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What is cream | Cream definition cooking
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What is Cream in Cooking? An Explainer

Cream is a dairy product that’s rich and thick, made from the separable fatty parts of milk.
Cream is an essential ingredient in many recipes, used to add flavour and texture to dishes ranging from soups to desserts.

If you are reading a recipe that is telling you to “Cream the ingredients”, it is referring to Creaming.
Learn more about what cream is and how to use it in cooking here.
What is cream | Cream definition cooking

What is Cream?

Cream is a dairy product made from the separable fat-filled parts of milk.
It is composed of the higher-butterfat layer skimmed from the top of milk before homogenization.
In un-homogenized milk, the fat, which is less dense, will eventually rise to the top.

Available in several varieties, including heavy cream, light cream, half-and-half, and whipped cream, cream can be used to add rich flavour and creamy texture to dishes.
Cream is often chilled before using for recipes that involve aeration, such as whipped cream.

Types of Cream in Cooking.

There are several varieties of cream used for cooking, each designed for different uses.

  1. Heavy cream has a fat content of 36% or higher and is ideal for making rich sauces and custards.
  2. Light cream has a fat content of between 18-30% and can be used in place of milk to add richness to sauces, soups, and gravies.
  3. Half-and-half is a combination of half milk and half cream and cannot whip but can be used as an ingredient in sauces or soup stocks.
  4. Whipped cream can be made from heavy or light cream, however light versions will retain volume better when compared with heavier ones.

How to Store Cream Successfully.

The best way to store cream successfully is by keeping it cold and as fresh as possible.

Always store cream in the refrigerator, ideally at a temperature between 0.5-4.5°C (33-40°F).
Cream should also be stored in an air-tight container that’s not exposed to light.

If you don’t plan to use the cream within 1-2 days of opening, freeze it for up to three months.
Defrost frozen cream gradually in the refrigerator instead of using a microwave or hot water bath.

Integrating Cream Into Recipes.

Cream can be used to add richness and texture to a variety of dishes and can enhance many different recipes, from savoury dishes to sweet desserts.
From soups and sauces to desserts, cream can be an integral part of any successful recipe.

In savoury dishes, cream is commonly used as a base for sauces, such as in classic cream sauces or béchamel sauce.
Learning how to incorporate it properly can help you create simple yet delicious meals everyone will love.

  1. Baking;
    Cream is one of the ingredients used in a variety of baking recipes, such as cakes, tarts, and pies.
    It is essential for adding that delicious richness to desserts without overpowering the flavour of other ingredients.

    Heavy or thickened cream is usually recommended for baking because it has a higher fat content that encourages better aeration and richer results.

  2. Sauces;
    Cream can also be used for making delicious creamy sauces such as alfredo or cheese sauce.

    When combined with seasonings and other ingredients, it makes for a rich base to many dishes like macaroni and cheese or steamed vegetables with cheese sauce.

  3. Soups;
    Soups can benefit from cream because it gives them a rich, silky texture and adds complexity to the flavours present in your recipe.

    Depending on the soup’s consistency, you may opt for lighter versions such as half-and-half or whole milk instead of heavy cream.

  4. Ice Cream;
    Homemade ice cream is definitely an indulgence that everyone deserves!

    Heavy/thickened cream can be used in place of regular milk when making your own ice cream base at home so that you get a fluffy texture with bigger air pockets in every scoop!
    For extra thickness and flavour, use sweetened condensed milk as well as heavy cream.

  5. Coffee & Tea;
    Adding some heavy cream or light whipping cream to your coffee and tea will turn it into a decadent beverage fit for royalty!

    You can even add flavours like cinnamon or nutmeg if you want something more special than just plain sugar and heavy cream in your cup.
    Salted caramel flavoured heavy creams are fantastic additions to teas during cold winter days – just the ticket!

  6. Pie Fillings;
    Using whipped cream instead of traditional fillings like custard or pudding when making pies not only saves time but also ensures tastier results!

    Whipped creams are made by combining chilled heavy creams with sugar, vanilla extract, lemon juice or any other desired flavourings.
    And voila – instant flaky pie filling!
    What could possibly be hard about that?

  7. Frostings/Icing;
    You don’t need store bought frosting when you have fresh heavy creams at home.
    Using them together with powdered sugar creates luscious buttercreams that double up on both sweetness AND richness depending on how much sugar you add (the less the better!).

    Perfect for piping onto cupcakes (add food color before puffing), slathering over buttery cake layers and more.
    Buttercream has got your dessert and cupcake decorating needs covered effortlessly every single time.

Using Different Types of Cream for Different Recipes.

There are different types of cream available from a range of fat contents and viscosities.
For everyday purposes, light or single cream is the most commonly used and gives sauces a silky texture.

Double cream is ideal for making hot desserts like crème brûlee, as its higher fat content helps to produce a thicker custard with an intense flavour.

Whipping cream is sometimes referred to as heavy cream and has higher fat content than double cream – good for applications such as thickening gravy or mousses or when you want a richer flavour.

Depending where you are in the world, you might find different types of cream labelled differently.

In Australia and NZ, labels such as “single” and “double” don’t apply – instead it’s all about fat content;
Single cream contains 33-35% butterfat, double cream has 60-66%, and thickened cream is single cream with added gelatine or starch.

Different Types of Creams Available For Cooking & Baking

From whipping cream to sour cream, explore all the different types of creams available for cooking and baking.
Whether you are creating a fluffy mousse or baking a decadent cake, there is likely an appropriate cream waiting in the dairy aisle.
But with all of the types of cream available, it can be hard to pick the right one.
Find out more about the different kinds and learn how to select a cream for your recipes.

Whipping Cream.

Whipping cream is a thick and rich cream perfect for lightening up recipes that are heavy on sugar.
It is a higher fat content than other creams, making it the ideal choice when you want something light and fluffy in texture.

Great for topping desserts like cheesecake or even to add body to something like a gravy.

Heavy Cream.

Heavy cream is a thick and heavy cream perfect for adding richness and body to dishes.
It has a higher fat content than other types of creams, giving it a thicker texture and helping it hold up better in cooked dishes.
Heavy cream can be used for things like sauces, soups, and even ice cream depending on the recipe!

This rich version of cream is known in America as heavy cream, but in Australia as thickened cream.
Thickened cream Is indeed heavy, with a minimum fat content of 35%, but it still doesn’t quite pack the same punch as heavy cream.which has a hefty 46% fat.

Sour Cream.

Sour cream, derived from sour milk, is a thick and tangy cream that adds a punch of flavor to dishes.
Due to its acidity, sour cream can be used to offset the sweetness of certain dishes such as cake batters or fruit toppings.
Sour cream is an essential ingredient in many Latin American and Mexican recipes, as it can be used to balance out spicier flavors.

Sour cream is similar to crème fraiche, except it has a tart taste thanks to the addition of an edible culture (usually lactic acid bacteria).
This type of cream is most commonly used as a garnish atop dishes like chili con carne or burritos but can also be added to dips and frosting recipes for some extra tanginess.

Half-and-Half Cream.

Half-and-half cream is a combination of equal parts whole milk and light cream.
It is used primarily as a creamer for coffee, but can also be included in other recipes such as soups, dressings and sauces.
With its relatively low fat content, it has a consistent texture that does not separate or curdle when heated nor does it add richness.
Half-and-Half is a great choice for those looking for the perfect balance between taste and health.

Here, in Australia and New Zealand, it’s not something that you can find in shops so we’ve got some tips on how to make your own.
Half-and-half is a mixture of equal parts full-cream milk and thickened cream.

Crème Fraiche or Creme Fraiche

Crème fraiche, or creme fraiche, is a type of French cream that has a slight tangy, nutty flavour.
It is slightly thicker than heavy cream, but still quite rich and creamy.
This will not curdle in heat like some other types of cream and can be used in both sweet and savoury dishes.

Crème fraiche makes an excellent substitute for sour cream as it contains more fat which gives it a stable, soft texture when heated.
Its thicker consistency makes it perfect for using as a topping on desserts or savory dishes like soups and sauces.

Clotted Cream

Clotted cream is a thick, creamy type of dairy product made by heating cow’s milk and allowing it to cool in shallow pans.
It has a nutty, caramel flavour and can be spread over scones or used as an ingredient in a variety of recipes.
It has been popular in Britain for centuries and is still enjoyed today.

This cream can be spread on scones or toast and is traditionally served with tea and jams.

Cream Cheese

Cream cheese is a soft, white cheese made from cow’s milk that’s usually spread on toast or crackers, but it can also be used in pasta and baking dishes.
It’s known for its creamy texture and mild flavour.
Creamcheese is often combined with other ingredients, such as chives or fruit, to create flavourful spreads.

It can be used in savoury or sweet recipes, and is most commonly used as a spread on breakfast items such as toast and bagels.
Another popular way to use cream cheese is in baking desserts like cakes and cheesecakes.

Evaporated Milk

Evaporated milk, also known as dehydrated milk, is cow’s milk with 60 percent of the water removed by gentling heating it.
It’s shelf-stable and can be stored in cans or cartons without refrigeration, making it a handy pantry staple.

Evaporated milk has a richer flavour than regular cow’s milk and a thicker consistency that makes it perfect for cooking and baking.
It can be used in many recipes to add creaminess, flavour, and richness without adding additional fat.

Evaporated milk is commonly used to make desserts, sauces, soups, and creamy drinks like cappuccinos.

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