Creme fraiche is a classic topping for fresh fruit, cobblers
and puddings. It can also be stirred into simmering soups and sauces
without fear of curdling.
VarietiesIn France, where it is a specialty, crème fraiche is made from unpasteurized cream that contains "friendly" bacteria to thicken it naturally. The best crème fraiche comes from a strictly controlled area of Normandy, which is famous for its rich, luscious dairy products. When you open a container of "real" crème fraiche, it has a telltale creamy-yellow color.
In the U.S., all commercial cream is pasteurized. Buttermilk and sour cream are added as agents to ferment the crème fraiche to the proper consistency. You may find that each brand tastes a little different, since there is no set standard for butterfat content. Full-fat crème fraiche ranges from 30-40%, while some brands may also offer half-fat varieties.
Buying TipsCrème fraiche is available at gourmet food shops and some supermarkets. Check the date on the package to make sure it's fresh.
While pre-made crème fraiche is convenient, it can be rather expensive, especially when it's so simple to make your own. The only ingredients needed are heavy whipping cream and buttermilk (or sour cream).
Storage TipsRefrigerate in an airtight container and use within 10 days.
Usage Tips• Flavor crème fraiche by stirring in fresh herbs, horseradish, crystallized ginger or honey.
• Add a spoonful to soups and sauces.
• Drizzle over grilled vegetables, salads, crab cakes and latkes.
• Serve with caviar and smoked salmon.
• Sauté crème fraiche with shallots and dry white wine for a delicious, all-purpose sauce.
• To make a frosting, beat crème fraiche with granulated sugar until stiff peaks form.
• When making at home, use pasteurized heavy whipping cream instead of ultra pasteurized (which will take much longer to thicken).
Substitution TipsCrema, a topping used in Spanish and Latin American cooking, is a good substitute.
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