The Ardent Epicure

An Ode to the Pleasures of Food

11:11 PM

Food of the Day - Cream

Posted by Truffle Shuffle

One of the most delicious ingredients out there, cream is used in some of the most tasty foods and recipes across the world. Cream is the fatty layer skimmed off the top of milk, and has a very high butterfat content. It is much thicker than milk, and has a far richer flavor. Cream is usually found as a "creamy" white or off-white (cream-colored) liquid, and is sold in various grades and types of cream (such as light cream, heavy cream, whipping cream, etc.), and can also be made into a large variety of products. We will discuss some of them here.

Sour Cream
Sour cream is cream to which a bacterial culture has been added that thickens it and gives it the tangy "sour" flavor for which it is named. This thick type of cream is a popular addition to many types of savory and sweet dishes, from Mexican food, to cheesecake, to dips, to soups and chilis.

Whipped Cream
Whipped cream is a form of heavy cream that has been whipped (by hand or machine) until stiffened. Sugar is usually added to give the whipped cream a sweet flavor, and it is often used for desserts, such as a topping for pies and cakes, and more. It is also often used to topped drinks such as hot chocolate, cold coffee drinks, and others.
Whipped cream is often sold in aerosol cans that express the cream in a fluffy form when the nozzle is pressed, which creates a convenience, and allows the cream to be easily stored in a refrigerator.

Crème Fraîche
Meaning "fresh cream," this is a French version of sour cream that is a bit more on the sweet side of sour cream. While it uses a bacterial culture, it is less sour than traditional sour cream, and is often used in sweet dishes, such as desserts, or paired with fruit. In Mexico, a similar type of cream is called crema.

This is one everyone knows. Butter is cream that has been churned into a solid state. Fresh or fermented cream or milk may be used to make this product, and it may be found in salted or unsalted versions. Butter made from fresh pasteurized cream is often called "sweet cream butter". Basically, the higher the butterfat content, the richer and better the butter.
Butter is used in multitudinous dishes across the world, and often has many items added to it, to make variations such as honey butter and "spreadable" butter (which is mixed with oil). Butter is used in everything from buttering toast, to frying and sautéing, to making many savory and sweet dishes across the world. If you find a dish, it is very likely it has some butter in it somewhere!

Clotted Cream
This is a very thick cream, yellow in color, that is heated over a fairly long period of time, to create clots in the cream, thickening it to a semi-firm (but spreadable) consistency. This is a very fatty type of cream, and thus harbors great flavor and creamy texture.
This can often be used in place of butter, to spread on toast or pastries, and in other sweet dishes.

Half and Half
This is often sold in cartons like milk, and is basically half cream and half milk. It is often used in coffee, or when a substance thicker than milk (but not quite as thick as pure cream) is desired. This is often used in tea or coffee in place of cream or milk, as it adds more flavor and texture than milk, but holds up better than cream (which tends to separate in liquid).

Powdered Cream
Cream can also be made into a powder. This allows it to be shipped over long distances without fear or rancidity, and it can be reconstituted, or used in powdered form in various dishes, or in drinks.

Ice Cream
Although often "cream" only by name today, this delectable dessert was originally made from cream, and is frozen, with sugar and other flavorings added. Today however, milk and other items are often used, not making this a strictly cream dish in most senses.

Picking a Cream
If you are not sure what kind of cream to get, just take into account the application for which you require it. If you are looking for a light cream, look for half and half, single cream, or light cream. For something a bit heavier, medium cream, or light whipping cream are the way to go. For a heavy cream, try heavy whipping cream or heavy cream. And for a cream with a very high fat content, you will want to search for a product called extra heavy whipping cream, or double cream.

Note: cream may also be skimmed from the surface of whey, a liquid left over form cheese making, after the curds of cheese have been removed. This has a much more tangy flavor than traditional "sweet cream," which refers to cream skimmed from regular milk.

Simple Cream Recipe
For a quick and easy way to make some delicious whipped cream at home (not the kind in a can or bucket), buy a carton of heavy or extra heavy whipping cream at your local store. Add the cream to a large mixing bowl, and use a whisk or hand-held blender to blend the cream (note that if you are using a whisk and blending by hand, it will take a lot of time and arm power to finish it!).

Gradually increase the speed to high, and beat the cream until it forms peaks, and reaches a somewhat firm texture. If you hold the bowl upside-down, the whipped cream should stay in the bowl. As soon as it is stiff, start blending slowly, and mix in powdered sugar (confectioner's sugar) until you reach a sweetness that appeals to your needs and desire.
That's it! If you desire some flavor, you may add vanilla, cinnamon, or even chocolate to create a fancy whipped topping for your desserts.

For some other recipes using cream, check out Cream and Milk Recipes.

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