But it’s a “home-made versus store-bought” swap that makes a world of difference, and that DOES have an ICBIN component to it.
True Creme Fraiche should have TWO ingredients, as we have here: equal parts of heavy whipping cream and full-fat sour cream. The third ingredient is TIME, because the best way to make this is to put it up at room temperature or higher (I set my oven to just about 125° and leave a note to remind myself and anyone who might accidentally give it a pre-heat thinking it’s empty) that it’s in there. Or you can leave it on the counter covered with a clean tea towel, but you have to give it room to breathe and grow because the live cultures in the sour cream are hard at work.
Creme fraiche will increase in volume as it cultures, but I like to give it a bit more rise by whipping the ingredients together versus just mixing them. It will stiffen substantially and become more of a soft whipped cream with a bit of a tang to it, and oh my gosh I am doing a crappy job of describing the taste because you have to taste it to understand.
Like mascarpone (or our ICBIN swap) it is oh-so versatile and oh-so difficult not to just eat with a spoon right there. I find that if I have a batch, I prefer it to whipped cream as a topping because of its deeper character, and I prefer it to sour cream as a base for savory dips or as a potato topping because of its lighter, fluffier nature versus its soupier, sour-er cousin.
And now, the long-awaited ICBIN: If you don’t have the time to let this thing sit around playing with itself and cloning and self-generating (I recommend 12 hours or overnight, and I know some chefs who will leave it for a full day, which I think is both obsessive and scary) there is a simple fix to make this ALMOST instantaneously gratifyingly available:
If you don’t know xanthan gum and you don’t have any, virtually every natural and organic “health food” market carries it — probably Bob’s brand. It comes in a clear bag, like most gluten-free flours you’ll find alongside it on the shelf, and is a pale beige color.
Xanthan gum is a naturally occurring spore, which is used commercially (and widely so — check your labels and you’ll see) as a natural emulsifier. I use it to thicken EVERYTHING, especially low- or non-fat salad dressings. It just bulks up liquids and a little goes a long way. A tablespoon in Gluten-free baking mimics the way gluten stretches and captures gases for a bigger “rise”, and it’s a pretty well-established standard for that purpose.
Buy a bag, keep it sealed and away from moisture. It will keep for a long time in a container in your cupboard.
What I did to make Creme Fraiche that was ready for use in our next dessert recipe in about an hour (actually it was ready sooner but I didn’t need it as quickly as I’d thought) was to begin whipping the creams together, and once blended, I added 1 tsp. of xanthan gum and then whipped for about a minute on medium high.
The thickening is immediate, but just to give it a bit of culturing time (and the gum traps more of the bacterial farts that I’m sorry to say are what makes for fluffy fermentation) I set it in the warm oven while it waited for me to call it into action.
It. Was. DIVINE.
Have at it…
1 Cup Heavy (whipping) cream
1 Cup Sour cream
Blend the two creams, then whip for one minute on medium high speed with hand beaters or in a stand mixer. Transfer to a clean mixing bowl and set to rest, on counter top or in lukewarm oven, for 12 hours. Refrigerate immediately after if you don’t use it immediately. It will firm up when cooled.
Layered with fresh fruit with a hit of liqueur poured over it, this makes a really nice parfait, and it’s great to use in place of frosting for a lighter topping on a tea cake or soft cookie. I’m just sayin’…