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Every week, a DIY expert spares us a trip to the grocery store and shows us how to make small batches of great foods at home.
Today, Adrianna Adarme of A Cozy Kitchen shows us that with just two simple ingredients, we can spare our wallets and whip up a small batch of crème fraîche right at home.
A few months into my first year in college, I realized that I hadn't prepared for such brokeness. In an attempt to pull myself out of college poverty, I applied for a waitressing job at a local brewpub. Aside from some insignificant retail jobs that lasted maybe a few weeks, I had no relevant work experience. So when it came time for my interview, I did what I seem to do best: I winged it. I spoke about everything that wasn't relevant -- how pretty the detailing on the general manager's shirt was, how nicely designed the restaurant was (it had a hideous interior), how challenging school was, etc.
Eventually I had to face the music and came clean, admitting to having no experience, but really really needing money. The general manager was visibly bummed; she genuinely wanted to hire me, but how could she at this point? She looked down at my application and said, "Well okay, so you have no experience. I can teach you how to juggle tables. I care more about people who know and like food. Can you answer this: What is crème fraîche?" My eyes lit up immediately.
My first dollop of crème fraîche had come into my life a few summers prior, in a cozy basement in the Netherlands. I was there on a road trip with my parents, and we stopped in the middle of the night in a small town called Emmen. The next morning, the bed and breakfast offered a quaint meal in the basement. This breakfast is one that I recall often. It was the first time I ever had eggs that were laid that very morning. The butter's hue was so bright and beautiful -- I had never seen anything like it. And its flavor! It may have been the best I've ever had. Next to the variety of fresh jams was a bowl of crème fraîche. I placed a spoonful atop some softly scrambled eggs, expecting it to mimic the flavor of sour cream; while it did have similarities, I found it far better. It was nutty, tangy and delightfully creamy.
After my movie-like flashback was done, I looked up and told the manager that I did know what crème fraîche was. She hired me on the spot. I soon found out that the restaurant had no crème fraîche on the menu and instead prided itself on serving frozen chicken wings tossed in store-bought bottled wing sauce. I wasn't too mad. I was just glad that I no longer had to eat cereal for dinner.
Even in big cities, like my current town of Los Angeles, good quality crème fraîche isn't that easy to find. Most grocery stores don't stock it, and if they do, it's at the steep price of $8 a cup. To my delight, I discovered that it's ridiculously easy to make at home. And while some will argue that it isn't true French crème fraîche, it comes in a very close second.
Homemade Crème Fraîche
1 cup pasteurized heavy cream
2 tablespoons buttermilk
You'll want to seek out a good quality heavy cream that is pasteurized, but ideally not ultra-pasteurized. (If you can only find ultra-pasteurized it will work, but will take longer to thicken.) To start, pour 1 cup of heavy cream into a non-reactive container with a tight-fitting lid (you can use pretty much anything that isn't made from iron or aluminum).
Next, add 2 tablespoons of buttermilk to the heavy cream. Cover the container tightly and shake until everything is thoroughly combined.
Loosely cover the container with parchment or a slightly damp paper towel and allow it to sit on your kitchen counter for 12 to 24 hours. For the best results, the temperature in your kitchen should be between 72 and 78 degrees F. (My apartment tends to be on the cooler side, so it always takes mine a full 24 hours to thicken.) Once it's at the consistency you want it (thick and creamy, but not stiff), transfer it to your fridge. The creme fraiche will last up to 2 weeks.
I love a dollop of crème fraîche on everything from a bowl of soup to fresh berries. Recently I've been obsessed with mixing the seeds from a quarter of a vanilla pod into about a half cup of crème fraîche. It's delightful.
Adrianna will be answering questions about crème fraîche on the Hotline for those of you who want to take this project on at home. For the quickest response, go to her recipe and ask a question from there -- we'll email her your question right away!
Stay tuned for next week's Small Batch, in which Kelsey Brown of Happyolks gets us making our own tortillas -- no press needed! This summer's backyard taco parties just got a whole lot more delicious.