For me, crème fraîche is the number one top of the pops cook’s ingredient in the cream family. Because, by law, milk for cream has to be pasteurised, this has undoubtedly affected the flavour and made it blander than it was in former times. The French (more particularly the Normans, as Normandy is the world’s richest dairy area), not content with this diminished flavour, created a special way of adding a culture to their cream and allowed it to mature and develop the faintly acidic flavour that was lost in pasteurisation.
The best crème fraîche comes from a strictly controlled area of Normandy and has all the rich, luscious flavour that the area is famous for. If you open a pot and look closely at it, you can see the wonderful creamy-yellow colour of the real thing. The reason it is especially loved by cooks is it has a longer shelf life than double cream, so you can take a spoonful here and there, replace the lid and use it again. Now we can also buy half-fat crème fraîche, which is less rich but still contains all the creamy flavour of the full-fat version. Finally, the other supreme virtue of crème fraîche is that when you use it in cooking, it never curdles and separates – you can bubble and boil it and never be afraid.
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