It i easy to make Creme Fraiche regularly at those times when more desserts are eaten – winter for baked dishes, summer for fresh fruit. It is a wonderful alternative to either cream (adding a little amount of sourness) and sour cream. Wikipedia says:
It is a heavy cream slightly soured with bacterial culture, but not as sour or as thick as sour cream. Originally a French product, today it is available throughout the rest of the world.
Creme fraiche is produced by a process similar to that of sour cream, with the exception that no ingredients are added. Each processing step requires attention to producing and maintaining high viscosity. Commercially it is commonly fermented to an end pH around 4.5.
Crème fraîche can be made at home by adding a small amount of cultured buttermilk or sour cream to normal heavy cream, and allowing to stand for several hours at room temperature until the bacterial cultures act on the cream.
Because crème fraîche has a higher fat content and lower viscosity, it has several advantages. Unlike sour cream, crème fraîche can be mixed with air to form whipped cream. And, the higher lipid content (and lower protein content) of crème fraîche allow it to be cooked without curdling.
In the North of India this is also made and is called Khatte Malai. Often made with buffalo milk, the cow’s milk version is milder in taste. The best ghee is made from cultured cream – and the best creme fraiche is made from cultured cream.
Crème Fraîche / Khatte Malai
Source : The Hows and Whys of French Cooking
Prep time: 5 mins
Cooking time: 8 hours or overnight
200g whipping cream
2 Tblspn plain yoghurt, buttermilk or sour cream
Pour the cream into a jar. Add the yoghurt. Mix well and set into a pilot-heated oven for 8 hours, or overnight. It can be done in water maintained at about 45 – 50C. Next morning, stir and refrigerate. Once cold, it will thicken.
When down to the last 2 or 3 tablespoons crème fraîche, add another 200g of whipping cream, stir, keep warm for 8 hours and then refrigerate. The last few tablespoons of crème fraîche thus become a starter for more.
If there is a secret to French Cooking, it is to be found in crème fraîche. The higher the butterfat content of the cream, the better and thicker the resulting crème fraîche. Experiment until you find the right cream. Aim for around 50%.
Never substitute sour cream for crème fraîche in any recipe; sour cream has a butterfat content of 10 to 18 percent, which is not enough to stop it from curdling when added to hot foods. Thickened cream has 30 to 37 percent, and can be substituted for crème fraîche, but it lacks the sour taste.
The cream and yoghurt mixture must be maintained at around 40 – 45 or 50C for 8 hours. This really quite a low temperature. It can be done in a pilot light-lit oven, or in water maintained at that temperature. I use a crockpot on low, with the lid off, to maintain water at this temperature. Really, it is the best use of an old crockpot that I have ever found. The older crockpots cooked at a much lower temperature.
You can also make creme fraiche by bringing the cream to the boil (300ml), cooled it until it reached approx 45C, added 4Tblspn buttermilk, and then placed in a pre-warmed thermos. It is a little easier than using the crockpot and also gives great results.
Crème fraîche can be frozen in 3 tablespoon amounts, and then you always have a starter.
Some Daily uses of Creme Fraiche in The Kitchen:
- Over fruit salad. Use a pear, a nachi pear, an apple, an orange and some passionfruit. Roughly chop them. Pour over creme fraiche. Add some mint leaves. If it is for breakfast, add some muesli too.
- Mixed with yoghurt for a delicious topping to fruit, cereal, soups.
- Swirl into soups.
- In Potato Gratin – peel and thinly slice potatoes. Layer in baking dish with salt and pepper. You can add thinly sliced onion, garlic and /or grated hard cheese in between the layers. Pour over creme fraiche, cream or half milk and half cream, till about 1/2 the way up the dish. Top with grated parmesan. Bake for 45 mins or more (depends on the size of the dish) until potatoes are cooked and the top is brown.
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