How & Why to use Crème Fraîche

While in Germany over the holidays, I was reminded of how much more prevalent crème fraîche is in Europe compared to the U.S. It’s used in a ton of recipes over there, like dips, sauces, in baking, quiches, pies and soups. I personally love it for cooking but also because it lasts a lot longer in the refrigerator than fresh cream. So I thought I’d share a little more about it.

Crème fraîche is a cultured (fermented) cream. What’s special about it is the particular strains of bacteria used, specifically lactococcus and leuconostoc. These are the same strains that are used in cultured buttermilk and sour cream. In fact the only difference between the 3 products is fat content – buttermilk being very low in fat (Mbrz makes it from pure milk), sour cream being medium (meadowbreeze mixes about 30% cream with 70% milk) and crème fraîche being the highest (made from 100% cream).

Unlike other dairy products (including yogurt and sour cream), crème fraîche will not curdle over high heat or separate when mixed with wine or vinegar. This is all thanks to the special mix of lactococcus and leuconostoc. cultures used. These species have some other important characteristics, as quoted in Harold McGee’s On Food and Cooking, The Science and Lore of the Kitchen:

  1. They grow best at moderate temperatures (well below yogurt fermentation temperature)
  2. they’re only moderate acid-producers, so tend not to produce a very sour tasting end product,
  3. certain strains can produce a warmly aromatic compound called dactyl that miraculously complements the flavor of butterfat. In fact, this is the characteristic taste we associate with “butter.” Even chardonnays produce this acid, which is no wonder we describe their taste as “buttery.”

So what can you do with Meadowbreeze Creme Fraiche?

Have any other recipes to share? Please comment!


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