What We’re Cooking This Week: Crème Fraîche

It’s the perfect thing to dollop onto the peaches, berries and other summer fruit that’s so good right now.

Jim Dixon wrote about food for WW for more than 20 years, but these days most of his time is spent at his olive oil-focused specialty food business Wellspent Market. Jim’s always loved to eat, and he encourages his customers to cook by sending them recipes every week through his newsletter. We’re happy to have him back creating some special dishes just for WW readers.

“If you’re afraid of butter,” said Julia Child, “use cream.”

The iconic author and television chef suffered no fools when it came to eating, and she openly disdained the hair-splitting, nit-picking of scolding nutritionists who raised alarms about eating too much fat. But we’re slow learners, and despite the fact that the admittedly dismal science of food and nutrition at least admits that eating fat doesn’t make you fat, we still shy away from incredibly delicious fatty food.

To paraphrase Mr. T, I pity the fool who won’t eat cream. A spoonful makes gravies and sauces lush and unctuous, and there aren’t many desserts that a dollop of whip won’t improve. I usually have a half-pint in the refrigerator, and more often than not, I make it into crème fraîche.

While every dairy culture has its own version of the lightly fermented cream, the French won the branding war. And crème fraîche sounds much better than the stodgy clotted cream of the U.K. Back before modern dairies transformed fresh milk through filtration, clarification, separation, homogenization, and pasteurization, the fatty cream that rose to the top of the milk bucket would be skimmed off and allowed to sit at ambient temperatures overnight. Naturally occurring bacteria would culture the cream, thickening it and adding a little tang along with increasing its shelf life. That last feature is one of the reasons I like it; crème fraîche can last for a week or more in the refrigerator.

You can buy fancy crème fraîche at better grocers, but it’s simple to make at home and much cheaper. You just mix yogurt or buttermilk into cream and let it sit at room temperature for about 24 hours. After it chills, the concoction becomes thick and spoonable, and the perfect thing to dollop onto the peaches, berries and other summer fruit that’s so good right now.

Crème Fraîche

8-12 ounces heavy cream

2 tablespoons whole milk plain yogurt*

*Make sure the yogurt has live cultures. For many years I used Nancy’s honey yogurt since it was local and delicious, but these days I’m using Ellenos Greek yogurt from Seattle.

In a container with a lid, mix the yogurt and cream together thoroughly. Cover and let sit at room temperature for 12-24 hours, then refrigerate.

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