Crème Fraîche {Recipe}

I recently made blini with smoked salmon and crème fraîche from Dorie Greenspan’s Around My French Table. And, as always when I make a recipe calling for crème fraîche, I looked at the price of it in the store and decided to make my own. Dorie has a recipe for crème fraîche in her book, and there are lots of recipes available online. My method differs slightly from other recipes I’ve seen and is based on my experience making it numerous times.

I start with 1 cup whipping cream and 2 tablespoons buttermilk. Most recipes recommend using pasteurized, rather than ultra-pasteurized, whipping cream. But because ultra-pasteurized is the only kind I can regularly find, that’s what I use.

I heat the cream and buttermilk to about 100˚ to 110˚F. I find that heating the ingredients gives the culturing process a jump start.

Next, I cover the container with plastic wrap and leave it on the counter for 36 to 48 hours, stirring once or twice per day. 

I let the cream culture until it thickens and gets tangy. It won’t be quite as thick as sour cream, but it will continue to thicken in the refrigerator.

I put a tight-fitting lid on the container and store it in the fridge. It will keep for about 2 weeks and will continue to get tangier during that time.

For my money, homemade crème fraîche is every bit as good as store bought at less than half the price. Once you make it, you’ll find all sorts of things to do with it, like this:

Crème Fraîche

 Ingredients

  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 2 tablespoons buttermilk

Directions

  1. Heat cream and buttermilk in a small saucepan to about 110˚F.
  2. Put cream mixture in clean container, cover loosely with plastic wrap, and allow to culture at room temperature for 36 to 48 hours, stirring several times per day, until thickened and tangy.
  3. Cover container tightly and store in refrigerator.

Yields 1 cup. Best used within 2 weeks.

Buttermilk Cottage Dill Bread {Recipe} {BOM}

Cottage dill bread has always been a favorite of mine, and I recently came up with a new recipe that adds buttermilk, replaces the dill seed found in many recipes with fresh dill, and adds whole wheat flour for flavor, texture, and nutrition. I made it last weekend and was really pleased with the results. It’s delicious fresh from the oven, and I think it would make great croutons for stuffing, too.

I began by heating buttermilk, cottage cheese, and butter.

Once the butter had melted, I mixed in onion, dill, and sugar.

I stirred the dry ingredients together in the bowl of my Kitchen Aid mixer, then added the cottage cheese mixture. This makes a very slack, sticky dough. I put the dough in a well-oiled bowl to rise.

The dough more than doubled in size in an hour.

I deflated the dough, shaped it, and put it in buttered loaf pans for a final rise.

After half an hour, the loaves were ready to bake.

A little melted butter brushed on the loaves after they came out of the oven left them soft and shiny.

I let the loaves cool for a bit, then sliced into them. The crumb was soft and fragrant, and the bread was delicious, tasting of dill and onion, and with a slight tang from the buttermilk and cottage cheese. This bread will be making frequent appearances in my house from now on.

Buttermilk Cottage Dill Bread

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 2 cups small curd cottage cheese
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided, at room temperature
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped fresh dill
  • 1/4 cup minced onion
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 tablespoon instant yeast

Directions

  1. Heat the buttermilk, cottage cheese, and 2 tablespoons butter in a medium saucepan until butter is just melted. Stir in the dill, onion, and sugar.
  2. Stir together salt, baking soda, all-purpose flour, whole wheat flour, and yeast in bowl of electric mixer. Add cottage cheese mixture and mix on low speed with paddle attachment to form soft dough, about 1 minute.
  3. Scrape down sides of bowl, then switch to dough hook and mix on medium speed for about 5 minutes. Stop mixer and scrape bowl once or twice while mixing. The dough will be very sticky.
  4. Using a flexible bench scraper, scrape the dough into a bowl greased with vegetable oil or cooking spray and turn to oil top of dough. Cover with plastic wrap and let dough rise in warm place until doubled in bulk (about 1 hour).
  5. Grease 2 loaf pans with about 1 tablespoon butter each. Deflate the dough, divide into 2 pieces, and shape loaves. Place dough in pans, cover, and let rise for 30 minutes in a warm place. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350˚F.
  6. Bake bread for 30 to 35 minutes or until top is a deep golden brown and the loaf sounds hollow when tapped.
  7. Melt remaining tablespoon of butter. Immediately after removing loaves from oven, brush tops with melted butter.
  8. Cool loaves in pans on rack for 10 minutes. Remove from pans and cool on rack. Serve warm or at room temperature.

 Makes 2 loaves.

This recipe is the November BOM (bread-of-the-month) for the Facebook Artisan Bread Bakers group.

Buttermilk Biscuits {Bake!}

My friend Kayte and I have been Twitterbaking from Nick Malgieri’s newest book, Bake!, for a month or so now. Margaret has joined us a time or two, and she eventually decided to buy the book. Once she got the book, we let her choose the next recipe, and she picked the buttermilk biscuits on pages 180-81.

I was excited to try this recipe, as I’ve never been particularly successful with biscuits. I’m not sure why, but pastry crust and biscuits are two things that have eluded me in my baking endeavors. Unless I cheat and use Bisquick or those Pillsbury biscuits that come in a can, my biscuits always seem to come out flat. Having seen good results from Nick’s other recipes, I was hopeful that these biscuits would help me break the curse of the hockey pucks and make a biscuit baker out of me.

The recipe is similar to Nick’s pastry dough recipes — the dry ingredients are combined in the food processor, then cold butter is cut in, and finally the liquid is added to bring the dough together. And as with pastry doughs, Nick warns that overworking this dough will result in tough biscuits.

Nick’s approach to shaping the biscuits is geared toward making sure you don’t work the dough too much. Rather than rolling out the dough, you pat it with your hands into a rectangle, give it a letter fold, pat and fold it a second time, then pat it out to cut the biscuits. I liked this approach, because in addition to the dough not getting overworked, the biscuits had a more rustic appearance.

So how did I do in my biscuit baking quest? Well, the first time I made these was a bit rough. For some reason, I grabbed pastry flour instead of AP flour. Pastry flour is much lower in protein, and the biscuits ended up lacking structure. Combine that with the fact that I was baking something else in the oven at the same time at a lower temperature than the biscuit recipe called for, and it’s no surprise that I wound up with very tasty, but kind of flat biscuits.

I made them again the other day, this time using the correct flour and oven temperature, and the result were much better. I still haven’t achieved biscuit nirvana, but I’m several lifetimes closer than I was before I found Nick’s recipe.

Irish Soda Bread Muffins {ModBak}

One of the things I’ve really enjoyed about the Quick Breads section of The Modern Baker is that the breads really are quick. For example, in the 15 minutes it took to bake the ginger scones, I mixed up the butterscotch scones and had them ready to go into the oven as soon as the ginger scones came out.

So even though I usually save my baking for the weekends, the other night after work I decided to throw together Irish soda bread muffins. I got back from walking the dog at 7:30 was relaxing in my chair by 7:50, having mixed up the muffins and cleaned the kitchen. Yes, kids, when Nick Malgieri says “quick”, he means it!

This simple recipe consists of flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, caraway seeds, unsalted butter, sugar, egg, buttermilk (I substituted buttermilk powder and half-and-half), and currants. After assembling the ingredients, I lined the muffin tin with paper liners and preheated the oven to 350° F.

Next, I mixed the dry ingredients (other than the sugar) in a bowl, then whisked the butter and sugar in a separate bowl. I mixed in the egg, then half the cream, half the flour mxture, then the rest of the cream. I tossed the currants with a little flour, added them to the batter, then folded in the rest of the flour.

I found that an ice cream scoop was the perfect size to fill the muffin tins. I baked the muffins for 30 minutes, then cooled them in the pan.

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, this was another wonderful recipe. The muffins were delicious — slightly sweet and very flavorful. I especially enjoyed them with a little butter and fig preserves.