Ah! the luxury of fresh cream. Rich and voluptuous by tradition and reputation, fresh cream gives a quality to recipes like no other product. It brings splendour to so many of the foods we enjoy. It gives richness to soups, dressings, sauces and cakes. It’s the essence of a great Devonshire Tea. ‘On the side’, it completes a rich chocolate dessert.
Cream is categorised according to its milk fat content and comes in two forms – pure and treated, but it must contain no less than 35% milk fat. The easiest way to find the fresh cream that best suits your needs is to look at the fat content, always found on the product label. Descriptors or the name of the cream will vary depending on the brand.
Rich or double cream,doesn’t contain any thickening agents and usually has a fat content of at least 48% or more.
It’s best used to dolloped on the side of a dish rather than as an ingredient in cooking as it can curdle when beaten.
While boiling can reduce cream, don’t over boil or it may separate. For sauces, boil until reduced by about ⅓.
Pure cream doesn’t usually contain any thickening agents and has a fat content of around 40%.
With 35% milk fat, thickened cream contains additives such as gelatin, vegetable gum or other modifying agents.
The additives act as thickening agents, making it easier to whip and less likely to separate or curdle. A vegetable gum based product is a better choice when including it in cooking, but all products are ideal for cake fillings, mousses, ice-creams and cheesecakes.
There is also a reduced-fat version containing only 18% milk fat. This is perfect for sauces and savoury dishes but due to it’s lower fat content, won’t whip.
Clotted or scalded cream has a slight caramelised flavour, and contains no less than 48% milk fat.
It’s the cream to serve with traditional Devonshire Teas. It also makes a decadent accompaniment to desserts, used in place of pure cream and is ideal as a filling for cakes and desserts. Serve simply with berries or use in savoury sauces and risottos.
Sour cream is made by adding a culture and heating the cream to about 20°C for 12 to 14 hours. The lactic acid produced in this process gives a slightly sour taste and a thicker than normal consistency.
With its slightly tart flavour, sour cream is great in soups, sauces, dressings, casseroles, cakes or to compliment vegetables.
There is also a light version, containing only 18% milk fat. It has a thinner consistency than regular sour cream but is produced in a similar way.
Thicker and less tarte than sour cream, crème fraiche contains between 38 and 48% milk fat depending on the brand.
Lactic acid is added to the cream and allowed to mature under controlled conditions which produces the naturally tart, slightly acidic and more refined nutty flavour.
Crème fraiche is favoured by chefs as it remains stable when heated.
Long-life cream contains 35% milk fat.
It has undergone ultra heat treatment (UHT) to extend its shelf life by heating it at high temperatures for a short period to stabilise it.
Long-life cream will whip well if chilled and can be spooned over desserts or used in cooking. It’s also available in reduced-fat varieties and is a good substitute for coconut milk in a laksa dish.
This is a thickened and reduced cream that contains a minimum of 25% milk fat.
It’s conveniently packed using a harmless nitrous oxide gas propellant that dissipates rapidly when the pack’s valve is depressed. Giving you the convenience of a pre-whipped cream for unexpected cakes and desserts.
Canned cream is heat-sterilised reduced-fat cream containing 21% milk fat.
The heat coagulates and thickens the cream and the shelf life of the product is extended by the canned packaging.
Spoon it onto desserts and add to dips, or chill thoroughly and serve whipped.
Always use cream at its freshest. Check the use-by date and, as a rule, don’t keep it in the refrigerator for more than 10 days. To prevent contamination, always keep cream sealed as it is susceptible to flavour absorption. Always keep it in the refrigerator at 4˚C. Its life will be reduced considerably if left out for extended periods.
Cream can be frozen for up to three months. If it has less than 40% milk fat, lightly whip cream before freezing it and always thaw it in the refrigerator.