Crème fraîche is one of the staples of my cooking. It’s name literally translates to cold cream, but it’s more accurately just a cultured cream (which doesn’t sound as nice as crème fraîche, so I’m going to stick to calling it that). It’s used everywhere in French cooking, and for good reason. It’s rich and decadent, with a slight tang that prevents it from being cloying. Think of it as a fancy, French sour cream. Needless to say, I’m a big fan.
This works out perfectly for me in Paris, it’s a staple and very affordable. Not so in the States. For some weird reason, considering how simple it is to make, it’s crazy expensive. This stuff uses 2 ingredients, takes about 2 minutes of active time (a little more time to culture), and that’s it. Homemade crème fraîche.
I first came across the concept of making crème fraîche at home on America’s Test Kitchen, and I was shocked by how easy it is. Like I mentioned at the beginning of the post, crème fraîche is just cultured cream, so it used to be made just by letting cream sit at room temperature for a day. These days there’s very little actual bacteria in the cream that’s available at the grocery store (thanks Pasteur!), but you can easily introduce some with a little buttermilk.
America’s Test Kitchen suggests that you find the least pasteurized cream you can, which speeds the process along. I did use highly pasteurized cream because it was what I had around, and it worked a treat I just let it sit for 36 hours instead of the 12-24 hours recommended for less pasteurized cream. I also went with the 2 tablespoons of buttermilk per cup suggested by the blog, but after I set it out I perused the Joy of Cooking out of curiosity, and they said it could work with just 1 teaspoon of buttermilk. I haven’t tried it out with lower buttermilk ratio, but again I imagine the biggest difference will be the more buttermilk, the less time you have to allow the cream to culture.
As for how to use your crème fraîche, it’s appropriate just about everywhere. It’s ideal for finishing soups and sauces because it won’t curdle, and I often use it in place of regular cream in most recipes (addicted to the tang). It’s great used like sour cream as well (over a nice hot potato for example). It does a wonderful job of complimenting rich sweet things (like Mexican Chocolate Bundt Cake!). It’s also good licked off a spoon. Get some crème fraîche in your life.
Homemade Crème Fraîche
Guided by America’s Test Kitchen
Makes 1 cup crème fraîche
1 cup cream
2 tablespoons buttermilk (less if you’re a patient person)
Mix the cream and buttermilk (you can use as little as 1 teaspoon of buttermilk if you’re willing to wait long for it to culture). Pour into a clean jar and close the lid. Place the jar in a warmish place (I just opted for on top of my kitchen cabinets) and play the waiting game. Depending on how pasteurized your cream is and how much buttermilk you use, it will take anywhere between 12 and 48 hours to culture. Highly pasteurized cream and less buttermilk will equal longer culture time.
When it’s ready, the cream should have thickened and developed a tang. Store in the fridge, use on everything.