Fundamentals: How to Make Crème Fraîche
Crème fraîche is the sophisticated French cousin of sour cream. Its texture is smoother and the flavor subtler, not quite so sour, but still a bit sharp. It is simple to make and requires only two ingredients, so it is no wonder it is a staple in most French kitchens and a must have for pastry chefs. Fresh, heavy cream is blended with just a splash of buttermilk and then left to sit; it does all the work on its own, and the result is luscious. I like to finish sweet desserts with the cultured cream -- a thin layer on my butterscotch pot de crème, a dollop on top of a berry pie or stirred into chocolate ganache. It can be used in place of sour cream or most places you might use heavy cream.
To make the crème fraîche you will need a quick-read thermometer.
Heat the cream and buttermilk in a saucepan over low heat until it reads about 85°F on your thermometer. (This can also be done in the microwave, but be careful to heat slowly as you don't want it to go above 85°F. )
Pour the mixture into a nonreactive bowl and cover with plastic wrap.
Place the bowl in a warm spot in your kitchen (a warm, but not raging, radiator is perfect) for about 8 hours, or until it is nice and thick. Place in the refrigerator and allow to cool thoroughly for several hours.
The crème fraîche will be nice and thick and ready to use.
If it is thicker than you would like...
you can simply stir it and the texture will loosen up, or you can "lighten" it with a bit more cream. I don't usually sweeten the crème fraîche, but you can certainly stir in a bit of sugar or honey to taste.
Try it with my Butterscotch Pot de Crème recipe.
Zoë François, author of Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day, Healthy Bread in 5 Minutes a Day and Artisan Pizza and Flatbreads in 5 Minutes a Day , studied at the Culinary Institute of America in New York. She now calls Minneapolis her home, where she has worked with some of the top talent in the culinary world — Steven Brown, Andrew Zimmern and many chefs at the D’Amico company. In addition to writing, Zoë teaches baking classes and consults at restaurants. You can find her writing and recipe creations on Devour, on her baking blog, zoebakes.com and on the site, www.breadin5.com.