Wednesday 28 December 2011

How to Whip French Cream

Red tops mean full fat in France.
And other mysteries explained. Hopefully. It's a tricky subject and even French people seem confused when you put them on the spot.

This cream contains a seaweed based stabilising gel.
As any anglophone expat or immigrant knows, cream is not just cream in France. In Australia there was just cream. When I moved to the UK I graduated to whipping, single and double cream. Easy enough. Whipping cream is for, you guessed it, whipping. Single is for pouring and double is for dolloping.

Take no notice of the 'Flavour of 2011' logo. Companies pay
to use this 'certification' on their products.
And now for some French cream terminology:

Creme: must have a minimum fat content of 30% to be called creme or creme entiere. If the fat content is lower a product must use a descriptor such as légere or allegée or not use the word creme at all.

Creme fraiche: always pasturised, and usually has a lactic culture added. This makes it ever so slightly sour tasting, lengthens its shelf life, thickens the cream and means it does not separate when heated. Its fat content is around 40%. Used for dolloping and cooking. Only found in the chiller cabinet. It is not the same as the anglophone sour cream.

Creme crue: always unpasturised, but otherwise as above. This is what I generally buy, as my laitiere delivers it to the house.

Fleurette: originally the cream that rose to the top of the milk, but it has been adopted by the dairy industry to indicate cream that does not have a lactic culture added. There are no rules about its use, so read labels carefully before buying. It can have a fat content as low as 5%. Usually creme fleurette is 30-35% and used for whipping, fleurette is 20% and used for pouring, creme fleurette legere is 5-15%. It often contains stabilising gels.

Liquide: pasturised or UHT cream that has a fat content of at least 30%, and has not had a lactic culture or thickener added. Often used synonymously with creme fleurette by cooks.

Fluide: there are no rules covering this term, but usually means creme fraiche with a lower fat content, around 30%.

Epaisse: 'thick' or 'thickened', usually with a lactic ferment. Often used synonymously with creme fraiche by cooks. Can be found in the chiller cabinet or as a UHT product.

Légere: 'light', products with a fat content of less than 30%, usually somewhere between 15% and 5%.

Fouettée: 'whipped'.

Chantilly: sweetened whipped cream flavoured with vanilla and stabilised with gums. You can buy packets of 'Chantilly mix', which contain the sugar, flavouring and stabilisers to add to your creme liquide / epaisse / fleurette for whipping success.

The astuce gourmande is to take the cream out of
the fridge at the last minute before whipping.
The Golden Rules of Whipping French Cream:

1. Use a big enough bowl because the cream will double in volume.
2. Use a creme liquide with a fat content of 30%. A creme légere does not have enough fat to hold the air bubbles, a richer cream will not make much volume.
3. Everyone agrees the cream must be well chilled and if you are feeling really serious, put the bowl and the whisk in the freezer for 15 minutes before you start.
4. You can use cream with a higher fat content, but add 15% milk to thin it down. That's about 2 tbsp per 250ml pot of cream.
5. If you sweeten with icing sugar you can add it at any time. If you sweeten with granulated or castor sugar, add it at the very beginning to ensure it dissolves completely. Sugar added at the end allows you to add a little less, and results in a less yellowy coloured whipped cream.
6. French chefs habitually add stabilising gums such as a pinch of gum arabic or tragacanth at the end, but the sugar also acts as a stabiliser, as does chilling.



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Pollygarter said...

What about the "La Borde" treble cream? Dollop or carve?

Colin and Elizabeth said...

That's a useful guide, Susan. We've been looking for something like this to steer us through the various creams on offer!

cindyp said...

wot no pic of the finished article???

Susan said...

Cindy: be perfectly honest, I used this cream in pumpkin soup. I'm not a huge fan of whipped cream and figured I had enough of a life to get away with not whipping some especially to photograph for the blog :-)

Anonymous said...

This information is invaluable to a newbie like me, many thanks.


Anonymous said...

Great article! I'm an Australian living in France and the cream situation here is driving me insane! This article is very useful!

Susan said...

Chelsea: I'm glad I could help :-) I like your blog and am most impressed that you take the trouble to write it in both languages! If you are in the Touraine Loire Valley at any time do get in touch if you want any advice about where to go or to meet up for coffee or something. If you like I'll bring some of our local dairy's amazing creme crue! Btw, I have a Forme d'Ambert in the fridge at the moment -- I assume J's family come from that Ambert?

Suzanne F said...

I'm an American, Americanizing a French cookbook that was translated by a Brit, and this is a big help for working backwards to guess what the original French was, and to better understand the British types of cream. Thank you!

Susan said...

That sounds like fun! Don't hesitate to get in touch via email if you have any questions you think I could help with. Click on my profile link over on the right side bar to get to my email address.

Victoria Walker said...

I have lived here 14 years ( from Brisbane) and I still cannot get cream to whip. My British friend showed me a new product that is at the big big supermarkets, it is cream with a big if Marscapone in it. It whips up beautifully BUT I have never seen it at my local supermarkets in Versailles. I just spent 10 minutes trying to whip cream for my good old Aussie condensed milk caramel tart for my son's birthday and as per usual, it came out a liquidy horrid mess. What In the hell do milk companies add to cream in Australia to make it so easy to whip?

Susan said...

Cream in Australia can sometimes have a gel/gum such as carrageen added I think. This stabilises the whipped cream. You can buy 'chantilly mix' in the supermarkets here which is a gel/gum, sugar and vanilla. Using it would mean that your whipped cream was sweet, which you may not want. The only real secret to whipping cream is to make sure you have something with sufficient fat content (minimum 30%). If you don't want the slight sourness of crème fraîche then use cream labelled crème liquide, which is the terminology for cream which doesn't have the lactic culture added. Crème fleurette is often intended for whipping too, but do check the fat content -- there are no rules for the use of the term 'fleurette'. I've never had trouble with whipping French cream, but I seem to be the only Anglo in existance who can say that. I normally use crème crue from my local laitière, which has a lactic culture added and is 40% fat. I usually thin it slightly with either milk or liqueur and sweeten it (I'm not fond of unsweetened cream anyway). I have also occasionally used supermarket crème fleurette, but it doesn't whip up as firmly. The other solution is to buy a gas cannister and make squirty whipped cream. That's what most French people do.

Unknown said...

Finally I understand,and can stop searching for the elusive fresah cream,single or double.Thanks for this clear explanation

Unknown said...

Very clear and informative,this has perplexed me for literally years - thanks

Unknown said...

Thank you very much... took a bit of online searching to finally find your explanation. I'm very grateful x

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