White Chocolate Coeur de la Crème

June 16, 2010 at 11:21 pm 73 comments

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.

White Chocolate Coeur de la Crème

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.

White Chocolate Coeur de la Crème

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.

White Chocolate Coeur de la Crème

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.

White Chocolate Coeur de la Crème

It’s incredible how my view of the world has changed in four years. What will the next four bring?

White Chocolate Coeur de la Crème

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
Serves 6-8

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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73 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Marta  |  June 21, 2010 at 9:46 am

    Dear Elissa,

    First of all, congratulations on your Graduation!
    Now for me, this is one of the best you’ve written so far (that I’ve read, of course), as we say in Portugal, you left me holding my heart in my hands… In a good way.
    Your view of the world has changed, and hopefully so has the world’s view on you. What I mean is I hope those well-meant teachers who once somehow wished your heart was “less soft” are the same ones who today cross their fingers, wishing you never let your heart harden.
    Wishing you all the very best life has to offer… Godspeed Elissa!

    Your fan,

    I hope you enjoy this —> http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sTJ7AzBIJoI

  • 2. Kelli  |  June 22, 2010 at 9:16 pm

    Elissa, you are a wonderful writer. I have been sensitive to change my whole life too. I can relate to the way you felt after graduating from high school, though. Last year, when I started college, I noticed that I no longer wanted to hold on to the past so strongly that it brought tears to my eyes. It is such a relief to be excited and ready for change! After all, life is way too short to miss out on new experiences. Anyway, I just want to let you know that I love your blog, and your writing is an inspiration to me. We need more people in the world like you.

  • 3. helen  |  June 24, 2010 at 8:08 am

    i made a broken coeur a la creme… it’s a bit sad actually!

  • 4. Alicia  |  June 24, 2010 at 11:22 am

    Saw you on TV today!! Congrats!! =)

  • 5. Dale Garvey  |  June 24, 2010 at 12:13 pm

    Very interesting flag cake. I will share it with my granddaughter. Your presentation was as good as any I have seen on the Food Network. Say hello if you see me at Interlake. I am the old man with a camera.

  • 6. Dale Garvey  |  June 24, 2010 at 12:17 pm

    I see that you are a grad. Did you go to the Senior Party? I will send you a link to the photos.

  • 7. Meatloaf Recipe  |  June 26, 2010 at 12:26 am

    great posting! it’s really helpful for me.
    thanks for share this.

  • 8. bel  |  June 27, 2010 at 12:13 pm

    I made this last week, though I had fresh raspberries and limes at the time so i made a raspberry-lime coulis. It’s a very simple little dessert, but it was lovely, almost a summer time comfort food, in the way a pavlova with cream and berries would be. The slightly sour taste of the cream cheese balances out the sweetness of the white chocolate, which, I think, always needs some sort of edge to its flavor.

    Why is it that this recipe doesn’t call for the traditional mould with the sort of irrigation holes at its base? Has it something to do with the addition of white chocolate to the regular recipe?

    • 9. Elissa  |  June 27, 2010 at 3:38 pm

      bel – I’m so glad you liked the recipe! I’m not sure about the mold. In the original recipe, Molly says that you are traditionally supposed to use a heart-shaped mold. I imagine that would be made out of metal and wouldn’t have holes in it. But she says she uses a colander, which would have holes. Maybe it works either way?

  • 10. The Blue-Eyed Bakers  |  June 27, 2010 at 2:05 pm

    Congratulations! This is such a exciting (and yes very very emotional) time for you…! And of course we’re thrilled you’ve kept cooking – this coeur de la creme looks just lovely…!

  • 11. Heidi  |  June 29, 2010 at 11:02 am

    The traditional heart mold does have holes in it, I’ve seen Ina Garten make Couer de la Creme with it. The holes allow for some drainage, and makes the mixture thicker. Either way though, chocolate, cream cheese, and cream taste delicious together. Have fun in Boston!

  • 12. Rachel Willen, Kitchenista  |  June 29, 2010 at 4:36 pm

    Congratulations. My daughter just graduated from 8th grade. Here’s a recipe I created for after the ceremony. I hope she’s as into food and writing as you are after high school. Well-done.

  • 13. Val  |  June 30, 2010 at 5:38 am

    What a wonderful blog! Right about this time last year I read Molly’s book as well and was totally touched by how beautiful it was. I actually cried, which is something I can say for maybe 3 other books ever (but movies are another story– I’m there with you about the Lion King…) Have you ever been to Delaney? You should see about getting a summer job there…

    You are a fantastic writer. Keep writing and you will certainly go somewhere with it (if not only to the top of your class because believe me, most college seniors don’t write this well). I’m glad I stumbled across your blog and I look forward to reading more soon!

  • 14. Eleanor  |  July 4, 2010 at 9:25 am

    The next four years will give you moments of happiness, sadness, wisdom, embarrassment and humility. Learn from all you’re college experiences whether they be good or bad.

    By the time I graduated from Uni, I was in essence the same young woman I was at the start but, I saw the world differently and was different because of it.

    Expect to lose touch with high school friends. It’s great if you can manage to keep in touch with some but don’t be too upset if they don’t keep in touch. You will make new friends. I am still friends with a girl I had a class with my first semester of Uni. We’ve both taken different paths and lost track of each other along the way but the friendship is still there and just as strong as it was in the beginning.

    The other great thing about college is the care packages! If you get really desperate then investigate one of those food savers things, the ones that seal your food in a vacuum seal. Should keep things fresh for a few months longer.

    Good luck with the future and congratulations on beginning the next phase of your life.

  • 15. annette  |  October 12, 2011 at 1:59 am

    Thank you so much for sharing your sentiments. I too am a very sensitive and shy person. In the long run, it is hard to wear a “mask” and try to be someone else- like what what the world seems to expect you to be.
    I am now in my forties, and finally coming to terms with who I am and being comfortable expressing myself, my authentic self.
    I hope you will gain some perspective from reading Elaine Aron’s work on highly sensitive people. Your sensitivity and honesty make your writing very special. i hope you always keep a good circle of friends who cherish who you are, as you truly are. It seems that your family is also supportive of who you are (mine wasn’t). All the best.

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Elissa Bernstein

I'm Elissa: a 17 (now 21) year old baker in Seattle Boston juggling creative nonfiction workshops, subway maps, and my passions for writing, baking, and photography. Photo above © Michelle Moore

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