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Valentine's Day Sweet Hearts

Feathery light sweet-cream biscuits, heart-shaped, of course, a whipped cream filling -- perfumed with passion fruit for lovers -- on a circle of brilliant raspberry puree and garnished with fresh raspberries. Not too sweet, perfect with a "poor man's Sauternes."

For the biscuits:
2 cups all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 cup (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into bits
3/4 cup heavy cream, and up to 2 tablespoons additional if needed
2 teaspoons heavy cream

The sauce:
1 package frozen (partially thawed) red raspberries
Sugar to taste

The cream:
1/2 cup heavy cream, chilled
2 teaspoons confectioners' sugar
1 teaspoon

The biscuits: Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

Place the flour, sugar and baking powder in a large mixing bowl and whisk to combine. Add the butter to the bowl and, using your fingertips, a pastry blender or two knives, work the butter into the dry ingredients until the mixture resembles fine meal. Make a well in the center and pour in the 3/4 cup heavy cream. Using a fork, toss and stir until the mixture is moist and starts to come together. It may be shaggy; don't worry -- it will smooth as you knead it. Still working in the bowl, gently knead the dough for about 45 seconds. Place the dough on a lightly floured work surface and pat it into a disk. Dust the top of the dough with flour and roll or pat it until it is 1/2 inch thick.

Using a heart-shaped cutter, 21/2 to 3 inches wide, cut out 8 hearts. (You can gather the scraps together, re-roll and cut out more hearts, if you want. You'll need only 8 for this recipe and the first 8 will be the best.) Brush the excess flour off the tops and bottoms of the hearts. Place them on an ungreased baking sheet and brush lightly with the 2 teaspoons cream. Bake 13 to 15 minutes, or until deeply golden and almost tripled in height. Take the baking sheet from the oven and place on a rack until you need the biscuits.

The sauce: Partly thaw the frozen berries a minute or two in the microwave. Drain off 1/2 cup of the juice before you puree the berries in a blender or food processor, or by pushing through a sieve. Taste and add sugar until the sauce is as sweet as you like. Reserve.

The cream: If using passion fruit cut off tops, as you would a soft-boiled egg. With a small spoon, scrape into a small bowl the 2 or 3 tablespoons in each fruit of astonishingly intense, paradise-flavored, bright yellow liquidy pulp. (Passion fruit in specialty markets now are a dusty purplish, about the size of an egg. They are not ripe until they look quite wrinkled. If smooth-skinned, leave out on the counter up to a week.) Stir in a teaspoon of sugar per fruit. Taste for sweetness. Whip the cream until it holds soft peaks. Sift over the confectioners' sugar and add the vanilla. Gently combine. Fold in sweetened passion fruit pulp.

Film each of 4 dinner plates with puree. For each serving, halve 2 biscuits. Spoon a little puree onto each cut side. Place the bottom halves of the biscuits side-by-side in the center of the plates and drop a spoonful of whipped cream on each. Lean the tops of the biscuits over the bottoms, leaving most of the cream exposed. Arrange berries in the cream, letting them peek out of the hearts. Spoon a puff of cream onto each plate, decorate with berries and serve. Serves 4.

Adapted from Dorie Greenspan

Thursday, February 10, 2000

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