The difference between single and double cream
Hi Peter, can I use the cream from the supermarket in recipes that state what type of cream to use e.g. pouring cream, heavy cream, single cream? I know terms refer to the different levels of fat in them but after taking the time to check the cream in the shop, they seem to sell only cream or cream! Definitely no choice in fat content here.
For a nation like New Zealand, which produces so much dairy product, it is infuriating that we have had so little choice in the shops for butter, cream or varieties of locally made cheese.
It was infuriating when I'd come back to NZ, especially with foreign friends, and feel slightly depressed in the supermarket cheese aisle. After living in Britain where the culture of making traditional cheeses is truly fabulous, I can now say things are finally improving here in New Zealand as new small scale companies, along with some of the bigger producers, enter the arena of "artisan" or "innovative" producers. Now, along with our wine and olive oils, we are getting better and better at it. I am happy to take my mates around the various farmers' markets, shops and supermarkets looking out for some real gems from our cheesemakers.
Butter is another commodity that we also only ever had one or two choices. New companies, such as Lewis Road Creamery will make inroads into a richer tasting "spread", although I think of their butter as a stand-alone ingredient. You can expect it on all the best restaurants and cafe menus shortly - but it has taken a while - and thank goodness they're doing it.
The lack of varieties of cream, of all three products, is all the more baffling as it requires far less intervention. Milk the cows, separate the cream from the milk, and you have cream. Easy. The degree of richness and thickness of the final cream depends solely on how much milk you leave in combination with the cream. The less milk (therefore less water) you keep in the mix makes for a much richer, double cream (as it's called in Britain). Leave in more milk, then you end up with single cream. Whipping cream is somewhere between the two.
The key to using the various creams specified in recipes is to think about the fat to water content. For argument's sake, if a British cookbook recipe for a panna cotta says to use one litre double cream and five sheets gelatine, then if you're making it using NZ cream, add an extra sheet of gelatine to be safe as NZ cream has more water in it, and therefore it'll need more gelatine to set it. If you're making a cream sauce in NZ (for example, simmering cream and grain mustard to pour over a steak) then you'll need to start with more cream initially and cook it longer than if simply using double cream. You're trying to remove water by simmering the sauce - evaporating the water part of the cream. When it comes to whipping cream - I'm sorry, but I have no handy hints. Full fat or double cream simply whips up lovely and rich when compared to the standard NZ cream. On the other hand, I'm sure NZ cream is way more healthy (less fat), so perhaps that's a good life-saving point to keep in mind.
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