The decadent richness of cream is derived from skimming the surface of cow’s milk to obtain fat. The many varieties are graded on percentages of fat. A richer cream taste is usually accompanied by saturated fats and many cooks are reserving the use of heavy creams for special occasions.
The term “cream” is also a process of blending ingredients by spoon, whisk, or electric mixer to create a smooth, or creamy, texture.
- Heavy cream/heavy whipping cream – Used for whipping and much less likely to curdle during cooking. Milkfat content must be at least 36%.
- Light whipping cream/whipping cream – Can be whipped and also resists curdling. Milkfat: 30%-36%.
- Light cream – Cannot be whipped as is and used mostly for table service. Milkfat: 18%-30%.
- Half and half (pouring cream in Britain) – Least butterfat content and prone to curdling. Does not whip as is. Milkfat: 10.5%-18%.
- Devonshire cream/clotted cream – Thick enough to use as a spread, but separates when heated. Milkfat: 55%.
- Double cream – Milkfat content is 42%. Can be whipped.
- Crème fraiche – A fresh cream with 39% milkfat content.
- Sour cream – When bacteria is added to cream it is soured. Milkfat: 18%.
Whipped cream also is canned as a foam and available in tubs in the freezer section.
Powdered cream is marketed in some regions.
- Most products sold in the U.S. are “ultrapasteurized,” which means they have been heated for longer shelf life. When used for whipping, the taste of foods may change.
- Be sure to purchase the right type of cream to meet the cooking requirements.
- Créme fraîche tends to be expensive, but is easily made from scratch.
- Refrigeration is required for all creams, but freshness dates will vary. Some creams should be used within a few days, while others may last several weeks.
- Cream does not freeze. However, after whipping, heavy and light creams can be frozen.