Crème fraîche is a cultured or lightly soured heavy cream. I first had it as a teenage exchange student in France. Where had this creamy manna been all my life? I slathered it on bread with jam as an afterschool snack every day. While straight-up crème fraîche is wonderful in place of sour cream in many dishes, particularly as a garnish or topping, the extra tang of flavor in crème fraîche is put to equally good use when it is whipped and added to desserts for a little hit of tangy creaminess.
Where to Find Crème Fraîche
You can buy crème fraîche at specialty and gourmet stores. It's usually either next to the sour cream or in the cheese section, depending on the store. Or, simply make it yourself:
- Start with half a pint or a pint of heavy cream in a medium bowl or jar.
- Stir in about a tablespoon of sour cream or yogurt as a souring agent.
- Cover and let sit at room temperature overnight—it just be slightly thickened and a tad soured. Chill overnight to thicken it more.
Whether you buy it or make it yourself, like heavy cream, crème fraîche will whip up best and quickest if you start it off as chilled as possible. A cold bowl and a cold whisk don't hurt matters either!
The Whipped Crème Fraîche Method
To whip crème fraîche, proceed as with whipped cream: make sure it is well chilled, use a chilled metal bowl and beaters or whisk, and simply whisk or beat until soft peaks form. I like to do this in a sink, so any splatters are somewhat contained.
The crème fraîche should be thick enough so any peaks that for as you pull the whisk or beaters out of the mixture stay standing in their wake, although the very tops should droop a bit. This is the thickened yet still soft texture that allows you to dollop it nicely.
How to Store Whipped Crème Fraîche
Whipped crème fraîche will keep, covered and chilled, for several days—just whisk it a few strokes to bring it all back together.
Serve it on top, alongside, or layered with cakes, tarts, pies, and puddings of all sorts, or simply with fresh summer berries like the sweet blackberries shown here.