Heavy whipping cream (HWC) is a long-standing favorite among low-carbers, and for a good reason. At 7g carbs per cup (when liquid), it’s ideally suited for use in low-carb desserts, adding to coffee etc. In this post, I want to show my favorite way to use it. We are going to ferment our HWC, turning it into a cultured cream – probiotic, slightly tangy, with a rich luscious mouthfeel, and with a different texture which I call naturally whipped.
Before we begin, let’s parse the name. You may see it under different names in your local stores: heavy cream or whipping cream is what you need; light or half-and- half won’t work (although there is an interesting use for the latter which we will mention at the end). Double cream sold in some locales works too. Depending on where you are, the fat content will vary from 30 to 40% (even more for a double cream) – go for the highest percentage you can find. In most of Canada, it’s 33%, in US – 40%. Avoid ultra-pasteurized variety if possible.
If you make kefir, as many readers of The Time Machine Diet do, you can use it as a culturing agent. If you make cultured butter (and if you make kefir, why wouldn’t you?), buttermilk will work perfectly – that’s what I use. You can also use whey which you get when making cream-creese by straining kefir. Finally, if you have none of that, you can simply purchase usual buttermilk in the store and use that – it’s less optimal but still going to work.
You will need a 2-liter glass jar. Use a wide-mouth shape, as the resulting product won’t be a liquid anymore and it’s going to be much easier to reach entire jar content if you have less slope. Pour 1 liter of room-temperature cream in the jar and add your culture. You need a half cup of kefir, buttermilk or whey per 1 liter of cream. Mix well. Cover the jar with cloth, paper towel, coffee filter, or double-layered cheesecloth and secure with rubber band. Set in a warm place away from sunlight. I keep it on the top of a vertical freezer which emanates warmth.
In 12-24 hours you are going to see some separation; cream thickens at the top while some whey gathers at the bottom and there are some pores in the cream in the lower 1/3 of the jar:
At this point, you can simply stir it, lid the jar and transfer it to the fridge. What you have is a homemade creme-fraiche; enjoy it in all the ways this wonderful product can be used, for the fraction of the price. I, however, want to suggest further steps that will introduce a whole new level of deliciousness.
Shake the jar gently to re-incorporate the liquid at the bottom back in the mix and make entire content uniform. If the thick layer at the top doesn’t dilute easily, stir it with a spoon, look around to make sure no one is watching and lick the spoon clean. Cover the jar again and leave it for another 24 hours. If you look closely, the separation you get this time is stronger: there is more whey at the bottom and the pores in the cream are visible throughout the entire height of the jar:
If you try to shake the jar gently, you will find that the content is not mixing easily; the mass stays firm throughout the jar. Don’t try to incorporate the liquid back in the mix this time, leave it separated. If you look at the top, you will see that the mix is not liquid anymore; it somewhat resembles a consistency of a whipped cream. The gasses produced by gut-friendly bacteria in the process of fermentation work as the air you whip into the cream when beating it with a mixer. The texture is denser than that of a whipped cream.
Go ahead and taste it; you will notice wonderful nutty and sweet taste. At this point you again have a difficult choice to make: lid it, put it in the fridge and enjoy, or… leave it for another 24 hours! If you do, next day you will find another twist to the taste: now it becomes a bit more tangy and almost carbonated, with a noticeable bite. To preserve this texture, try to take the cream out of the jar without disturbing it and mixing in the whey at the bottom.
Now, let’s go ahead and construct simple dessert with it, requiring no baking and guaranteed to delight your family and friends (they are all not sugar-addicted anymore, right?). This is a simple parfait with pumpkin seeds, Meyer lemon cut into small pieces, nuts of your choice (cashews in this instance) and a few raisins to sweeten it:
Of course, any berry, fruit, nuts and seeds will do; try blueberries, blackberries, walnuts, almond pieces, sunflower seeds. Then try to modify the taste of the cream itself by adding cinnamon, cocoa powder, cardamon, or ground coffee. Add dark chocolate chips or shavings. Combine them in whatever direction your fantasy takes you. And when you get your fill of dessert ideas, make a u-turn and go in savory direction: add garlic, salt, and black pepper and see how it works as a salad topping. Happy experimenting!
A neat trick to try. As you take some cream out of the jar and approach the bottom layer, it will re-incorporate the whey and become less dense. So, take it out of the fridge and put in the warm spot for another 24 hours; it will thicken again giving you more naturally whipped cream. When this change to a more liquid state occurs again, just use the remainder as a sour cream.
Last tip: remember, I mentioned at the beginning that we will return to half-and-half at the end of the post? here it is. Culture half-and-half in the same way for 24 hours, and instead of creme-fraiche you will get homemade sour cream – probiotic and without any artificial thickeners.