Monday, May 18, 2009

Guest post: Crème fraîche

This post from Marsi is truly in the spirit of my blog: simple, affordable, authentic, and French. Crème fraîche is a staple of the French kitchen, but not a staple in many American grocery stores. Here, Marsi shares her recipe for crème fraîche, and tomorrow I'll post several of her recipes that include crème fraîche.

Marsi writes:
"Julia Child said, 'If you’re afraid of butter, just use cream.'

And while you’re at it, why not make it crème fraîche?

Crème fraîche is a simple and inexpensive dairy product you can make yourself to add an authentic French touch to your home cooking. Similar in taste to its American counterpart, sour cream, crème fraîche is cultured heavy cream, high in butterfat, with a mellow tang that brings a creamy richness to the food it accompanies.

I use crème fraîche in place of whipped or heavy cream in nearly every recipe that calls for it. I also like to add a dollop to vegetable soups (especially puréed soups) right before serving to bring body and a hint of richness to the soup, or to mix it into scrambled eggs as I cook them slowly over low heat. Additionally, a spoonful of crème fraîche mixes perfectly with softened chèvre or ricotta cheese, to which you may add fresh herbs and a little salt and pepper, and then spoon it atop toasted baguette or ciabatta slices as a savory appetizer.

It is delicious and refreshing when served aside fresh fruit and a dusting of brown sugar, cinnamon, or cardamom. Crème fraîche is the perfect base for quiche, and brings an interesting tang to homemade ice cream when substituted for whipped cream in the custard base. Most recently, I discovered the trick of lightly coating a salmon filet with crème fraîche to season the fish and keep its tenderness intact as it broils in the oven. The uses of this wonderful ingredient are only as limited as your creativity in the kitchen.

Though crème fraîche is often expensive when purchased in the small quantities available in stateside grocers, you can save money by purchasing its base — whipping cream — by the pint, quart, or half-gallon and making your own. A half-gallon (32 ounces) of Country Classic Whipping Cream costs $3.79 at Costco, as compared to roughly $8.00 for an eight-ounce container of crème fraîche at a natural-foods grocer. If you like to save money and enjoy home-cooked French cuisine, you can’t afford not to make your own crème fraîche. Here’s how:

Crème fraîche
1 c. whipping cream
1 tbsp. buttermilk

Combine whipping cream and buttermilk in a small saucepan and warm gently over very low heat to about 110 degrees Fahrenheit. Remove from heat and pour into a sturdy jar, such as a wide-mouth Mason jar. Loosely cover the opening with a clean kitchen towel (so that it picks up wild cultures from the air) and leave the jar out on the counter, undisturbed, for one or two days to develop a culture. After a couple of days, cover the jar with its lid and store it in the refrigerator, where it will further thicken.

Crème fraîche keeps well for several weeks if refrigerated properly. Reserve a couple of tablespoons to use as the starter for your next batch of crème fraîche. Recipe may be doubled, tripled, quadrupled, quintupled . . . "

Tomorrow's post: Marsi's recipes for using crème fraîche


  1. I don't think I have ever tried this. It sounds delicious!

  2. Thanks for the reminder. I have a different recipe but haven't made it for quite some time.
    Will have to whip up a batch - it's good all year, but I love it with berries!

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