I decided to create a post about cream in bakery, because it is ingredient used for the base of many cakes, mousses, cookies, desserts, candies and ice cream. I suppose most of you have heard of confectionery mousse called “Ganache” (and I will make a separate post about it in the near future).
I want to start with one clarification – do not associate the word “cream” with those puffy roses you can find on almost every cake and cupcake in every store. This is not the cream in bakery you would want to use if you want to make a high quality, tasty and memorable desserts. If you want to create real bakery art, you shouldn’t use that cheap, artificial, low quality cream. You must forget about it. Not only it has inferior taste, but it has been proven to be very unhealthy as well. And so…
Cream by default is a milk product, which has been used in meals, desserts, sauces, soups, paste every day around the world. In its core it is non homogenized milk with high percentage of fat. Typically, the cream stays on the top layer of the milk, since the fat is always lighter than the water substance. In ancient times, the cream was made only from fresh cow milk, but today there are many plant based varieties.
“Cream” is actually a modern term for the old word “butterfat”. In the past it was produced by manually collecting the butterfat of the cow milk, but more modern procedure was invented by using centrifuges. In order for the cream to be considered real and natural, it has to contain a minimum of 10% milk fat.
The cream is one of British favorite ingredient. While some people prefer to consume it in its natural state, for others it can be irreplaceable cosmetic product. Cream is also used for facial masks and skin treatment procedures that help with dry skin and whitening desirable areas.
Cream is susceptible to both thermal and natural approach. It is used in all kind of confectionery and culinary receipts, making it pertinent for variety of uses – morning coffee, lunch soup, and fruit salad or dessert. There are so many choices that come with the many different types of cream that we have at our disposal.
Cream can be very healthy milk product. It has less protein than the milk, more fat and more easily absorbed vitamins. It is a product that contains plenty of calcium, vitamin A, E, D and B and significant amount of micro elements, and minerals with beneficial effect on the human body. Some doctors even recommend it for treatment of certain types of kidney disorders, diabetes and stomach problems (related to the lack of salt acid in stomach fluids). It can also be applied to specific diets for ulcers, gastritis, infectious deceases. It has been scientifically proven that cream helps to prevent conditions like atherosclerosis due to the nature of plant oils and lecithin, which reduces the levels of cholesterol. And last but not least the presence of tryptophan, type of amino-acid, which raises overall happiness levels, calms down and has a refreshing effect. Of course, we should also mention that people who have weight, liver and gall-bladder problems should stay away from cream.
There are many different types of cream, with different shape and different composition. I have listed them based on their milk fat percentage and I have also noted which ones are used by the top chefs for creating some of the best and most unique desserts (marked with green), and which ones we should avoid at all cost (marked with red) because they would not improve the taste, but would actually degrade it and rob it of the specific taste we are trying to achieve.
- Clotted Cream – this cream is also popularly known as Devonshire cream or Devon cream. It is the thickest cream – milk fat content is generally higher than 55%. It has a slightly caramelized flavor. It is used as a filling in desserts, and added in sauces.
- Double Cream – its milk fat is around 48%. It is very rich, hence heavy and used specifically for puddings, desserts, and piping. Double cream is very good for whipping – the longer it is whipped, the thicker it gets and it contains no thickening agents whatsoever. Americans are big fans of this type of cream. It was created from Jersey breed cows, and according recent research this is the cream with the biggest percentage of fat in all known creams. It can reach up to 55 % fat.
- Crème Fraîche – this is the top one choice by the chefs because of its thickness (35 to 48% milk fat), its nutty flavor and it is highly stable during thermal treatment. This cream has lactic acid added and will not curdle when heated or boiled. This is one of the reasons why it is an excellent choice for sauces and soups.
- Heavy Cream or Heavy Whipping Cream – the fat content is between 36-38%. This type of heavy cream whips denser than the whipping cream. Whips up well and holds up its shape. Doubles in volume when whipped.
- Whipped or Whipping Cream – the fat content is around 35%. During the whipping process these creams become enough thick to be used as a topping for desserts, frozen milk beverages, and fillings. Packaged whipping cream generally comes with stabilizers that hold it together after it has been whipped.
- Sour Cream – baker chefs prefer sour cream for some desserts when they need to have thick and at the same time light cream. The added souring culture gives it a tarty or sour taste and flavor. Its milk fat is 20-25%. Curious fact is that the sour cream cannot be whipped by mixer, due to the fact that is has different composition. Do not use mixer!
- Single Cream – this is a light cream considered to be very fitting for coffee. Its milk fat is 18 to 30% and is very light in texture as well as consistency. You cannot whip it, which makes it hard to use for dessert making.
- Half and Half Cream – the use of half-and-half is quite popular in recipes that call for the cream’s flavor and texture without its richness or thickness. In America, half-and-half is referred to as an equal mix of whole milk and full cream. This cream will not whip or thicken, and the consistency will be more like full-fat milk. It is usually used in tea and coffee. Half-and-half usually has 10-18% fat.
- Whipping Cream Powder – usually it is plant based in small convenient packages. It is suitable for adding flavor to our coffee, desserts and mousses and it is easy to use. You just need to add the recommended amount of water and then whisk it. This cream is also cost effective as it reduces refrigeration, it s easy to store, and when in powdered form it has a shelf life of 12 months.
- Pressure Pack Whipped Cream – its offered in cans, which can be sprayed after continuous shake. It has minimum of 25% milk fat. It is used quite often as bakery decoration, offering a nice long-lasting finishing touch but it does not contribute in any way for the good taste of the particular dessert. On the contrary – it can reduce the good taste you have achieved with your dessert and its overall quality. No self-respecting professional baker would ever use this type of cream.
- Long Life Cream (UHT) – this cream has undergone ultra heat treatment (UHT) to extend its shelf life. Stabilizing effect was achieved by reaching very high temperature in a short amount of time. Usually it has 35% milk fat. When chilled it can be whipped and then placed on top of different desserts or in cooking.
If you are still beginners in culinary and particularly bakery, its mandatory to read the following section. Every product has its own peculiar technique of treatment so you can achieve the best-desired results. I am sure this happened at least once to everybody when working with cream did not accomplish expected results, most likely because of the wrong technique used for cream whipping.
- Most suitable for whipping is cream with at least 30% milk fat or more.
- The cream must be cooled off in advance. If it is warm or frozen, during the whipping it will turn into whey and pure fat. If that should happen, the process is irreversible.
- Sour cream is whipped always only manually with whisks. If we use mixer it will liquefy and it cannot be thickened again.
- With all other kinds of cream its best to use mixer. Always start with the lowest speed settings and increase it gradually. The idea is that the cream will be able to absorb some air and to expand and boom. If we start whipping at higher speed, there will be undesirable layer of fat, which cannot be removed later. After it reaches double its original size and achieves the thickness we are looking for, we reverse the speed – gradually decrease the speed until we power off the mixer completely. Cream is considered to be properly whipped if when we flip over the bowl, it does not fall off and stays on the bottom. If we are in a warm environment and the whipping goes on for too long, the cream will turn into butter. So be careful.
- If we need to sweeten the cream, the best advised is to use powdered instead of regular sugar (unless the recipe requires something specific). The powdered sugar needs to be squeezed through a strainer. Approximately, for every 8 oz (250 grams) of cream we need to add 2 tablespoons of powdered sugar. You can also add and some vanilla or other flavor. The sugar has to be added at the end of whipping process, only when we are certain that we have achieved the required thickness, while we are still at the last phase of working with the mixer. If we add the sugar too early the cream might not reach the necessary thickness.
- There is also an option to add egg white (for puffiness) or gelatin (for thickness), but then the cream will lose its natural properties.
The whipped cream can be stored in the refrigerator for about 48 hours, but for this purpose the bowl should be covered with a kitchen foil. If water appears in the bowl or if when we move the bowl the content moves too (i.e. it becomes liquefied), it can no longer be used.
The sour cream could be also stored in a refrigerator for up to 72 hours after you open the box. It is not advisable to freeze it because during this process it splits into small pieces. If greenish or pink foam appears on its surface, it is a sign that it sis no longer usable.
When we are talking about desserts, the cream in bakery is part of the mousse, topping or decoration, and for this reason various techniques are used in its preparation. Below you will find some of the basic rules, but my advice is always to follow the steps described in the recipe.
• For mousse – use a wooden spoon or spatula to dispense the cream:
- Liquid cream – usually we have to whip it in advance with little sugar if it is not sweetened.
- Thick cream (including sour cream) – whipping is not necessary because this type of cream is already in a creamy state. We just mix it with other ingredients.
• For topping – place the finished topping in a suitable container that has liquid spout:
- Liquid cream – in this case the cream is placed in the casserole while it becomes warm, but it should not be boiled. Usually, a chocolate is added to the warm cream and the topping is obtained.
• For decoration – both liquid and thick cream should be made as a cream, and the decoration itself is done with the help of spoon or piping bag and tip.
As conclusion, I would like to encourage you not to be afraid to use cream in your desserts. It is not harmful and does not make you gain weight if you use the “real” cream and if you do not overdo. As a start, why you do not try something easy and healthy with sour cream, like my Apple Cake? I can guarantee you will find out soon enough that this cream has nothing to do with the “cream” on the cupcakes and cheap cakes you can find in most stores. 🙂