Origamislayer asks via Twitter,
@thefoodgeek a question: we have a recipe that calls for culinary cream. Never been able to find it. Is heavy cream a reasonable substitute?
– Origamislayer (@origamislayer) September 17, 2012
I had never used Culinary Cream before, so I did some digging. What most people tell you is that it’s a cream that’s designed to be used in high-acid and high-temperature situations without curdling or separating. After digging a little more, I found this patent, which says that your Minor’s Culinary Cream is a blend of whey protein, gelatin, xanthan gum, and alginate. It did not, however, say, that Minor’s Culinary Cream contained cream. So there’s that.
The trick you get into with cream is that, at high temperature, it tends to separate, and in acid the proteins in the cream will curdle. These are rarely things that you want to have to deal with when you are cooking. If you’re in a large scale operation where the person in charge isn’t so concerned about whether you’re using “cream” or “aspic cream” as it’s also known*, then it’s a really convenient product. If you are the sort of person who likes their ingredients not so… whey protein-y and alginatey, then you are in luck, for there are options.
Higher-fat products are less likely to have trouble than lower-fat products, by and large, in troubling situations like hot foods. Still, it’s not unheard of for a cream to break, even a high fat one, and you can certainly curdle whatever whey you have with acid. However, if you’ve used some cream that’s already been processed, then you’re less likely to have trouble. After all, if the whey has been, say, gently denatured by acid already, then some more acid is unlikely to hurt things.
My faaavorite cream to use in these situations is creme fraiche. You can buy it for a bunch of money at a store, or you can make creme fraiche at home very easily. Creme fraiche is normal cream that’s been inoculated with a little bacteria from buttermilk, then slowly allowed to thicken at room temperature for several hours. It’s a good way to use a bunch of cream you have lying around, if you don’t feel like making it into butter.
Of course, when you think about it, you’re looking for something made from milk or creme that’s already had its whey denatured and is okay when added to hot foods, then you can use cheese just as easily. It’ll add body and flavor with no trouble at all. If you just use a little cheese, then you just grate and go. If you want to make a large percentage of your final dish cheesy, you can, but it will potentially break if you’re not careful. At that point, consider a classic sauce like a sauce Mornay, which is French for Mornay sauce. A Mornay sauce is a bechamel sauce with added cheese. It’s most commonly used in my household to make Macaroni and Cheese. Which may not be directly answering your first question, but any conversation that can’t be turned into a recipe for Macaroni and Cheese is hardly a conversation worth having.
*- Hey, why do you think people don’t call it aspic cream in their marketing?