By Debbie Rogers: An ingredient I always have in my fridge, I confess to loving a dash of it in my daily coffee, but really, Cream is such a versatile ingredient and one that we often overlook. I recently spent time in France learning all about cream and in particular how it’s used in Patisserie. Read on to find out about what I learned about cream as an essential ingredient to so many dishes and desserts!
“If you’re afraid of butter, use cream.” – Julia Child
- Find it in ice-cream, rich sundaes, milkshakes, lassies and as a side to your coffee – poured in our floating on the top.
- Blend it with an alcoholic liquer for some fantastic festive tipples
- Find it in sauces, curries, dips, mashed potatoes, swirled on soups, or part of the rich garlicy sauce over hot dauphinoise potatoes
- Find it whipped or poured over your pudding, in custard, hidden away in profiteroles or decadently swirled in a pavlova or Eton mess.
What is Cream?
Cream is a dairy product made by skimming the higher butterfat layer from the top of the milk. The skimmed layer is the Cream which is graded, or categorised by the amount of fat content of the cream. As a child, I remember waiting for the cream to rise to the top of the milk bottle which was delivered to our house by the milkman every morning. The darker cream at the top of the bottle was always the prized layer of milk that we fought over for breakfast! These days technology has taken over and the cream is now separated from the milk in centrifuges!
You’re probably aware that there are different types of cream and you might have heard of different types of cream such as double cream, whipping cream, clotted cream etc. To be classified as cream, there are strict legal requirements in terms of the amount of milkfat per 100g.
What are the classifications?
There’s no standard worldwide classifications, which surprised me. On a recent trip to France and in particular Normandy and Brittany, I found out much more about cream (read more about this here).
In France to be called cream, there must be at least 30g of milk fat per 100g (30% fat).
- Cream – 30g of milk fat per 100g
- Light Cream – between 12g – 30 g of milk fat per 100g
As a comparison, The UK definitions are as follows:
- Clotted Cream – 55% – heat treated – think cream tea and scones
- Extra Thick Double Cream – 48% – spooned on desserts, cannot be poured
- Double Cream – 48% – can be whipped and piped
- Whipping Cream – 35% – whips well but is lighter than double cream
- Whipped Cream – 35% (already whipped – typically used for ice cream toppings
- Sterilized Cream – 23% – sterilized
- Cream or Single Cream – 18% – not sterilized – pouring consistency
- Sterilized half cream – 12% – sterilized
Whilst the US categories are:
- Half and Half – 10.5-18% – used in coffee
- Light Cream – 18-30% – called table or coffee cream, often used in sauces
- Whipping Cream – 30-36% – used in sauces and soups, pourable. Makes soft peaks when whipped
- Heavy (whipping) Cream – 36% – for whipping if need stable peaks
- Manufacturer’s Cream – 40% plus – commercial and professional use mostly
Why does the fat content matter?
- It’s essential to the lactic cream taste
- You need at least 30% fat content to be able to whip cream
UHT Sterilised Cream
Typically, most cream that we buy in the supermarkets in the Middle East is UHT Sterilised Cream.
- Generous and creamy texture with a lactic taste
- Made with pasteurized milk with no preservatives (it’s preserved through UHT* treatment)
- Heated above 140C for two seconds then cooled which preserves the nutritional and functional qualities without altering taste
- Gives long shelf life (8 months)
- No 1 consumed cream
Reading Labels – Not all cream is equal
As I mentioned before, across the world there are some different variances in terms of classification of cream, so it’s important to read the labels when you are buying your cream to understand which type of cream works best for different uses.
In addition to the fat content, there are also some quite major variances in terms of ingredients which is something that I was not aware of.
Generally there are 3 main types of cream that you can buy.
- Milk Cream
- Vegetable Based Cream (Powder milk + vegetable fat + water + additives – technically can’t be called cream)
- Recombined Cream (Recombined milk + Recombined Butter).
On the shelves in my local supermarket I found cartons contain Milk Cream and Recombined Cream sitting next to each other. I confess I’ve used Recombined Cream a lot in the past without realising what it was and understanding how it had been made. Typically, this cream contains a lot of stabilisers to stop it turning back into butter and the taste is stronger than Milk Cream plus typically it has additional additives than milk cream. – Debbie
Nutrition Information: Milk Cream
- 35% fat content – 3 x less than oil
- Provides calcium and vitamins A, D, B2 & B12
- Low cholesterol (100mg/100g)
- Very few additives
French Cream – the professional view
Over the course of the week, we spoke to lots of master patisseries about their use of cream, more of that to come in the next issue, but in general the professions use cream as follows :
- For Pastry – Whipping Cream
- For Cooking – Cooking Cream (it stands up better with acidic ingredients)
- Smaller establishments sometimes use a universal cream which can do both
Did you know?
- It takes 10 litres of milk to make 1 litre of cream!
- A milking cow produces 40 litres of milk per day – so 4 litres of cream
- Milk contains 3 major nutrients, minerals and vitamins, also
- Carbohydrates, lipids, proteins
- Calcium and phosphorus
- Vitamins A,D,B2 & B12
Cream in it’s many guises
- Butter is made by churning cream to separate the butterfat and buttermilk. This can be done by hand or by machine.
- Whipped cream is made by whisking or mixing air into cream with more than 30% fat, to turn the liquid cream into a soft solid. Nitrous oxide, from whipped-cream chargers may also be used to make whipped cream.
- Sour cream, common in many countries including the U.S., Canada and Australia, is cream (12 to 16% or more milk fat) that has been subjected to a bacterial culture that produces lactic acid (0.5%+), which sours and thickens it.
- Crème fraîche (28% milk fat) is slightly soured with bacterial culture, but not as sour or as thick as sour cream. Mexican crema (or cream espesa) is similar to crème fraîche.
- Smetana is a heavy cream product (15-40% milk fat) Central and Eastern European sweet or sour cream.
- Rjome or rømme is Norwegian sour cream containing 35% milk fat, similar to Icelandic sýrður rjómi.
- Clotted cream, common in the United Kingdom, is made through a process that starts by slowly heating whole milk to produce a very high-fat (55%) product. This is similar to Indian malai.
- Reduced cream is a cream product used in New Zealand to make Kiwi dip.
- Chantilly Cream is whipped cream with the addition of sugar
Where can you buy French Cream in Dubai?
French cream is broadly distributed in the UAE, most famous brands are Elle & Vire, Paysan Breton, Président, Bridel, Isigny Ste Mere are available in different sizes (20cl to 1L but also in spray for the readymade Chantilly).
You can find the largest selection in Carrefour hypermarkets but they are also available in Spinneys, Choithrams etc…
[Disclaimer : All information gathered and researched as part of a Cream of Europe Press Trip. More details on Cream, it’s uses along with recipes etc at www.creamofeurope.com. Images by Debbie Rogers.]