Sneak Preview: It’s so easy to make homemade creme fraiche with yogurt or yogurt whey. No buttermilk required = no wasted leftover buttermilk. Many uses!
Check out the price of creme fraiche at your local grocery store if you can find it. Amazon Fresh is currently (8/2020) asking $5.99 for 8 ounces. It seems outrageous, doesn’t it? Now you know why I like to make it.
Buttermilk has traditionally been used to make homemade creme fraiche. It turns out that buttermilk is not the only game in town. This is great news if you don’t keep buttermilk in the house and hate to buy a whole quart for 1 tablespoon.
If you’re like me, you may be wondering what creme fraiche is (keep reading) and how do you even pronounce those words?
What is creme fraiche?
Creme fraiche originated in France where it was traditionally made with unpasteurized heavy cream. The cream was naturally inoculated with the right bacteria to thicken it.
Since our cream is pasteurized or ultra-pasteurized, we are forced to add bacteria back to the cream. This process makes a thick and slightly tangy cream.
You won’t believe how simple it is to make at home…
Drain a tablespoon of whey from the top of your daily portion of (unflavored) yogurt, or just add a spoonful of yogurt to a cup of heavy cream. Whisk until smooth.
Let it sit unattended for 8-24 hours in a warm place, and wait for the magic to happen. Chill and serve.
How is sour cream different?
They look identical. However, sour cream contains less fat (made with whole milk) making it less stable and prone to curdling when the heat is turned up.
It often contains ingredients such as gelatin, added to make it thicker.
Creme fraiche is milder and richer in flavor with 36% butterfat. It won’t curdle when added to a hot or boiling mixture like sour cream does.
It’s also much more expensive to buy.
Although similar to sour cream, creme fraiche is not the same.
What’s in this magical stuff?
Two ingredients. That’s it. You can add sweetness such as sugar, honey, or an artificial sweetener. Extracts such as vanilla or almond are another way to customize this treat.
Use heavy whipping cream which has 36-38% butterfat. If you have a choice between heavy cream and whipping cream, the latter has less fat but will still work.
Half-and-half does not contain enough fat to get thick with this method.
Does it matter whether the heavy cream is pasteurized or ultra-pasteurized?
You will find many instructions online that say you must use pasteurized cream. That’s not my experience. I have only ever used ultra-pasteurized cream, and it works beautifully.
Some say it takes more time for ultra-pasteurized cream to set. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find any only-pasteurized-cream in the store to experiment with so that I could speak from experience.
Even with ultra-pasteurized cream, it usually sets within 12 hours. Give it up to 24 hours, if necessary.
Time to set may vary according to the ambient temperature, the virility of the culturing bacteria, your technique, and the freshness of your ingredients.
Do I need to heat the cream first?
No. Heating the cream to room temperature is not necessary. Nor is it necessary to warm the yogurt or yogurt whey. Both will come to room temperature fairly quickly on their own.
You could warm the cream and the yogurt or whey to save on the “setting” time, but be careful not to overheat (over 100˚F) and kill the little yogurt bodies.
In my microwave, heating for 30 seconds on HIGH will bring a cup of cream up to 75˚F saving me a little time. (If you want to try the same thing, consider that my microwave is quite slow. Experiment to see exactly how much time is needed in your microwave.)
YOGURT or YOGURT WHEY
Granted, you won’t need much–just one tablespoon for one cup of cream.
Instead of whey, you could use plain unflavored yogurt. Again, one tablespoon is plenty for a cup of cream.
Avoid using yogurt with anything added like thickening agents or flavorings.
Which is better for making creme fraiche? Yogurt or yogurt whey?
It doesn’t matter whether you use Greek yogurt, regular yogurt, fat-free yogurt, or yogurt whey.
The most important thing is that the yogurt be fresh–no more than 7-10 days old.
In my experience, yogurt may thicken heavy cream a little faster than yogurt whey. The final product of either will be excellent provided they are inoculated with fresh ingredients.
The longer yogurt or whey sits in the fridge or the store shelf, the less potent it becomes.
How long will creme fraiche keep in my refrigerator?
You can store creme fraiche in the fridge for a week to two weeks. As with homemade yogurt, how long you can keep it depends on the freshness of the ingredients used when making it.
The longer you keep it, the more it will separate, just like yogurt. If the flavor starts to taste a little off, throw it out. If you see mold, it’s definitely time to pitch it
Can I freeze creme fraiche?
I don’t even try. The texture changes when you thaw it. Theoretically, if you whip it enough, you can bring it back close to its original smoothness.
If you want to try, here is a detailed post on how to freeze individual servings of crème fraîche.
How do I use creme fraiche?
My favorite way to use creme fraiche is slathered on homemade bread, specifically rye bread. The characteristic flavor of rye and caraway seeds goes perfectly with the creamy but slightly tangy flavor of creme fraiche.
Use in place of butter on scones or hot biscuits. Slather a layer of jelly under the creme fraiche for a flavor party.
Along the same line, try smearing this rich and creamy mixture on cinnamon melba toasts. De-e-e-elicious!
Substitute creme fraiche for sour cream in sauces or soups that need to simmer or might boil. It won’t curdle like sour cream because of the higher fat content.
Use instead of whipping cream over fresh fruit. It’s the perfect foil for sweet fruits like these peaches.
Make cultured butter with your homemade creme fraiche. I’ll be showing you how in a future post. Meanwhile, you can see the simple process for making cultured butter in this post from Mark’s Daily Apple.
Try adding it to scrambled eggs. Gordon Ramsay has a famous recipe for scrambled eggs with creme fraiche that people rave about.
This is my favorite way to use it. Spread it on hot bread and toast the same way I would butter. Creme fraiche won’t get hard like butter and contains fewer calories than butter (100 calories per tablespoon for butter vs. 52 calories per tablespoon for creme fraiche). BONUS: It’s always spreadable.
Make creme fraiche ice cream. It’s fabulous. This particular recipe has chunks of Nutella added to it which makes it even better.
How to make creme fraiche with yogurt or yogurt whey:
Would you like more recipes for using yogurt or yogurt whey?
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Hope to see you again soon!
p.s. Questions or suggestions? Email me: paula at saladinajar.com.