Crème fraîche is a cultured or lightly soured heavy cream. It is thicker, has a richer flavor, and tends to be less tangy than sour cream. If you are looking to add cream to a hot or warm dish, crème fraîche is preferred over sour cream because it will not curdle. While plain crème fraîche is wonderful in place of sour cream in many dishes, particularly as a garnish or topping, the extra tang of flavor in crème fraîche is put to equally good use when it is whipped and added to desserts for a little hit of tangy creaminess.
Where to Find Crème Fraîche
You can buy crème fraîche at specialty and gourmet stores. It's usually either next to the sour cream or in the cheese section, depending on the store. It is usually in a small plastic container similar to sour cream. If you can't find it or prefer a bit of extra work, simply make it yourself:
- Start with half a pint or a pint of heavy cream in a medium bowl or jar.
- Stir in about a tablespoon of sour cream or yogurt as a souring agent.
- Cover and let sit at room temperature overnight. It will just be slightly thickened and a tad soured. Chill overnight to thicken it more.
Whether you buy it or make it yourself, like heavy cream, crème fraîche will whip up best and quickest if you start it off as chilled as possible.
The Whipped Crème Fraîche Method
To whip crème fraîche, proceed as with whipped cream: make sure it is well chilled, use a chilled metal bowl and beaters or whisk, and simply whisk or beat until soft peaks form. Wear an apron and you may want to do this in the sink so any splatters are somewhat contained.
The crème fraîche should be thick enough so any peaks that form as you pull the whisk or beaters out of the mixture stay standing in their wake, although the very tops should droop a bit. This is the thickened yet still soft texture that allows you to dollop it nicely on your dish, but it won't collapse into creamy goop.
How to Store and Serve Whipped Crème Fraîche
Whipped crème fraîche will keep, covered and chilled, for several days. Keep the metal bowl in the fridge and cover it with plastic wrap or foil to avoid odors or crumbs from the fridge. When you are ready to use the whipped topping, just whisk it a few strokes to bring it all back together. Serve your whipped crème fraîche on top, alongside, or layered with cakes, tarts, pies, and puddings of all sorts, or simply with fresh summer berries like sweet blackberries. If you have leftovers, add a dollop on top of hot chocolate or coffee the next morning.