Is there any food more luxurious than cream? Whether it’s poured over a dessert, or swirled through sauces or soups, cream makes everything it touches, richer, silkier, and, well, creamier.
There are actually a variety of different creams, all designed for slightly different - but equally delicious - tasks. Learn how to tell your chantilly cream from your crème fraîche with our guide to pastry creams, and read on to find out more about the thickest, most luxurious cream of them all.
Clotted cream origin
Clotted cream comes from the southwestern English counties of Devon and Cornwall, where it is made by heating full fat cow’s milk until ‘clots’ of cream rise to the surface, a method originally adopted to make it keep for longer. In the days before refrigeration, dairy workers had to find other ways to stop their produce from spoiling, and heating the milk turned out to be a highly efficient way of separating the cream from the watery whey, where bacteria like to lurk.
Of course, removing as much whey as possible also has the happy side effect of creating the thickest, richest cream imaginable, and clotted cream was soon in demand as much for its flavour and texture as for its longer shelf life. Today it can be found in tearooms all over Britain, but to be true clotted cream, it must be made in Devon or Cornwall.
Uses and how to eat it
Although clotted cream is English, it is most commonly eaten with the scone, which actually comes from Scotland. The cream scone is the star of any British tearoom, made from a freshly-baked scone, which is sliced in half, and both cut sides spread with a generous helping of clotted cream and jam (that’s jelly to you and me). There is much controversy surrounding the ‘correct’ order to add the jam and cream, with both parent counties firmly in opposite camps. If you prefer your jam on top of your cream, you’re team Devon, and if you prefer your cream on top, you’re team Cornwall.
Cream scones are traditionally ordered with a pot of tea, which is known as a ‘cream tea’. They are also a popular addition to afternoon tea, an English tradition where friends share cakes and finely-cut sandwiches, which are arranged on a multi-tiered cake stand and accompanied, of course, by a pot of tea.
Taste and nutrition
Good clotted cream is so thick that you can slice it like butter. It has a thin, pale yellow crust, and a lightly caramelised, milky taste. With the highest fat content of any type of cream, at a decadent 64% on average (compared to just 18% for single cream), clotted cream is certainly not something you should be eating every day, but it does make for a delicious treat when enjoyed in moderation.
Clotted cream should always be stored in a refrigerator, to keep it at its best for longer. It can keep for around 5 to 7 days, but you should discard it if it starts to smell sour. It is possible to freeze clotted cream for up to 4 months, but it is better enjoyed fresh, as freezing can cause large ice crystals to form, which impair the flavour and texture.
Differences with Devonshire cream, double cream, whipped cream, butter
Clotted cream is sometimes confused with other dairy products, and in most cases there are fairly easy ways to tell them apart. When it comes to Devonshire cream, however, they are actually the same thing. Devonshire cream simply refers to clotted cream that is made in Devon, and clotted cream made in Cornwall may also be referred to as Cornish cream. Devonshire cream was a particular favourite of celebrated crime-writer Agatha Christie, who is said to have drunk it by the jug full.
Double cream differs from clotted cream in both flavour and production method. It has a lighter, cleaner taste, and also contains less fat. Unlike clotted cream, which is heated to force the milk to separate into fat and liquid, double cream is left to separate naturally, with the cream rising to the top over time. Leaving the milk to separate once produces single cream, which is skimmed off and left to separate again to create double cream.
Clotted cream and whipped cream are both made with heavy cream, but while whipped cream is whipped into airy peaks, clotted cream is heated and separated, for a far denser texture.
With its ultra-thick consistency, clotted cream can even be mistaken for butter. But butter is churned, rather than separated, and while clotted cream may be closer to butter in terms of fat content, its flavour is more milky than buttery.
Alternatives to clotted cream
If you can’t get hold of clotted cream there are a couple of alternatives that can be used instead.
Crème fraîche has a similar, silky, slightly nutty flavour to clotted cream. Its fat content is approximately half that of clotted cream, however, at around 30%, so it lacks that rich, dense texture, and is best if you’re looking for a lighter option.
Mascarpone, with a fat content of between 45-55%, is the only dairy product that comes close to the luxurious texture of clotted cream. It is a cheese, rather than a cream, but the flavours are not too dissimilar.
What to do with leftovers
Making clotted cream leaves behind a thin liquid called whey, which can be used in baking, in much the same way as buttermilk. You can even use the whey to make some scones for your next cream tea.
Recipe for the best traditional clotted cream
If you don’t want to pay out for pricey imports, clotted cream is actually pretty simple to make at home, and it’s far fresher than something that’s made the long journey across the Atlantic.
You will need about 2 pints of heavy cream, but be careful to check the label before you buy - anything labelled ‘ultra-pasteurised’ will not clot properly and should be avoided.
Pour the cream into a baking dish - a large, shallow dish is best, for as much surface area as possible - then leave it in the oven on its lowest setting. When you come back to it in the morning, you should find that the cream has clotted. Leave the cream to cool to room temperature, then refrigerate for the rest of the day
At the end of the day, scoop the clots into sealable jars and place them back in the refrigerator. Refrigerate for another night, and your homemade clotted cream will be ready to enjoy by the following morning.