An eye-opening tour of the crÃ¨me de la crÃ¨me of Franceâ€™s cream industry
PARIS: Whether it is a velvety liquid poured over stewed fruit or a dollop of thickly-clotted goodness, cream is the ultimate indulgent ingredient.
The Isigny Ste Mere production facility in Normandy and the neighboring dairy cooperative, Laita, are known for their premium-quality creams and both offered Arab News an eye-opening tour of the secrets behind cream-making.
The facilities and farms are located in Normandy and Brittany, the dairy heartland of France that is known for its rolling green pastures and wandering cows.
Dairy producers in the area are strong believers in the importance of the terroir, a trinity of the land, farming practices and the animals. If all are well maintained, producers believe the quality of the dairy will speak for itself.
Dairy cooperatives are common in these parts of France, with cooperatives such as Isigny Ste Mere in Normandy being comprised of 430 farms, each with an equal vote regardless of its size.
According to Camille Mancelle, export manager Isigny Ste Mere, at more than half the milk in France is produced by cooperatives of individual, family-run farms with an average of 60 cows each.
The Gaec de toul Manach farm in Brittany, which is a member of the Laita cooperative, allows its adult cows to graze in nearby fields of long grass and various wild flowers, a diet that ensures the milk is rich and creamy and one that means the color of the butter produced changes throughout the year, depending on what the cows have been eating.
The pastures in this northwestern corridor of France are maintained by the almost-constantly wet and mild weather, with temperatures ranging from 10 to 25 degrees Celsius throughout the year.
Farm owners typically collect milk twice a day using automated suction pumps which attach to the udders after they are¬¬¬¬ cleaned with water.
In Isigny Ste Mere farms, the milk is then collected by the cooperative every 48 hours — or every 24 hours for the production of camembert cheese — and transported by truck to the plant where it is analyzed for its fat content and to ensure there are no anti-biotics present in the fresh milk.
You can skim off your own cream at home by leaving full fat milk to rest overnight. A layer of the fatty cream will rise to the top, giving you a ready-to-use dessert ingredient.
However, store-bought cream is far easier to use and keep, especially long-lasting UHT cream products.
One of the most readily available creams, this boxed liquid has a longer shelf life than regular pasteurized cream and, in some cases, does not need refrigerating. UHT cream can be used as a direct substitute for double, heavy or whipping cream and is as versatile as it is durable.
Designed to withstand the rigors of cooking, pouring UHT cream gives very light and fluffy results when it is whipped for patisserie and has a slightly sweet flavor.
For the perfect whipping cream, French cream brand Elle & Vire’s international culinary adviser Ludovic Chesney suggests a fat content of 35 percent, the industry standard for whipping cream.
The volume of a good French cream can almost triple during the whipping process, meaning dessert-lovers can produce more pastries, cakes and treats with less liquid cream than they could while using a cheaper brand with a lower fat content.
If you are stuck for fresh, simple ideas on how to use the cream in your fridge, why not try a delicious la fontaine bleu, an easy dessert that can be whipped up in minutes.
It is important to start with cold cream that has rested in the refrigerator overnight — cream that has been shaken up on the car ride home from the supermarket will not whip as well, according to Chesney.
It is then as simple as whipping one liter of cream and adding one liter of fromage frais, with caster sugar to slightly sweeten the mix. You can then serve it all up with a dollop of raspberry coulis over the top and voila, a party-pleasing dessert or sweet breakfast is ready to eat.