Thursday, May 19, 2011

Recipe: The Ultimate Non-Low Fat Ingredient – Crème Fraîche

Sarcasm is the sour cream of wit. – Unknown

Crème fraîche with pear tart. Photo: jamieann, Flickr ccl
Crème Fraîche (pronounced “krem fresh”) is a delicious alternative to whipped or sour cream. It can be served atop desserts, in soups or even in stovetop savoury cooking.

So what exactly is it?
Crème Fraîche is a thickened high fat cream with a rich and tangy flavour. This is due to the cream being matured with a special bacteria. The cream usually has (at minimum) 30% butterfat. In unpasteurized cream the bacteria is already present. To describe the flavour, it's sort of like a cross between sour cream and whipping cream. Very, very good.

To make crème fraîche with pasteurized milk a culture has to be introduced. In our case we use “cultured” buttermilk. For the cream base plain old whipping cream (32% butterfat) is perfect.

Used to finish squash soup. Photo: stu-spivak, Flickr ccl
Why bother to make this at home?
Well, for one, it’s extremely expensive at the grocery, if you can even find it. Secondly, theres nothing as good as that which you make. We all know that.

It’s one of those recipes that gives you a massive saving over pre-made. All you need is some cream and buttermilk, which doesn’t cost much for the volume you end up with.

What kind of recipes use crème fraîche?
There are many recipes that either require, or benefit from, the use of crème fraîche. Just a sampling are:
  • Blueberry scones with crème fraîche in the batter;
  • Strawberry shortcakes with crème fraîche instead of whipping cream;
  • As a pasta sauce with olive oil, basil, parmesan and cracked black pepper;
  • Oven baked potato crisps with crème fraîche and caviar;
  • Fresh pea soup with peppered crème fraîche;
  • As a deglaze for escallopes of pork or turkey;
  • Substituted for the cream in spaghetti carbonara;

It can also be whipped with a little sugar, just for fun.

I think you’re getting the drift…I can attest to its deliciousness. It wen quite nicely on top of the Rhubarb Custard Pie with Crumble Topping tonight after dinner.

So now on to making crème fraîche. If you can mix two things together and leave it alone, you can make this!

Recipe: Crème Fraîche
Makes 2-1/4 cups which is quite a lot

2 cups 32% whipping cream
1/4 cup cultured buttermilk

Photo: Island Vittles, Flickr ccl
Mix together the cream and buttermilk in a coverable jar. Let it sit, covered, in a warm spot (not your fridge) for about 24 hours. You’ll know it’s ready when it has thickened to the consistency of twice the thickness of the original cream.

If it still hasn’t thickened let it sit for another 8 hours. One may think that the cream will go bad, but it doesn’t. 

In the Sweet Kitchen (written by Regan Daly) states "the benign live bacteria in the buttermilk will multiply and protect the cream from any harmful bacteria." So no worries.

Once the crème fraîche has thickened sufficiently, place it in your refrigerator. It will continue to thicken somewhat and become more tangy over time. 

Crème fraîche will keep covered in the refrigerator for about 7-10 days.

Canada's Food Guide:
This would actually be in the "dairy" category, but the fat content in this makes it closer to butter than milk. Regular milk requires 1 cup for a serving; evaporated milk is 1/2 cup. Evaporated has a concentration of all the minerals and vitamins of the whole milk, whereas crème fraiche is thicker due to fat content not concentration. 

So crème fraiche should require the same amount as milk for a "1 serving." But it has waaay more butterfat, which isn't good in the Guide's books. So use sparingly, but use...


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