- Skill Level: Easy
- Cost: Inexpensive
- Favorited: 160 Times
Can be made ahead of time.
Crème fraîche is the kind of cream you could happily eat off a spoon. It is sour cream’s French cousin, but it is richer than sour cream, its texture smoother, more velvety, and more like custard. When you buy crème fraîche at an outdoor market or from a neighborhood cheese shop in Paris, it is spooned from a crock into a small container and, in the process, falls languidly off the ladle. In terms of taste, crème fraîche is tangy the way sour cream is tangy, but its tang is more subtle, more refined. And, unlike sour cream, crème fraîche can be whipped into soft peaks and cooked without risk of curdling. It is one of milk’s minor miracles and is treated as such in Paris, where it is used often in a cake or tart recipe, piped into a rosette to top a mousse, spooned into a quenelle to finish a savory soup or a portion of sweet gateau, dolloped on top of a sundae, and, yes, eaten off a spoon in the privacy of one’s own kitchen when no one is looking.
The French take their crème fraîche seriously and Parisians will have a favorite merchant at the market from whom they’ll buy their week’s supply, or they’ll look for crème d’lsigny, the one crème fraîche to be awarded AOC, or Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée, status. (This crème fraîche is made from the same cream as AOC butter from Isigny.) While any recipe that calls for crème fraîche can be made with regular heavy cream (crème fleurette, in France), the results are superior—at least in the sensuousness department—when the crème is thick, slightly acidic crème fraîche.
I remember the first time I made Gerard Mulot’s Cherry Clafoutis in Paris. Before the filling of crème fraîche, eggs with yolks the color of tangerines, and the pulp of deeply fragrant vanilla beans was poured into the crust to bake, I was ready to pour it into a glass and drink it like a shake. I recall turning to my husband and saying, “With ingredients this good, you really don’t have to do much to make something spectacular.”
Unfortunately, crème fraîche is not easily found in the United States and what is available is often very expensive. However, crème fraîche can be made simply and reasonably at home. To make , pour theheavy cream into a clean jar, add thebuttermilk or yogurt, cover the jar tightly, and shake it for about a minute. Then just leave the jar on the counter for 12 to 24 hours, or until the crème fraîche thickens slightly. How quickly it thickens will depend on the temperature of the room—the warmer the room, the quicker the thickening action. When it has thickened, chill the crème fraîche in the refrigerator for a day before you use it. Crème fraîche can be kept covered in the refrigerator for about 2 weeks and (or but, depending on your taste) will get tangier and tangier day after day.
Nutritional information is based on 16 servings.