Saturday, May 22, 2010

Dairy Week - Day 2: Crème Fraîche

Cream of asparagus soup with creme fraiche.  The asparagus is from Edgar Farms of Innisfail, Alberta.Crème fraîche is similar to sour cream. In fact, they are made by the same process: inoculating dairy with a bacterial culture that converts lactose to lactic acid, which in turn coagulates the proteins in the dairy and thickens the mixture.

The major difference between
crème fraîche and sour cream is fat content. Crème fraîche is cultured whole cream, so is about 30% fat, while sour cream is made from leaner dairy products, and is usually around 15% fat. The added fat in crème fraîche gives it two advantages over sour cream. First, it has a more luxurious texture. Second, the fat tempers the acidity, making for a subtler and more rounded flavour.

Making Crème Fraîche at Home

Fresh dairy naturally contains the bacteria that would, over time, turn cream into crème fraîche. The traditional method of production would be to simply incubate that bacteria, and let nature take care of the rest. In the age of pasteurization, we must reintroduce this bacterial strain to the cream. There are several supermarket products that contain this strain. Buttermilk is one.

To make
crème fraîche at home, you need only stir one tablespoon of buttermilk into one cup of cream. Cover the mixture and leave it at room temperature for two days. Then refrigerate, which further thickens the mixture and arrests the bacterial growth.

I made my first batch this week. It tastes fantastic, but has small clumps of butterfat throughout. I suspect this is because I stirred the cream once during the two day incubation. I only gave it a few gentle turns to check the progress and redistribute the ingredients, but apparently this is completely unnecessary and compromises the heavenly texture of the finished product. Oops.

Crème fraîche is perfect for finishing cream soups, as it adds a very mild, pleasing acidity to cut the richness. It being the end of May, with Edgar Farms enjoying its brief few weeks at the Strathcona market, cream of asparagus soup seemed appropriate.


  1. I've been considering buying the culture from a cheesemaking supplier while buying other items for a pending cheesemaking project. If it works out, I'll let you know. May save buying some buttermilk? Regardless: good post. Underutilized ingredient, no question.

  2. That sounds like a good idea. I had to buy a litre of buttermilk for the one tablespoon I used in my creme fraiche.

    I've been eating a lot of buttermilk biscuits this week...

  3. I had a coworker from the UK who uses creme fraiche regularly in her cooking. However, she mentioned when she came here to Canada that she couldn't find creme fraiche as easily in the grocery stores.

    Without making it yourself, do you know where in Edmonton you can source already made delicious creme fraiche? (obviously not as 'fresh' as you'd make it yourself . . . but yah).

  4. I saw some at the Sunterra on 111 St. I can't recall the brand, but it was there.