If there is a secret to French Cooking, it is to be found in crème fraîche. Never be without it. I make my own regularly at home for those times when we eat more desserts – winter for baked dishes, summer for fresh fruit. It is a wonderful alternative to either cream (adding a little amount of soureness) and more flavoursome than sour cream.
Crème Fraîche 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 produced by a process similar to that of sour cream, with the exception that no ingredients are added. Crème Fraîche can be made at home by adding a small amount of cultured buttermilk or sour cream to normal heavy cream, and allowing it to stand for several hours at room temperature as the bacterial cultures act on the cream. It has several advantages in the kitchen. Unlike sour cream, crème fraîche can be mixed with air to form whipped cream, and it can be cooked without curdling.
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.
In the North of India a similar product is made, called Khatte Malai. Often made with buffalo milk, the cow’s milk version is milder in taste. And the best ghee is made from cultured cream such as crème fraîche.
This recipe is one of the vegetarian recipes from our first blog which was in existence from 1995 – 2006. You can find more of these recipes in our Retro Recipes series.
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 or heavy cream. Use organic if you can.
2 Tblspn plain yoghurt, buttermilk or sour cream
Pour the cream into a jar. Add the yoghurt, buttermilk or sour cream. 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.
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%.
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 used to use an old crockpot on low, with the lid off, to maintain water at this temperature. 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 crème fraîche by bringing cream to the boil (300ml), cooling it until it reached approx 45C, adding 4Tblspn buttermilk, and then placing in a pre-warmed thermos. It is a little easier than using the crockpot and also gives great results.
I have heard of people who don’t keep the crème fraîche at 40C, but just leave the mixture at room temperature for 12 hours. I have not tried that, but it may work in Summer here. They use a ratio of 4:1 cream to yoghurt.
Crème fraîche can be frozen in 3 tablespoon amounts, and then you always have a starter.
How to use Crème Fraîche
- Over fruit salad. Use a pear, a nachi pear, an apple, an orange and some passion fruit. 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 enough creme fraiche to come 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.
This recipe is one of the vegetarian recipes from our first blog which was in existence from 1995 – 2006. It has been cross posted with out sister site, A Life Time of Cooking, and appears here as part of the Retro Recipes series and the How To series.
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