few months, I’ll begin to miss things that I haven’t even thought of, the little things I took for granted every day I went to class.
But something fundamental has changed in me. In 8th grade, I clung so fervently to the past that I had to be dragged into the next stage of my life. I was terrified of change, even though I couldn’t admit it. And now? Well, I’m still terrified of change. But I’m also ready for it, eager for it. The thrill of college is tangible and overwhelming – it’s electric.
And while I don’t think I’ll ever stop tearing up when Simba takes his rightful place in Pride Rock, I’m no longer held back by sensitivity as a weakness. In fact, wielded in the right way, I think it’s a strength. It’s what fills my head with imagery as a writer, it’s what lets me empathize with everyone around me, and it’s what makes life so much richer an experience.
My life is no longer overflowing with sensitivity – it’s flowing with inspiration. Everywhere I look, I am surrounded by potential and motivation. I want to take everything I’ve learned in high school and change the world with knowledge. I want to throw myself into Boston head first, arms open. I want to read every book in existence, and let the words push me forward.
I devoured A Homemade Life in one afternoon several weeks ago. It’s by my hero Molly Wizenberg, the blogger behind Orangette, and it’s beautiful. She weaves every story with family and food and love, tying everything in her life to the meals she remembers. “Inspiring” feels like an understatement – I want to write a book like that someday.
But for now, maybe I can be satisfied with baking food like that today. When I saw her recipe for white chocolate coeur de la crème, I couldn’t stop myself from making it that very evening. It’s a mousse made with cream, cream cheese, and white chocolate, chilled and served in dollops with berry puree. It was everything she’d described – creamy, soft, simultaneously airy and substantial – brought to life.
It’s incredible how my view of the world has changed in four years. What will the next four bring?
I’ve never been a fan of white chocolate. It’s too sweet, doesn’t melt the same way on your tongue as dark chocolate, and it can even be a little waxy. But here, the white chocolate is the star in a very good way. You get the flavor of white chocolate, sweet and vanilla scented. But it’s balanced by the cream cheese, and the whipped cream folded in keeps the whole thing light and fluffy. The blueberry lime puree adds tang and color – just an overall gorgeous dessert.
You chill the dessert in any mold you like overnight. I picked one of my metal mixing bowls and ended up with a shallow dome. It’s traditionally made in a heart-shaped mold, but you could use just about anything.
White Chocolate Coeur de la Crème with Blueberry Lime Puree
Slightly adapted from A Homemade Life
Coeur de la Crème
3 oz good quality white chocolate, finely chopped
8 oz cream cheese (not low fat), room temperature
1 1/4 cups heavy cream
3/4 cup powdered sugar, sifted
10 oz frozen blueberries
Zest of one lime
3 tbsp sugar
Cut two sheets of cheesecloth big enough to fully line your mold, plus a little overhang on all sides. Dampen the cheesecloth with water, wring it out, and put them together to make a double layer. Press it into the sides and bottom of the mold, leaving some hanging over the sides.
Microwave the white chocolate in a microwavable bowl in 20 second intervals on high. Stir between intervals, and heat only until smooth and just melted.
Mix the cream cheese, 1/4 cup cream, and the sugar in a mixer on medium speed until fluffy. Scrape the sides of the bowl as needed. Then add the white chocolate and beat for 2 minutes, until very smooth.
In another bowl, beat the remaining 1 cup cream to stiff peaks and fold into the cream cheese mixture. Spoon into the mold, smooth the top with a rubber spatula, then fold the overhanging cheesecloth over it to cover the top. Place the mold unto a rimmed sheetpan or plate and chill for 8 hours or overnight.
To make the puree, blend the thawed berries, their juice, the zest, and the sugar in a blender or food processor until smooth. Push the puree through a sieve to remove the seeds into a small bowl. Cover and chill for up to 4 hours.
Carefully peel the cheesecloth off the top of the coeur de la crème and invert it onto a plate. Peel off the rest of the cheesecloth. Serve in dollops in teacups or shallow bowls along with a spoonful of puree.
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