I have fallen in love with creme fraiche lately.
Have you made some for yourself? It’s so ridiculously easy — more so than anything I have made from scratch — that you would be silly to not make it. Ready?
Pour a pint of good cream in a jar. (The less pasteurized the cream, the less time it takes to thicken. Ultra pasteurized works too, however.) Dribble in two tablespoons of buttermilk. Shake the jar. Let it sit on the counter for 8 to 24 hours until it thickens.
A few years ago, we talked about creme fraiche here, and we showed you how to heat it in a saucepan to 85 degrees before putting it in the jar. Turns out that isn’t even necessary. Just pour, dribble, shake, let sit.
After this amount of work — less than finding the remote control to the television set — and some time, you’ll have thick creme fraiche, ever-so-slightly sour, sweet and tasting clean as the pasture. Oh heck, do I need to describe it? If you’ve eaten creme fraiche, you know what I mean. If you never have, well, you might want to try this sensory experience sometime.
You can buy creme fraiche at the store, but it’s almost exorbitantly expensive. At our store, it’s $8 for a tiny tub, which holds about 1/4 of what we can make at home for 1/2 the price.
I’m finding that food made from scratch almost always costs less than the equivalent in the packaged tub.
I’ve been using creme fraiche in our baking here. It lends a wonderful texture to muffins, pound cake, applesauce bread, and cupcakes. Creme fraiche has such a complex taste that it blends well with whole-grain gluten-free flours like teff and quinoa. Lately, I’m fascinated by the way we can build flavors with flours. Buttermilk and creme fraiche both seem to love gluten-free flours.
However, you haven’t seen any recipes with creme fraiche in them here, have you?
For the past few years, I’ve been acutely aware of the ingredients in our recipes. Whenever I post a recipe, I receive a comment or email within minutes: “That looks fabulous. I can’t eat [fill in the blank here] at all. How do I convert your recipe?”
I have to be honest — sometimes this deflates me. Or annoys me. After working for months on a gluten-free puff pastry recipe, and finally publishing it, one of the first responses? “How do I make this without butter?” When I put up the roasted tofu recipe, I had a volley of angry comments on Facebook decrying it because soy is evil and causes breast cancer. (According to my oncologist and dozens of serious medical studies, that’s malarkey.) No matter what I create, someone has an issue with one of the ingredients.
Part of my response the past few years has been to modify recipes before I made them. We made vegan gluten-free pie crust. We work with dairy-free milk, partly because Lu and Danny don’t do well with cow’s milk, but also to try to make the recipes easier for people. We avoid posting that many meat recipes because we know how many vegetarians are reading.
But here’s the deal. My pie crusts with leaf lard and butter are pretty amazing. I don’t like hemp milk. We’re having a rack of lamb for Easter.
And I really love creme fraiche.
Here’s what I want to do. From now on, I’m making the baked goods and appetizers we create with the ingredients we always have in our house. I cannot eat gluten. Danny and Lu cannot drink cow’s milk or cream. But creme fraiche treats them fine. I never set out to write a healthy eating blog. This place is a celebration of what we love to eat: scrambled eggs with roasted asparagus and the first peas of the season; apple bacon turnovers; big salads with lemon tahini dressing; roast pork loin with a coffee-allspice rub; lemon poppyseed pound cake made with creme fraiche.
Danny and I both believe that if we eat real food, we’re healthy. (I always loved Julia Childs’ quote: “All things in moderation, even in moderation.”) All our recent medical tests show that to be true. We’re fit as fiddlehead ferns and ready to bloom.
However, I’m still aware of the folks who cannot eat dairy. It must be really difficult.
What I’d like to do is this. Please leave a comment on this post about how you cope without dairy. What are your best solutions for baking? For sauces? For folding into scrambled eggs? Do you try to replace cheese? Do you make creamy dressings without cream? We’d like to know.
Give us your best knowledge, the tricks you have picked up from feeding your family well without dairy. Or because you are a vegan by choice. Whenever we post a recipe with dairy in it, I’ll link back to this post so the dairy-free folks can learn from you. And if we post a recipe with dairy in it, and you bake it dairy-free, leave a comment on that post about how you did it.
I want to help, as much as I can. You know more than I do, however.
And I really want my creme fraiche back.