This old-fashioned French dessert, named for the heart-shaped moulds sometimes used to make it, is a surprisingly light complement to British forced rhubarb, now at the peak of its short winter season.
Coeurs à la crème can be made with everything from crème fraîche to ricotta, but the tangy, clean flavour of fromage frais, which is available in large supermarkets, works particularly well in this mousse-like version, which gets its airy texture from beaten egg whites. Feel free to make it as sweet, or not, as you like, and to pair it with other fruits throughout the year – it's a remarkably versatile recipe to have up your sleeve.
For now, however, gloriously pink indoor rhubarb is hard to beat. Its mouthwatering acidity balances the almost marmalade sweetness of a pudding wine like a Montbazillac perfectly, while the delicate floral flavour of the rosewater, like the wine's ripe apricot notes, are a welcome promise of warmer weather to come. (Don't worry if you're not a big fan of Turkish Delight and its ilk; the rose is relatively subtle, but substitute orange blossom water, or indeed leave the flowers out altogether if you prefer.)
Felicity Cloake's Coeur à la Crème with Rhubarb and Rosewater
For the coeur à la crème:
- 2 egg whites
- 300g full-fat fromage frais
- 2 tbsp caster sugar (optional)
- 100ml double cream
- Dried rose petals, to serve (optional)
For the baked rhubarb:
- 400g forced rhubarb
- 50g caster sugar
- Rosewater, to taste
To make the coeur, put the egg whites in a bowl with a pinch of salt and whisk to stiff peaks.
Spoon the fromage frais and sugar into a larger bowl and whisk until smooth. Whip the double cream to soft peaks in a smaller bowl, and then use a large metal spoon to fold it into the fromage frais. Fold a spoonful of whisked egg white into the mixture to loosen it, then gently fold in the rest.
Set a fine sieve, a coeur à la crème mould or any container with drainage holes in the bottom, above a bowl and spoon in the mixture. Cover, refrigerate and leave to drain for at least six hours. (You can drink the resulting whey, or feed it to the dog.)
Meanwhile, chop the rhubarb into short, fairly even lengths, cutting any particularly thick stalks in half lengthways, rinse well, then put wet in an ovenproof dish and toss with the sugar. Leave to sit for at least an hour.
Heat the oven to 180C fan. Cover the rhubarb with foil and bake for about 10-15 minutes until soft. Drain the syrup into a jug and add rosewater to taste: brands vary hugely in strength, so start with 1/4 tsp and increase as necessary. Pour back over the rhubarb and allow to cool.
Unmould the coeur into a serving dish, or divide between bowls. Spoon the rhubarb and its syrup around the side, and top with a pinch of dried rose petals, if you happen to have them. Serve with a bowl of extra sugar for the sweet toothed.
Monbazillac, Château Pech la Calevie 2015 is a glorious, succulent and peachy nectar from the Dordogne, which is deliciously sweet, but with enough freshness to sing with the rhubarb too.