Cream

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Many different types of cream

Cream (from Greek chrisma, literally "an anointing") is a dairy product that is composed of the higher-butterfat layer skimmed from the top of milk before homogenisation. In un-homogenised milk, over time, the lighter fat rises to the top. In many countries, cream is sold in several grades depending on total butterfat content.

Cream produced by cows (particularly Jersey cattle) grazing on natural pasture often contains some natural carotenoid pigments derived from the plants they eat; this gives the cream a slight yellow tone, hence the name of the yellowish-white colour cream.

Name Minimum
milk fat
Additional definition Main uses
Clotted cream 55% and heat treated Serve as it is with scones and jam
Double cream 48% Whips the easiest and thickest for puddings and desserts. Can be piped.
Whipping cream 35% Whips well but lighter. Can be piped - just!
Whipped cream 35% and has been whipped
Sterilised cream 23% is sterilised
Cream or single cream 18% is not sterilised Poured over puddings and/or used in coffee
Sterilised half cream 12% is sterilised
Half cream 12% is not sterilised Only used in coffee

Other cream products

Sour cream in the U.S. is cream (18% or more milk fat) that has been subjected to a bacterial culture that produces lactic acid (0.5% plus) and which sours and thickens it.

Crème fraîche is a heavy cream (30-40% milk fat) slightly soured with bacterial culture, but not as sour or as thick as American sour cream. Mexican crema (or cream espesa) is similar to crème fraîche.

In the United Kingdom, clotted cream (similar to Indian malai) is a very high-fat (55%) product processed with heat. For cooking purposes, both single and double cream can be used in cooking, although the former can separate when heated, usually if there is a high acid content. Most UK chefs always use double cream or full-fat crème fraîche when cream is added to a hot sauce, to prevent any problem with it separating or "splitting". In sweet and savoury custards such as those found in flan fillings, crème brûlées and crème caramels, both types of cream are called for in different recipes depending on how rich a result is called for. It is useful to note that double cream can also be thinned down with water to make an approximation of single cream if necessary.

Butter is made by churning cream.

Whipped cream

Cream with 30% or higher fat content can be turned into whipped cream by mixing it with air. The resulting colloid is roughly double the volume of the original cream as air bubbles are captured in a network of fat droplets. If however, the whipping is continued, the fat droplets will stick together destroying the colloid and forming butter; the liquid remaining is called buttermilk. Confectioner's sugar (also known as icing sugar) is sometimes added to the colloid in order to stiffen the mixture and to reduce the risk of over whipping.

How to stop cream splitting

See also


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