Friday, 10 October 2008

Cooking with cream across the Atlantic

I wanted to cook some pasta in cream sauce the other day and went to my local Supermarket in search of some double cream. To my dismay, I just could not find any! I tried asking one of the staff restocking the diary section and, bless his heart, he clearly doesn't do any cooking himself and had no idea what I was talking about asking for "cooking cream".

"What are you making?" He asked. "Pasta," I replied. After not being able to find any cooking cream for me, he confessed rather sheepishly, "well, I just get my pasta sauce from a jar!" I didn't know whether to laugh or tut in disapproval. Heh.

After failing to find any double cream or cooking cream in Safeway, Capers (owned by Whole Foods) and two nearby ethnic grocers, I went online to solve the mystery of the non-existent double cream (wondering perhaps it goes by another name here in Canada). It turns out that I wasn't being dim or looking in the wrong places. Double cream basically does not exist in Canada! Discussion on some food forums revealed that some foodies manage to get hold of double cream (also called heavy cream) in Ontario and around the east coast of Canada. But it certainly seems to be elusive in Vancouver and the west coast.

Different types of cream are distinguished according to their consistency and purpose, and this primarily boils down to their milk fat content. In the UK, different types of cream and their minimum milk fat content are as follows:

Half cream or coffee creamer - 10-12%, only used in coffee/beverages
Single cream - 18%, for pouring over desserts and in coffee
Whipping cream - 35%, for whipping into a light consistency and used in desserts
Double cream - 48%, for cooking and also whipping (whips very quickly and easily)
Clotted cream - 55%, served as a spread with scones and cakes

Single cream has a thin consistency that is good for pouring and for cooking with when you need more creaminess than milk. However, it is not suitable for boiling as it will curdle with only a minimum of 18 per cent fat. Whipping cream is a lighter version of double cream. It whips beautifully without being quite so rich.

Double cream is extremely rich with a minimum fat content of 48 per cent. This also means it can stand being boiled in cooking without separating, and can be whipped to a fluffy consistency more easily and quicker than whipping cream. When whipping double cream, however, you have to be careful not to over-whip as the cream becomes grainy and slightly separated. When chilled, double cream also serves as a luscious thick pouring cream.

I certainly didn't know this before, but clotted cream has at least 55 per cent butterfat! It has a pale buttery colour and is very thick and rich. A speciality of the West Country in England, it is made by heating the cream to evaporate some of the liquids, resulting in a kind of concentrated cream. It is heavenly spread on scones or fruit tarts. Definitely not for every day but certainly worth a treat on occasion if you come across any.

In North America (US and Canada), different types of cream sold in most places are as follow:

Half and half - 10-12%, made up of half cream and half milk
Light/coffee cream - 18-25%, usually used as coffee creamer
Medium cream - 25%, I have not seen this where I am
Whipping cream - 30–35%, easily available )
Heavy whipping cream - 36% or more
Extra-heavy or manufacturer's cream, more than 40%, generally not available at retail except at some specialty stores or restaurant/catering suppliers.

Armed with the knowledge that it's the butterfat content that I needed to look for as to replace double cream, I eventually bought 35% fat whipping cream, which was the highest fat content I could find. It is certainly quite low fat content compared to the 48% of proper double cream. But it seems to be the best that I could find around here, and certainly better than half and half or coffee creamer. The result was quite satisfactory, with the addition of an extra pat of butter to enrich the sauce and increase the milk fat. Still, if anybody living in Vancouver knows of where to buy minumum 48% fat double cream (also called heavy cream in the US), please drop a comment!

In the next post, I will detail the pasta in garlic cream sauce that I made with the substitute cream. Here are some previous recipes that use cream:

Sausage and mushroom penne in mustard cream sauce
Sausage and mushroom penne in mustard cream sauce 2

Salmon and mushroom linguine in cream sauce
Salmon and mushroom linguine in cream sauce

Salmon pie
Salmon pie 2


chiara said...

Hmmm... you might be able to use "manufacturing cream"? Here in Southern California, our local Smart and Final (somewhat of a warehouse store) sells them :) Or... try to find a British grocery store? ;)

chiara said...

I found this place online :)

They say they sell groceries...

VeggieGirl said...

Pasta sauce from a jar?? **shudders** Hehe, I prefer to make my own sauce as well :0)

Christelle said...

If you go to France you won't find double cream or even single cream. THE cream is sour creme (creme fraiche) and the 'creme fleurette' is the whipping cream...
I have had the delicious surprise when I first came to Britain to discover all these creams :)

noobcook said...

I didn't know there are so many types of cream :P Are they available in Singapore?

charming said...

Yes, it is a challenge to find 'real' cream in Nth America. A problem I encounter I visit my sister in Oregon. Like you, I solve it by using heavy cream. Thank you for the other recipes. My girls love creamy pasta, and buying cream is not a problem in Australia.

Mrs Ergül said...

Wow, I too didn't know there is a whole lot of knowledge behind CREAM! Thanks for sharing!

Indigo said...

Haha, I can't imagine living without double cream! I remember having the same trouble in France - I imagine it as being The Place for cream, for some reason, but could only find creme fraiche. Tragique!

Nate-n-Annie said...

Like you, we end up using heavy whipping cream and butter in our cream sauces.

Butter makes everything better!

kokostiletto said...

i am so sorry that we don't have double cream in canada! i love love LOVE your blog by the way! so glad to have you in vancouver! the winters are dreary but there is so much stuff to do here.... email me if you have any questions about the city! you have got me excited about cooking again!

Nilmandra said...

Chiara: I have heard that 'manufacturing cream' would be the one to look for. I've not seen it so far, but I'll keep my eyes open. Actually, I have just been to Celtic Treasure Chest a few days ago! Thanks for looking it up anyway, it was sweet of you. I bought some sausages (mmmm...) and a few things. No cream though. I'll write about it later this week.

Veggiegirl: I used to do that many years ago, when I first started to cook at home. We've all got to start somewhere, right? :)

Christelle: I'm surprised to learn that. I would have thought the French would have all sorts of cream! I do love creme fraiche though, it tastes different from regular sour cream.

Noobcook: Actually, I don't know! I've never looked for cream when I was living in Singapore because I wasn't cooking at home then. I will need to look out for them when I'm back in Singapore...

Charming: Thanks, and I'm glad you've got what you need in Australia. Pasta in cream spot is one of my weakness, heh.

Mrs Ergul: Cream is not in the regular diet, or cooking ingredient in Singapore. I didn't know about all that too till recent years in the UK.

Indigo: How strange indeed, I wouldn't have thought that either in France!

Nate n Annie: Good to know that I'm on the right track :) Mmmm... butter...

Kokostiletto: Thanks for the kind comment. It definitely seems to have gone straight from summer to winter here!

Nolwenn said...

Thanks a lot for this article...
Dairy products is something that worry me a little bit, American ones (in the USA as in Canada), are SOOO different from ours here in France. I hope I'll find substitution for our "crème fraîche", for example.

prdtofthe80s said...

Save On Foods used to import a brand of creams from England (I think) with names like clotted cream, devonshire cream, and double cream. Don't know if they still stock these products, but it would be worth a try.

Nilmandra said...

Nolwenn: I have seen creme fraiche in the supermarkets, especially the organic food stores so you should not have problems with that.

prdtofthe80s: Hmmm I have not seen Save On Foods here. Will keep an eye out for that, thanks!

Anonymous said...

You can get Devonshire Double Cream at The Celtic Treasure Chest, Vancouver. They had Creme Fraiche but it did not sell so they stopped carrying it.

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