Double, single, clotted: What’s the difference between creams?

Sometimes the supermarkets just don’t have the ingredients you need.

No double cream in the shops? Well, that pours cold water on your idea of a creamy tagliatelle for tea tonight…or does it?

The good news is, no, it doesn’t.

There are loads of alternatives out there in the cream world beyond what your recipe states – and, get this, your plan Bs might even trim your waistline. Sounds good, amirite?

To see the differences between creams, and to learn what your cream alternatives are when the supermarket shelves are lacking, read on.

What are the different types of cream and what are their uses?

Single cream

Sometimes called ‘light cream’, single cream contains around 18% fat (+12% on whole milk’s 4%).

While it is definitely creamy, it is still much thinner than double cream – this is why you’ll find it mainly used for pouring over desserts and adding to cooking to add a thicker, creamier base.

Single cream (including soya varieties) is the cream you’ll want for topping soups and adding to sauces. Just remember to be gentle with single cream – you shouldn’t let it boil as it will split, nor should you try to whip it. There’s not enough fat in there, so it won’t work.

Soured cream

Soured cream is cream that has been fermented with lactic acid bacteria. That’s how you get that tangy, sour taste – just like what you get from kefir.

There is around 20% fat in soured cream, and is a great base for recipes which ask for a lot of vegetables. Casseroles and stews, especially those which have a spicy kick, are the ideal complement to the tang and the thickness of soured cream.

Switch out creme fraiche or double cream for soured cream if you are making such a dish – you could save yourself around half the calories without even knowing it.

Creme fraiche

Creme fraiche is a milder version of soured cream. Unlike soured cream, the fat content varies greatly, but you’ll find most in UK supermarkets are around 30% fat. As a result, it is also often thicker than soured cream and more indulgent-tasting.

Use creme fraiche as an alternative to double cream if you are cutting calories or combine with milk for a single cream equivalent.

Whipping cream

Obviously, this is the kind of cream that can be whipped. This is because it has a much higher fat percentage than single cream (36%) but is light enough to create a lovely fresh, airy result. In many ways, it is not too dissimilar from double cream.

Use to top cakes, pies, puddings and as a thickener for sauces, soups and fillings. And if you’re feeling adventurous, opt for an alternative whipping cream, like this coconut cream.

Double cream

If you’re wondering what the difference is between single and double cream, the answer is the fat content.

Double cream contains 48% fat, more than double the amount of fat of single cream. As such, it’s much heavier (hence its other name of ‘heavy cream’) and thicker. And, you guessed it, it can be whipped.

Double cream is great for pouring or piping over fruit and puddings, and can be used in cooking to make a thick sauce.

Extra thick double cream

Sometimes called ‘spooning cream’, extra thick double cream is just the same as double cream, except it has been heated and rapidly cooled to thicken it up.

Naturally, this cream is much denser and richer than double cream which makes it a great shout for decadent desserts.

Clotted cream

The most calorific of the bunch with 55% fat content, clotted cream is made by baking double cream. As it bakes, a crust forms on the surface – that crust is skimmed off, and there you have your clotted cream.

Due to its high fat percentage, you’ll find clotted cream is used as a main element in creamy desserts, like ice cream, and as an essential side to drier desserts, like scones, fudge and shortbread. If you are using it as a side, you can alternate between double cream and single cream.

Now you know which cream to use for your next meal, it’s time to dig in. Dessert’s on us!

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