There are numerous types of pastries creams that you can experiment with. Here are the 10 most popular ones.
- Channel Island extra thick double cream
- Chantilly cream
- Clotted cream
- Crème fraîche
- Double cream
- Extra thick single cream
- Flavoured creams
- Goat’s milk double cream
- Half-and-half (Also called Coffee Cream)
- Heavy cream or heavy whipping cream
Channel Island extra thick double cream
The United Kingdom is known for its dairy products, with an abundance of cows and verdant pastures resulting in rich milk and creams. This cream comes especially from Jersey and Guernsey cows (originating from the British Channel Islands) and has an exceptionally high fat content at 48%. It is thick and spoonable, perfect for adding onto finished desserts.
This cream is commonly known as whipped cream - that’s just cream that has air whipped into it until the texture is light and airy. Chantilly cream is widely used to top ice creams, cakes, puddings, fruit, and much more. It is a versatile and multi-use cream, and easy to make. Just make sure your cream is kept cold, as the heat will make it melt. Chantilly is often flavoured with vanilla and is often the base of many other pastry creams. It pairs exceptionally well with strawberries, and is an easy alternative for topping cakes, replacing traditional fondant icing.
Another British speciality with a Protected Designation of Origin certification by the EU, clotted cream is a decadent, yellow-ish cream and perhaps the thickest around. Originally from the southwest of England (either Devon and Cornwall, depending on who you ask), clotted cream is made by gently heating unpasteurised milk in a water bath for many hours, then is left to cool. The thick cream with a golden crust “clots” at the top, and is skimmed off and served. With a dense texture similar to softened butter or very creamy soft cheese, clotted cream has 55-60% butterfat and is generally used as is, traditionally put on top of scones, served alongside desserts and puddings, or accompanying berries. As it does separate when heated, it’s best to use it cold from the fridge or just let it come up to room temperature.
This type of French cream is thickened by culturing (either naturally fermented or added after pasteurisation), giving it a mildly tangy and nutty taste and velvety texture. It is similar to sour cream, although with a higher fat content which makes it less prone to curdling. It has a fat content of 39% - 50%, and is suitable for adding into soups, curries, or serving alongside desserts and fresh fruit. It cannot be whipped, although it remains stable when heated, making it a great arsenal in your cooking repertoire. It is more common in European countries than in the United States. Crème fraîche can be made at home simply by adding a small amount of buttermilk to cream and letting it lightly ferment at room temperature for several hours.
Double cream is the British term for the most common type of cream and is the most versatile. It has a runny yet thick texture and a fat content of 48% which is slightly higher than the American heavy cream, and can be used as-is (poured over fruits and puddings), or whipped into chantilly. It can also be used to thicken stews, soups, and sauces, or melted with chocolate to make ganache. It has a higher fat content and thicker consistency than single cream, and when overwhipped will separate out into butter and whey.
Extra thick single cream
Very similar to single cream, with the same fat content of 18%, extra thick single cream has been homogenised to make a thicker and more spoonable product than regular single cream. Like single cream, it cannot be whipped and will curdle when heated, and should be kept in the fridge as exposure to heat can unpleasantly affect the texture.
These are variations of creams that have had flavourings added to them, such as spices, sweeteners, and alcohols. They’re especially appropriate for various holidays and special occasions, such as brandy cream or cinnamon cream around Christmas time. While vanilla is a standard option, you can also make variations such as coffee whipped cream, maple whipped cream, or chocolate whipped cream. Make sure you add your flavourings before whipping your cream, as mixing it in to fully-whipped cream may result in an overwhipped product. You can also infuse your cream beforehand for a richer flavour (although make sure your cream has fully cooled down before whipping).
Goat’s milk double cream
An alternative to cow’s milk cream, goat’s milk cream is lower in lactose and has a light and pleasant nutty flavour reminiscent of soft goat cheese. It is suitable for replacing regular cream in any type of application, can be whipped, added into dishes, or poured as is.
This type of cream is common in the United States and is a mixture of half cream and half milk; it is generally used in coffee, and can be easily recreated at home by blending both milk and cream. It cannot be whipped as it has a low-fat content of 10-12%, however it can be used to replace regular cream as a lighter option, or as a richer alternative to whole milk in other recipes. Avoid choosing a fat-free version, as this is just skim milk that has been thickened with additives.
Heavy cream or heavy whipping cream
Heavy cream is the American equivalent to double cream, with a slightly lower butterfat content of 36-40%, and is well-suited for whipping, doubling in size and holding its shape well. Most heavy whipping creams are pasteurised to kill off any bacteria, which lengthens the shelf-life of the cream. As with all creams - and all dairy products - heavy whipping cream is best used when it is cold from the fridge: try it out in this cream puff recipe. Use within a few days of opening, as it can go bad quickly.