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24 September 2013

Cast of Characters: Cream

Did last week's tasty tip for Half & Half substitutions leave you confused about butterfat and the types of cream you can find in the store?  If so, hopefully today's tip will help sort things out a bit.

First, what is butterfat?  Butterfat is the natural fat contained in milk and dairy products, and most milk and cream products are sold by the amount of butterfat they contain.  (The U.S. has federal standards for the butterfat content of dairy products.)  Butterfat content affects "mouthfeel" of products - i.e. how rich and creamy they feel on your tongue.  For example, whole milk has a "silkier" mouthfeel than skim or reduced fat milk.  Whipping creams can feel almost heavy on the tongue due to their high fat content.

So, now that you know a little bit about butterfat and how it impacts the taste of your dairy goods, what about the cream?  Cream is made by skimming the butterfat off of milk and it is categorized by it's fat content.  Here's a break down of some of the most common types of cream:
  • Half and Half:  half milk and half cream, fat content 10.5% - 15%.  It adds richness milk doesn't, but can not replace cream in recipes.  It will not whip like cream.
  • Light Cream:   also known as "coffee cream", fat content between 16% - 29%.  It will not whip.
  • Whipping Cream:  made specifically for whipping, fat content 30% - 36%.  It will whip.
  • Heavy Whipping Cream:  also known as "heavy cream," made specifically for whipping, fat content 36% - 40%.  It will whip.
"Whipped topping" or "dessert topping" usually does not contain any cream, but is instead a mixture of hydrogenated oils.  It has its uses, but you can't use it as a cream substitute.


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