This post is one I was going to research and do later in the year. But…I’m in the middle of creating a new dessert: “Butterscotch Blondie Cheesecake.” And various recipes for butterscotch and cheesecake call for multiple types of dairy products: milk, heavy cream, whipping cream, heavy whipping cream, etc. And I’ve been wondering how much I really, really need to buy both heavy cream and whipping cream. Seriously? Aren’t they the same thing? It turns out the answer is….no.
High-quality and the correct ingredients are the difference between a delicious recipe and a…well, disaster. Or at least a low-quality product. Understanding the differences between ingredients is important. Which brings us to the many dairy products we encounter while cooking and baking. I am not covering: cheeses (excepting cream cheese), ice creams, eggs, or non-dairy milks/cream in this post. I will in the future!
Clotted cream (breakfast cream): contains minimum fat content of 55%, ranges up to 64%. Produced by indirectly heating (steam or water bath) full-cream milk and then allowing it cool naturally in shallow pans. The clots that form on top are the “clotted cream.” Generally used in the Britain.
Cream cheese: contains 33% milk fat (in U.S.; other countries may require higher percentage). Fresh cheese made from cream. In many recipes, the fat in the cream cheese is vital to the end product, so substituting lower fat or non-fat cream cheese should be done carefully (or not at all).
Creams: higher butter-fat layer skimmed from top of milk. Sometimes called sweet cream to distinguish it from whey cream used in cheese-making.
• Half & Half: blend of whole milk and cream. Contains between 10.5% and 18% milk fat. Cannot be whipped.
• Light cream (coffee cream, table cream): Contains between 18% and 30% milk fat; usually in the range of 20%. Cannot be whipped.
• Light whipping cream: Contains between 30% and 36% milk fat. Can be whipped (higher fat content, easier to whip). If a recipe calls for light whipping cream, heavy whipping cream may be used. However, if a recipe specifies heavy whipping cream, that is what may be used.
• Heavy whipping cream (heavy cream): contains between 36% and 49% milk fat (according to American requirements…generally on the lower end of that spectrum). Can be whipped (higher fat content, easier to whip).
• Double cream: contains 42-48% milk fat. Only available in Europe.
-Notes: Ultra-pasturized versions of these are most common…but don’t whip as well and can have a slight “burnt” aftertaste. Finding “regular” pasteurized versions is becoming harder, but the taste is better. Above percentages are U.S. requirements; they vary by country. Ultra-pasturized heavy cream may “not work” if frothing or stiff peaks are required.
Creme fraiche: contains 30% to 45% milk fat. It is made in similiar manner to sour cream but with different bacteria; less sour than sour cream. (This is the American & English definition; in France, creme fraiche is liquid, while creme epaisse is the thick cream referred to here.)
Evaporated milk (dehydrated milk, condensed milk, concentrate milk): canned milk product in which approximately 60% of water content has been removed; does not need to be refrigerated. Available in whole and non-fat. Do NOT confuse with sweetened condense milk (which is generally right next to it on the grocery store shelf.)
Milk: the fat in milk contributes to structure of baked goods; differences in fat content (2% versus whole, for example) will result in differences in flavor and texture.
• Whole milk: 3.5% milk fat.
• 2% milk: 2% milk fat (obviously).
• 1% milk: 1% milk fat (obviously).
• Skim milk: .1% to .5% milk fat.
Powdered milk: made by evaporating milk to dryness. A powder with long shelf life and no need of refrigeration. Used in the production of many food items by manufacturer’s, occasionally used by the home cook.
Sour cream: contains 14% milk fat and is made by “souring” cream with an acidfier. Basically creme fraiche, but leaner and firmer.
Sweetened condensed milk: thick, sweet, canned milk product sold in cans; does not need to be refrigerated. It is produced by removing approximately half of the water from whole milk, then adding up to 40% sugar. (There is also a product called condensed milk [unsweetened] but rarely used anymore).
Whipped cream: cream (with more than 30% fat) that has been whisked/had air mixed in to form a soft solid (versus natural liquid state).
Yogurt: “‘Yogurt’ is the Turkish word for milk that has been fermented into a tart, semisolid mass” (McGee.) Today’s industrial version of yogurt is cultured using only 2 strains of bacteria and can be cultured from whole, low-fat, or nonfat milk.
Yogurt cheese: made by draining yogurt in cheesecloth. Low-fat alternative to cream cheese.
Notes: 1) milk fat & butterfat are used interchangeably above. ; 2) The higher the fat content of the cream, the richer it will taste and the less likely it will be to curdle when heated.
Sources: McGee, Harold. (2007). On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen. Published by: Scribner.