Commonly used in cooking and in the case of Mascarpone, regularly in desserts, this is an easy product to make yourself at home. Often shop bought sour cream or Crème Fraîche can be fairly boring, bland to the taste and a bit lacking in the flavour department.
So what is it? Crème Fraîche (fresh cream in French) is a thick cultured cream that has been soured using a culture to produce a tasty, slightly soured cream. It has excellent thickening properties and is great in soups, curries and other sauces.
Crème Fraîche differs slightly from soured cream in that it tends to have a higher fat content - around 30% as opposed to 20% and is thicker than soured cream. Its higher fat content means that it is less likely to curdle. Soured cream is more acidic and has more of a tang to it, which makes it more suitable for savoury dishes.
Mascarpone is thicker still and is technically a cheese rather than a cream. It has a slightly sweet flavour making it better for desserts and is commonly used in Tiramisu. Personally I enjoy Marscarpone with figs and Marsala wine -delicious!
How to make Crème Fraîche:
You’ll need a sour cream culture such as XPL-30:
And also some double cream - 500ml to a litre. If you have a pH meter or pH papers then you will get better results as you are looking for a finished pH of 4.7. First, stand a bowl of cream in the sink and add warm water to the sink. You want to get the temperature of the cream up to 25°C. Add a very small pinch of the culture, stir in well, cover and leave for about 10-12 hours. Stir well, then check every few hours until you get a pH of 4.7. Add cold water to the sink to stall the acidity process and then refrigerate.
To make Mascarpone, copy this process but then strain through a colander lined with a cheesecloth - put this over a bowl in the fridge and leave for 24 hours. Enjoy!