Monday, December 2, 2013

Homemade Crème Fraîche

Crème fraîche (pronounced krem fresh), is an often used ingredient in cooking and baking. Think thick cream with a gentle tang. Its very versatile as it lends itself to use in both sweet and savory dishes and bakes. Lightly whisked sweetened crème fraîche  is often used as a topping for cakes, fresh fruit, sweet and savory pies, tarts, ice creams and other desserts. When made with heavy cream with high butterfat content (35- 40%), it doesn't separate when heated, making it suitable for use in baking and cooking. 

Sour cream is apparently much more tangy and may curdle when heated. It has lower fat content usually, sometimes has thickening agents added.

Try crème fraîche in your pasta, soups and salad dressings. It probably is the easiest and closest thing you could use in place of mayonnaise. Seasoned, herbed crème fraîche on your baked potatoes - yum!  I am yet to use it in baking to test if 25% butterfat is good enough, but it should work. Fingers crossed!

Before we start feeling all envious, let me tell you that its apparently expensive and not all that commonly available even in other countries. But the good news is, its ridiculously simple to make your own at home! All it takes is some cream and buttermilk and some inactive time, 12-14 hours. Just like making yogurt at home. Can't be simpler right?

Most recipes you will find broadly follow the same procedure. Buttermilk or yogurt in varying proportions added to cream either at room temperature or slightly warmed cream, kept loosely covered or tightly closed in a jar, placed in a warm place or at room temperature. I have followed the recipe and proportions given in The Cake Bible. The fat content in the cream obviously contributes to the richness and thickness of the crème fraiche. I have used Amul 25% cream as I find the local cream with higher butterfat content already a bit tangy. Please do try it with any local brands (Nilgiris, Milky Mist) you like, but expect tangier crème fraiche.    

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What we need

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Heavy cream at room temperature - 240 ml / 1 cup (I have used Amul 25% fat, 35-40% would work better)
Buttermilk, at room temperature - 1 tablespoon (mix 2 teaspoons fresh yogurt and 1 teaspoon water)
Sugar  - 1 tablespoon (optional) to be whisked in once the crème fraîche is ready. 

If using cream in a tetra-pack, let it sit on the counter for sometime undisturbed. Then drain the watery part and measure out only the thick cream to get 240 ml. If the cream is chilled, heat it just enough to get it to room temperature. Stir to combine the cream and buttermilk in a jar with a tight fitting lid. notice the thickness of the cream so that you can see the difference after 12 hours. Place it in a warm spot, say in your kitchen cabinet.

Let it sit undisturbed for 12-14 hours or until thickened but still pourable. Ultra pasteurized cream may take as long as 36 hours says Rose. The time it takes to thicken depends on the temperature, longer in winter, sooner in summer. Check the cream after about 10-12 hours (sooner in summer). If the cream is still not quite thick or slightly tangy, let it sit for a couple of hours more. It had not set quite like yogurt, but thicker than it was. Be sure to not leave it out for much longer unless you need it tangy. Refrigerate when its ready.

Storage : 3 weeks refrigerated. Crème fraîche will continue to thicken on chilling, may get tangier too I guess. The pictures here are after about 24 hours of refrigeration. If you need it sweetened, when ready to use, add the sugar and whisk lightly until soft mounds form when dropped from the spoon.

Can't wait to try what's left of the crème fraîche in the jar! What is your favorite way to use it ?


cookingwithsapana said...

Very useful post and nice clicks....

Unknown said...

Very helpful post.. thanks for sharing, suma.. pics are very beautiful :)