Cream, crème fraîche, crème double

French cream is matured cream -- lactic acids and natural ferments have been allowed to work in it until the cream has thickened and taken on a nutty flavor. It is not sour.
Commercially made sour cream with a butterfat content of only 18 to 20 % is no substitute; furthermore, it cannot be boiled without curdling; cf. a real plus of crème fraîche is that it can be boiled without curdling..
French cream has a butterfat content of at least 30%. American whipping cream with a butterfat content of at least 30% may be used in any French recipe calling for crème fraîche. If American whipping cream is allowed to thicken with a little buttermilk, it will taste quite a bit like French cream, can be boiled without curdling, and will keep for 10 days or more under refrigeration. In Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Beck, Bertholle and Child’s recommended approach for Americans’ wanting to create their own crème fraîche at home is to

stir 1 teaspoon commercial buttermilk into 1 cup whipping cream and heat to lukewarm — not over 85° F.  -- pour the mixture into a loosely covered jar and let it stand at a temperature between 60° F. and 85° F. until it has thickened.

French sweet cream, not matured cream, is called fleurette.

Note:  Compare French butter, beurre, which, like crème fraîche, is made from "matured cream," rather than from sweet cream.  French butter is unsalted and has a slightly nutty flavor.  Despite some references to "unsalted butter" as sweet butter, any butter, salted or not, made from unmatured cream is sweet butter in French culinary terms.)

As noted one of the best qualities of French cream, a.k.a. matured cream, crème fraîche, crème double, is that it can be boiled without curdling. After having crème fraîche included in quite a few recipes during our  travels around northern Europe, Connie’s Chicken is a recipe perfect for homemade crème fraîche as a substitute for the table cream specified. 

Generally, crème fraîche can be used on fruits or desserts, or in cooking.

Several years ago, at the Kort Restaurant in Amsterdam,  I enjoyed a main course in which a creative chef dressed up a layered, vegetarian tart by combining crème fraîche with a hint of wasabi then dribbled the cream sauce over the tart.
Mark, a chef at the Kort Restaurant, where that dish is served recommends

combining 500 ml whipping cream with 1 tablespoon buttermilk, then heat until 25° C. to 29° C. Cover and leave at room temperature for 8 to 24 hours, the longer the better! Crème fraîche stays good in the fridge covered for 7 to 20 days.

After our April '99 visit with Anson in Seattle I bought a little regional cookbook by Sarah Eppenbach, Baked Alaska, which included a note about crème fraîche, recommending the following approach.  To make crème fraîche heat to lukewarm 1 cup heavy cream mixed with 1 teaspoon commercial buttermilk.  Transfer the mixture to a glass jar and leave at room temperature until thickened, usually 1 to 2 days.  Use plain or whipped, with or without sweetening.   Once cultured, crème fraîche keeps in the refrigerator for a week or more.   Eppenbach uses crème fraîche in a recipe for a Chocolate Almond Torte, serving the torte accompanied by whipped crème fraîche and raspberry sauce.

And, for a third approach, simple and using heavy cream and sour cream rather than buttermilk, double click here on Crème Fraîche

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