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Creme fraiche

Every now and again, a mad idea comes into my head and I just can’t let go of it. This happened last weekend: I decided that I would make crème fraîche, and that nothing could stop me.

When I was researching mascarpone (for this tiramisu), I came across this video where a lovely American man assures you that it is extremely easy to make crème fraîche. I thought it looked like a bit of fun. The main advantages of crème fraîche are that it tastes gorgeous and does not curdle when cooked. You can also whip it, which gives it a lovely fluffy texture.

I followed the video man’s instructions perfectly. I heated the milk to 37 C, added 500ml of pure cream (35% milk fat), cooled the cream a little and added 3 tablespoons of buttermilk. I then poured this mixture into a jar, which I left in a warm place. After 24 hours, I eagerly opened the jar, but alas. The cream had not thickened AT ALL.

I did a little googling and have since found out that buttermilk sold in Australia is not ‘real’ buttermilk. The cultures are dead. I’m not sure whether this is just convention or because of Australia’s pretty tight food laws. I know it’s illegal to sell ‘raw’ milk; I’m not sure whether this is related.

Disheartened but not defeated, I decided to try again. I found a commenter on this website who suggested that Australians could use yakult. I tried using yakult, and had success – I think. The cream is still thinner than I would like and to be honest, I’m not sure whether I’ve made crème fraîche or a giant jar of creamy yakult. Either way, it tastes incredibly good and I’ve been ingesting spoonfuls of the stuff. I might become obese from the cream, but at least I’ll have a very healthy digestive system!

This is how I did it:

500ml pure cream (35 – 40 % milk fat)
2 little yakults

  • I heated the cream to 37 C, which is body temperature.
  • I then let it cool a little and added two yakults.
  • I poured this into a jar and put it for 10 hours overnight into an oven set very low at 40 C.
  • The next morning, the mixture had thickened slightly. I left it on the windowsill for another 14 hours until it thickened a little more. I put this in the fridge for a few more days and it thickened even more.
  • Voilà, crème fraîche (possibly).

By chance, I had some yoghurt in the fridge that had ‘live bacteria’ written on the label. I made another batch using a few teaspoons of the yoghurt instead of the yakult. I managed to make a giant jar of creamy yoghurt. I’m pretty pleased with this little kitchen experiment!

I’ve since done some extra web research and found that you can use a similar method to make all sorts of fermented dairy things. I don’t think I’ve mastered this stuff just yet, but look forward to having a few more attempts…

If anyone has advice on how to make real crème fraîche or knows of links to useful information – please leave a comment! I’m also wondering what the best thing to do with this stuff is. I know I can use it in desserts and with salmon because the man in the video told me. Any other ideas out there in the culinary fraternity?!

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