Know your Dairy: different types of cream March 19, 2018
At the beginning of any great adventure, it’s important to embark prepared. Different types of cream can vary wildly in terms of suitability for recipes, fat content and even taste! Reckon you know your stuff? Read on to find out….
Heavy Cream30-36% fat
Heavy, or ‘pure’ cream is probably what most people think of as the year zero of whippable dairy. It’s the thinnest of the creams, perfect to add to a creamy pasta sauce or rich mushroom situation. Heavy cream will never whip into the soft peaks required for a dessert – make sure you have thickened cream for this, which has gelatine or other thickeners added.
Whipped thickened cream is our preferred accompaniment for a pavlova or apple pie, but for other desserts we like to up the ante with a richer creamier option.
Double Cream43-48% fat, up to 60% depending on who you ask
Double cream can also be whipped, and will hold its shape well enough to be piped. It can also withstand boiling and freezing. it’s very versatile and has one of the highest fat contents of all creams.
Our absolute favourite thing to do with double cream is whip up a simple ice cream. Whisk together 300mL double cream, 175g sweetened condensed milk, 2 tablespoons of instant espresso powder and 2 tablespoons of your favourite coffee liqueur together until soft peaks form. Spoon the airy mixture into an airtight container and freeze for at least 6 hours or overnight.
So impressive at a dinner party and so easy!
Clotted Creamat least 48% fat
Clotted cream has its origins in Cornwall and Devon – the capitals of cream tea in South West England. Its ridiculously thick, luxurious texture is the product of fat making up nearly half its content, and the process of indirect heating (scalding or clouting) which thickens and ‘clots’ somewhat.
Cream tea, that perfectly balanced blend of freshly baked scones, strawberry or raspberry jam and clotted cream served with a piping hot brewed tea, is undoubtedly the most famous and delicious of clotted cream recipes.
Sour Cream10-19% fat
Sour cream is much lower in fat than it’s traditional sweeter counterparts, and it also has the important inclusion of active culture – Lactobacillus to be precise – which gives it its sour taste.
Sour cream is perfect in cheesecakes, brownies and even sponge cakes (try mixing it with cream of tartar). It’s also heavily used in Eastern European savoury cooking; in stroganoffs, goulash and pierogis. Baked potatoes too are vastly improved with a dollop of the tangy cream. When a more complex, slightly bittersweet flavour profile is required, this is the stuff to reach for. Or use it for a softer, more indulgent iteration of cream cheese icing.
Crème fraîche38-48% fat
Similar to sour cream, crème fraîche is richer and thicker due to its higher fat content. Purists say that the best crème fraîche comes from the area of Normandy called Isigny-sur-Mer, but we’ll forgive you for looking a little closer to home for this.
When the tangy creaminess of yoghurt is required, but a longer cooking time or higher heat is needed, crème fraîche is perfect. It’s also beautiful with meat like veal or even offal to ensure a moist, tender result.
That most heavenly of creamy Italian fluffiness, marscapone is another dairy product that benefits from the addition of lactic acid. This voluptuous invention of the 16th century in Lodi and Abbiategrasso (southwest of Milan) is best known for its inclusion in moreish tiramisu, but it can also be used in other cooking, for example as a thick and enriching addition to risottos.
Marscapone with a teaspoon or marsala and a good grating of orange zest is a sweet topping for cakes unparalleled in the modern world.
Butterover 80% fat
After you’ve had your fun with cream, it can begin to be whipped into shape until the churning separates liquids from solids and forms butter. It’s a scientific fact that no matter what you do to margarine or olive spread, it will never taste quite as good as softened butter liberally spread on a chunk of sourdough bread.
Because almost all butter is made from pasteurised cream, it’s fine to be left, covered, out of the refrigerator. If you haven’t already, invest in a good butter dish and enjoy the delights of fresh bread and gooey buttery toast!
Buttermilk...And then there was one
Finally, at the end of this epic dairy journey, we come to buttermilk. The product of the separation that occurs when cream is whipped into butter, buttermilk is thicker than milk and also has a slightly tart flavour.
Buttermilk can be drunk straight, and also used in baking. Irish soda bread relies on a combination of the acid in buttermilk reacting with sodium bicarbonate, a rising agent, to leaven the bread and make it rise. Use it for perfectly fluffy pancakes that aren’t overly sweet!