Make it Yourself: Creme Fraiche

Two simple ingredients + Time = Creme Fraiche
Ah, creme fraiche!  That lovely, creamy, slightly tangy, completely decadent dairy product.  The one that works equally well with both savory and sweet dishes:  serve it up with Blinis, caviar, red onion and a little cold smoke salmon, serve it along side your morning omelette, add a generous spoonful next to your morning scone or your afternoon chocolate cake or Pumpkin Bread - any way you spoon it up, it raises the dish it's added to to a whole new level.  It's a soured cream, but it's not Sour Cream; the bacterial cultures used to make cream fresh are much milder and sweeter than the American Sour Cream, and the resulting product is less thick and more viscous.

According to Wikipedia, European labeling disallows any other ingredients besides cream and a bacterial culture; however when I went to the grocery store to buy creme fraiche a few days ago, the long list on the back of the creme fraiche container, which included modified starch, guar gum thickener, locust bean gum and pectin in addition to the cream and bacterial culture, influenced my decision to save the recipe I had in mind for another day so that I would have the time to make my own creme fraiche.

This European manufacturer's creme fraiche, like many commercially manufactured creme fraiche products around the world, has these starches and stabilizers added to it in order to keep it shelf-stable for a longer period of time.  The ingredients added for shelf stability, however, make creme fraiche less stable for cooking; whereas creme fraiche made with only cream and a bacterial culture are excellent not just for cold dishes, but for adding to sauces or foods that will be cooked as the high buttercream content and lower protein content means there is no risk of curdling. (Source:  p. 49, On Food and Cooking by Harold McGee)

You are not going to believe how easy it is to make your own creme fraiche if you've never done it before.  It's a case of combining two easy-to-find ingredients, stirring them to combine, putting a lid on it, and leaving it on the counter for 12-18 hours to let time and bacteria work their magic.

The best store-bought or homemade creme fraiche should contain only two ingredients:  Cream and a souring agent/bacterial culture.  Any more than that and your wasting your time.  This is a place where you want to keep it simple.  Just like with good dark chocolate, less is more.  If you don't need the creme fraiche right away, consider making your own.  If you start now, you can use it for breakfast tomorrow already.

Creme Fraiche served with Cranberry Pecan Pumpkin Bread
Make it Yourself:  Creme Fraiche

1 cup / 250 ml cream
1 tablespoon buttermilk / piimä

Combine the ingredients in a glass jar with a lid.  Stir well to combine.  Secure the lid tightly and set on the countertop at room temperature for 12-18 hours.  You'll know that it's ready when you tilt the jar slightly and the contents don't move.  It'll be a lightly thickened, completely smooth and utterly decadent treat.

Makes 1 cup / 250 ml.

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