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What is crème fraîche?

creme fraiche
Crème fraîche is a thick, cultured cream that is very popular in France and is growing in popularity in the US. The cream has a slightly nutty, slightly tangy taste to it but is much milder and with a more distinct cream flavor than sour cream. It has a high fat content, a rich consistency that is somewhere between heavy cream and sour cream, somewhat like that of a creamy yogurt. Traditional crème fraîche is made by adding a bacterial culture to cream, allowing the cream to ferment and thicken slightly.

Crème fraîche is often referenced in recipes, both as a creamy addition to an almost-finished sauce and simply as a garnish for a bowl of soup. It is used to thicken sauces, enrich scrambled eggs and can be used in baking recipe to add tenderness, just like yogurt and sour cream can be. It is becoming more widely available, but is still not as easy to find as other dairy products are in the US. Fortunately, you can make your own version of crème fraîche by adding a small amount of buttermilk to slightly warmed heavy cream and allowing the mixture to sit and thicken for several hours, until the cream thickens. The homemade version doesn’t quite have the same tang and richness of the real thing, but it can be used in the same way and still makes a great addition to many dishes.

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1 Comment
  • Valerie
    March 28, 2012

    Ah, I have been wondering about this! I live in a formerly French colonized country in Africa and we have plenty of creme fraiche on hand, but no sour cream, so I’ve been using it as a substitute whenever a recipe called for sour cream – to quite good results. And since it is somewhat sour in taste, I have pondered whether or not it might be the original sour cream. And now I know that it is technically not. Thanks for that tidbit!

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