No doubt the reason you ended up here sounds a little something like this: you were in a baking mood, ran your eye down a possible recipe, and found yourself stumped when you read about an ingredient called crème fraîche.
What is this? Where do you buy it?
It can more confusing that working out the difference between baking soda and baking powder.
Thankfully, we have the definite answer.
Crème fraîche, a French variation of sour cream, is a mildly acidic, high fat, slightly nutty tasting thick cream.
Crème fraîche has many uses in cooking and lends itself well to both sweet dishes, like raspberry pikelets, and savoury dishes, like seared salmon with lemon crème fraîche.
Before dairy products were first pasteurised, crème fraîche developed naturally when the bacteria present in cream fermented it, causing it to thicken naturally. It's still available in this natural form in many European countries, France being the most notable.
However in Australia and the United States, laws require all commercial dairy products to be pasteurised, so crème fraîche is manufactured through artificial fermentation, then re-pasteurised to halt the process, similarly to sour cream.
Crème fraîche and sour cream can be used interchangeably in some recipes, but the former can also be whipped like cream and does not split or curdle when boiled.
Thanks to its rise in popularity, crème fraîche is not as hard to find as it used to be.
We know of at least two different brands of crème fraîche readily available – both made in Australia and both stocked in large supermarket chains such as Coles and Woolworths.
Speciality brands can also be found at good delis and gourmet food stores.
Alternatively, use the somewhat-similar tasting light sour cream… or make your own!
Making your own crème fraîche is certainly not a difficult exercise and needs neither special equipment nor a plethora of ingredients.
Just mix equal amounts of thickened cream and sour cream in a glass jar with a tight-fitting lid; screw on the lid and allow the mixture to stand at room temperature overnight. You can keep this homemade version in the refrigerator for up to a week.
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