Because of its rich smoothness and versatility, fresh cream is much used in cooking. It can be used to thicken soups, enrich sauces, and cover puddings
as well as being the main ingredient in such desserts as syllabubs and ice creams. It can be used as a pouring cream or whipped and is one of the simplest ways of turning an ordinary pudding into a treat.
Buy fresh cream in small quantities and store in a refrigerator. Once opened, cover with cling film or foil to prevent tainting by other foods. Use within a few days of purchase.
Double cream This has a butterfat content of not less than 48 per cent. It is a rich, pouring cream; use it to serve with a fruit-based pudding. Whipped, it can be frozen for up to one month.
Whipping cream It has a minimum butterfat content of 35 per cent. It is thinner than double cream but whips well and is cheaper. Use it to pipe onto cakes and for desserts. It can also be bought ready-whipped and sold in tubs, ideal for decorating cakes.
Single cream It has a butterfat content of not less than 18 per cent. Pour it over fruit salad or into coffee; add to sauces or the cooking liquids of casseroles. Single cream cannot be whipped.
Half-cream This has a butterfat content of not less than 12 per cent. It cannot be whipped. Serve with coffee.
Clotted cream It has a minimum fat content of 55 per cent, and is produced by heating cream to 82°C (180°F). After cooling, the crust is removed and the cream is packaged.
Fresh clotted cream can be kept in the refrigerator for several days: serve it with scones and strawberry jam.
Soured cream Commercially soured to give a clean piquant flavour.
Sterilised cream With a minimum butterfat content of not less than 23 per cent, this cream is homogenised, then heat treated in bottles. It will keep, unopened, for up to two years in an ordinary food storage cupboard; refrigeration is not necessary.
Ultra Heat Treated cream After homogenisation it is subjected to heat treatment at 132°C (270°F) for one second. The cream is rapidly cooled and packed in aseptic, foil-lined containers. The date stamp on the container will tell you how long you can keep it.
Extended life cream This has a minimum fat content of 48 per cent and is heat-treated and vacuum-sealed in a bottle. It will keep for two—three weeks in a refrigerator, unopened.
Frozen cream There are many brands of commercially frozen dairy creams: keep according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
HOW TO WHIP CREAM
The optimum fat content for whipping is 35-40 per cent. In order to get the best results, ensure that the bowl, whisk and the cream are very cold: put them in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes. Whip quickly at first until a matt finish is obtained and then reduce the speed until the cream stands in peaks.
Over-whipping will give the cream a poor, buttery texture and will make it difficult to pipe. It also spoils the creamy taste.