Crème fraîche

July 19, 2011 | Comments Off

Crème fraîche (“fresh cream” in French) is a type of cultured cream that elevates cafeteria fare to food porn. Ask Randy from South Park.

Amanda Hesser of The New York Times describes it thus:

A good crème fraîche is dreamy, a thick, cloudlike cream that is a little nutty like an aged cheese, tangy like a goat cheese, and yet still fresh and creamy. Sour cream, in comparison, seems stodgy and acerbic, yogurt pale and thin. Crème fraîche is silkier, more nuanced and so delicious you wonder how you survived without it. For many people, that first taste happened on a trip to France, where it seems to be everywhere — slumped over tarts, tucked into potato gratins, melted into simple pan sauces for skirt steak.

Crème fraîche has a clean, buttery taste with just the tiniest hint of tartness. It makes silken chocolate truffles, crème brûlée, adds body to mayonnaise and makes a great mascarpone substitute in tiramisu. It makes fabulous ice cream and is the perfect thickener for soups and curries ‘cos its high fat content ensures that it will not curdle.

It’s also bloody expensive and that’s a real shame ‘cos it’s one of the easiest things to make.

Homemade Crème Fraîche

This recipe can easily be doubled.

You need
1 cup of heavy cream
Pasteurised is best. If you only find ultrapasturised, it will work, but will take longer to thicken.

Heat it for about 20 seconds in the microwave or warm it in a very low oven until it is no longer cold. It should not be any warmer than your finger. If you start with room temperature cream, there’s no need to heat it.

Put the cream in a glass jar and add any of the following
1 tbsp cultured buttermilk – the store-bought variety available in Europe and North America.
OR
2 tbsp store-bought crème fraîche
OR
a packet of crème fraîche starter culture

Stir in the starter, cover the jar and leave it at room temperature (ideally between 72 and 78F) for 24 hours. It will get very thick and spoonable. Keep the jar in the fridge for another 24 hours. It will get even firmer and very glossy.

Use within a week. Save 1 heaped tbsp, add it it to another cup of cream as starter, and make your next batch.

Despite what some online recipes recommend, DO NOT USE as a starter
1. Sour cream.

2. A cheat “buttermilk” made by mixing milk with a bit of vinegar. Well, that certainly can work as a buttermilk substitute in a cake or pancake recipe, but we’ve tried making crème fraîche with it and failed.

3. Old-fashioned buttermilk (chaas/moru/majjiga) – the thin, tart liquid leftover after making butter from cream cultured with yogurt. The difference between commercial buttermilk in the carton and old-fashioned buttermilk the two is explained HERE.

4. Yogurt.

Yogurt is produced by a mixed culture of two types of bacteria – Streptococcus thermophilus and either Lactobacillus acidophilus or L. bulgaricus. Commercially available buttermilk is the fermentation of milk by a different bacterial culture – Streptococcus lactis plus Leuconostoc citrovorum.

If you use, sour cream, yogurt or old-fashioned buttermilk (which has yogurt cultures), the end result will be a tarter, less delicate version of cultured cream. It will not taste as refreshing as crème fraîche. It will also turn soups grainy.

NEXT: Make your own chocolate bar.

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