Cream, also known as known as the cream or crème, is the heavy layer of milk that lies on the surface of the milk which can be removed from the milk by the centrifugal action of gravity. Cream recipe recommend using it for its heavy butter content which lends a thickness to the dish prepared apart from infusing it with a natural sweetness that comes from the milk. The cream is generally categorized according to its butter content and is labeled as heavy or light accordingly. The yellowish semi solid product tends to collect on the surface of the milk and contains a number of coagulated proteins apart from the fat.
It is also available in the pasteurized and ultra pasteurized variety with the later having a comparatively longer shelf life than the former.
Origin of The Cream Recipe
The use of milk as a food product has been in vogue since man learned to domesticate animals. The removal of the top heavy fat based layer came much later and was used extensively in primitive farms for preparing desserts by following a special cream recipe or the other.
The manual method of separation consisted of skimming of the rich layer from the surface of the milk after it had been boiled and cooled. The entire process had to be repeated twice for removing it entirely from a quantity of milk.
The method of separation came much later however when Gustaf de Laval invented the first modern centrifugal cream separator. This invention resulted in a spate of dishes making use of the cream recipe.
Culinary Uses of Cream
Cream recipe advocates the use of different types of cream for cooking different dishes. Although the milk cream is mostly associated with desserts, it is also used to thicken and garnish a number of hot dishes and is used extensively in the continental fare.
It is also used in soups and in dishes across the Indian subcontinent and is used usually to dilute the hot and spicy taste by tinging it with a subtle sweetness that comes from milk.
It is also found as a frozen constituent in ice-cream, one of the most popular desserts across the world. Whatever be the flavor or coloring of the ice-cream, it is the cream that forms the basis of the ice-cream.
It is used with tea and coffee to thicken the beverage and enhance the taste. Milkshakes also contain a good amount.
A simple cream recipe consists of fruits served with the clotted variety with strawberry in cream being a famous and popular dish that tastes delicious.
Simple vegetable dishes particularly those cooked in the Northern part of India make use of a cream recipe which is characterized by a unique flavor.
Kneading dough with cream helps to make it soft and this cream recipe is used for baking milk breads and soft cookies as well.
Addition of cream is an absolute must when it comes to cakes and puddings.
Types of Cream
While the rich and yellow colored fat enriched surface of milk contains cream, there are different types available now with the various varieties having specified uses.
Half and Half- A mixture of cream and milk which contains almost 10%-15% fat. The mixture can be used to thicken a milkshake or added to tea or coffee but will not be suitable for any cream recipe that calls for the thick variety.
Light- The lighter form cannot be whipped or used as a topping for desserts. It can however be added to hot beverages.
Double - A pure form without any additives it consists of almost 48% fat.
Thickened & Reduced Fat- Usually contains a lesser amount of fat than the rich double variety but the thickened version contains a number of additives including gelatin, vegetable gum and other agents. It can be used for a cream recipe that requires whipping the cream thoroughly.
Clotted /Scalded Variety- Contains a high percentage of fat and has a slightly carmelized taste. It is ideal for used as a filling in desserts and many risotto dishes make use of the clotted form too while eating it along with fresh fruits is considered to be a delicacy.
Crème Fraiche- Lactic acid is added to the ordinary cream in order to create a tart and acidic taste which is much more subtle.
Reduced Fat- Available in cans, the reduced fat variety contains only 21% fat and is ideal for weight watchers.
Buying and Storing
It is necessary to consider the exact type of cream required for cooking before purchasing it for future use. Apart from the ultra pasteurized variety most of the creams do not stay fresh for long even when chilled. It is always best to buy and transfer it to a refrigerator while it is still cold. The ‘best before’ date should be considered as well.
• Storing it in refrigerator shelves instead of on the door is advisable as the door tends to be less cool than the interior of the refrigerator.
• Keeping it in the freezer section is not recommended as freezing it might cause a loss of quality particularly the texture of the cream.
• It is also best to keep it covered while it is stored within a refrigerator as the milk products tend to pick up the odor from other objects lying in close vicinity.
Health Benefits of Cream
• The pure form of cream is good for health as it contains almost all the nutrients available in milk. However, the extra fat content might pose a problem for those suffering from cardiac or gastric problems and are trying to reduce weight.
• People hoping to gain weight can benefit from including cream based dishes in their daily diet.
• The half and half variety can be given to under weight babies for a quicker weight gain.
Milk cream is frequently used as a beautifying agent for softening the skin.