How to Make Homemade Crème fraîche

It should come as no surprise that I like to end my days with something sweet.

And this sweet thing usually goes through phases. Last month it was microwave mug cakes--scant spoonfuls of flour, sugar, and spice whisked with an egg and zapped just long enough to produce a tiny hot, spongy little cake.

The weeks before that, I was into homemade dark chocolate bark studded with bits of cracked espresso beans. (Delicious, but an unwise evening snack as it usually left me up all night thinking up projects.)

Now, with sunny warm days upon us, it's berries.
Strawberries, in particular, washed in cold water and served alongside a bowl of tangy crème fraîche and crunchy, toasty coconut palm sugar. It's the sort of treat that seems and tastes gloriously indulgent, and yet is not something that would be out of place on the breakfast table.

I rediscovered my love for creme friache just a few weeks ago when I attended a reception hosted by the folks at Vermont Creamery. For dessert, they served rich flourless chocolate cakes topped with a cloud of the silky sour cream, and I was blown away by how perfectly it worked to balance out the sweetness of the rich cake.

The flavor, if you've never tried it, is a bit of a cross between mascarpone and sour cream. It's got the cultured tang you might know from yogurt or buttermilk, but there is also a very lovely sweetness like that you get from good heavy cream. And the texture is thick and a bit gooey, like marshmallow fluff.

When my gifted container finished, I bought another and then a third, and then this weekend I was dismayed to find that the container was nearly empty yet again. I wanted to serve it along with dessert at the Mother's Day lunch I was preparing for my mom and mother-in-law, but I didn't have time to buy more.

That's when I remembered a long ago article that mentioned how incredibly easy it is to make creme fraiche at home. I got online and found that it really was easy.

As easy as whisking together good heavy cream and a few tablespoons of buttermilk or yogurt or even just some storebought creme fraiche. I happened to have a small unopened bottle of Ronnybrook cream (the best around here), so I poured it into a bowl and stirred in equal parts Greek yogurt and what was left of my Vermont Creamery container.

I covered the bowl with a piece of the plastic (poking in a few holes to allow air to travel), and left it on top of the stove overnight.

By Sunday morning, the bowl of cream had turned thick and silky. I was so excited that I brought it into the bedroom where Eugene was still sleeping. "Look at this! I made creme fraiche!" I exclaimed.

"That's nice," he mumbled, then rolled over back to sleep.

I left the room hugging my bowl then placed it in the fridge to chill and thicken a bit more. I served my homemade creme fraiche to the moms along with fresh strawberries, blackberries, and coconut palm sugar. They loved it.

The bowl is nearly empty again, and I think I just may have to make another batch.

This is definitely a dangerous skill to have acquired...

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Homemade Creme Fraiche Recipe

2 cups good quality heavy cream (not ultra-pasteurized)
1/3 cup buttermilk, yogurt, or creme fraiche (or a combination of these adding up to 1/3 cup)

Whisk the heavy cream and buttermilk together in a glass bowl. Cover with plastic wrap that's been poked several times to allow air to pass. (You can also use cheesecloth.)

Leave at warm room temperature for 12 to 24 hours, or until the cream has thickened into the texture of loose whipped cream. Give it another stir, cover tightly with a new piece of plastic wrap, and place in refrigerator for at least 8 hours. It will thicken and set completely. You can now serve this with both sweet and savory dishes, or use for cooking. (Just as you would use sour cream or store-bought creme fraiche).

You can also sweeten or flavor the creme fraiche after it's ready--some good additions are lemon or orange zest, vanilla beans, dried herbs, or sugar. 

Keeps well 1 week to 10 days when stored in a tightly sealed container in the refrigerator.


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