chantillyHow do you say “whipping cream” or “heavy cream” in French?

I had tried with crème fraîche épaisse, but that didn’t work. I forget what the recipe was, but my cream didn’t rise no matter how hard I whipped. In fact, we ended up with butter (and it was delicious).

Left to right, whole thick cream, light thick cream and very light thick cream

Crème fraîche épaisse (thick fresh cream) is similar to sour cream, though not quite as sour. And it comes in full fat–entière–or light–légère. Sometimes even lighter than light. Usually it’s in a tub, but we recently saw it in these soft packages.

Full-fat liquid cream. The one on the left is in a UHT package; the others are to be kept refrigerated.

Then there’s crème fraîche liquide (liquid fresh cream), but it can have a wide variety of fat content, even when it’s entière. The one for whipping is labeled fleurette.

I cannot believe it took me this long to discover but there is actually a star system for crème fraîche.

starsIs it good for a sauce in a poêle (saucepan), or is it better in the four (oven)? Or for chantilly (whipped cream)? Four stars for whipped cream–bingo.

UHT milk

The dairy products section of a French supermarket is vast. There’s an entire aisle for yogurt, and sometimes two for cheese. Milk, however, tends to be sold in UHT (ultra-high temperature) packages that don’t need to be refrigerated. Crème fraîche also is available in UHT packages. The fresh crème fraîche section usually is near the butter.

There’s a sweet song about whipped cream that’s usually sung as a round (canon in French). While anglophone kids grow up singing “row, row, row the boat,” French kids sing an ode to whipped cream. That kind of sums things up. Here’s an adorable video of three teachers trying to herd cats direct a choir of little ones. Maybe you can detect the melody.

Battez la crème, Battez la crème, Battez la crème, Battez la crème
De la crème fraîche que l’on fouette gaiement
Parfum vanille, un peu de sucre blanc
On l’aime à la folie, la crème chantilly

Beat the cream, beat the cream, beat the cream, beat the cream
Some fresh cream that we whip gaily
Vanilla flavor, a little white sugar
We love it crazily, the whipped cream

Vanille sugar. Liquid extract is hard to find.

30 thoughts on “Crème de la Crème

  1. Thanks for this brilliant post, we were searching for sour cream the other day and did eventually buy crème fraiche as it seemed the best option 🙂 Great info on the star system, will keep an eye out for it next time we are shopping for cream 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Great post! I’ve also struggled with these different types of cream but never truly investigated the differences. One hint I find helpful: if you want to turn regular heavy cream into sour cream, just add a tablespoon of lemon juice. Greek yogurt is also a good substitute.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks! That’s really cooking from scratch! Vanilla bean pods are pretty easy to find. Usually I just bring back a few bottles of extract from the U.S. because the bottles here are so tiny and expensive.


  3. It is always SO puzzling buying cream in France! I drink half and half here, in my tea, and spend hours (slight exaggereration..) looking at all the packages in France. I think I eneded up with with square package “Fleurette Entiere” and with a good shake each time, it was just fine. But it’s always been a mystery. I do love the yogurt aisles in your stores!!!

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  4. You need to be careful with anything labelled fleurette. Technically it is the cream that rises to the top of the milk and is scraped off, but of course, that product doesn’t exist commercially. The word fleurette has been adopted by the dairy industry to indicate that it is whipping cream, but there is no legal definition for its use in food labelling, so it can be as low as 15% or even 5% occasionally. You wouldn’t be able to whip cream with that low a fat content. What many French people (and virtually all chefs in France) do is add a ‘chantilly mix’ which is vanilla sugar plus a stabilising gum which means you can whip just about anything probably (I don’t know how low a fat content it will allow you to go to exactly). I use crême crue which is delivered to the house by the producer. It’s about 40% fat and will turn to butter if you are not careful. The best way to deal with it is to add a tablespoon or two of milk (or fruit liqueur) to a pot of cream before whipping, effectively dropping the fat content just a bit. Crême crue and crême entière are the same thing, except that crue must be unpasturised, entière must be pasturised. Both must have a minimum of 30% fat. Both are thickened with a lactic culture and are therefore a type of crême fraîche or crême épaisse. Crême liquide means that no lactic culture has been added but it must have a minimum fat content of 30%. There are no regulations covering the term crême fluide but it is generally used to cover cream that has a lower fat content than crême fraiche but not low enough that the manufacturer wants to highlight the fact. Any cream with lower than 30% fat can be labelled legère, but generally only cream with 5 – 15% is labelled that way.

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  5. It took me a while to figure out the different creams with the help of a teacher of French cooking who lives in nearby Vaison-la-Romaine. I did a number of recipes with various creams when we were in Sablet a few weeks back, but she was away. I thought at the time, I got it right. Your post confirms that I do have it down … finally. Thanks for your post.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. OMG. This just makes my head spin. I would have to spend hours in the supermarket (I am the shopper that reads labels carefully) Thank goodness we only have about 2 or 3 types of cream in Australian supermarkets. I make crème Chantilly with what we call thickened cream.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. When asked if we want Chantilly on our dessert we know it to be the squishy stuff out of an aerosol can. Mainly gas, and not a bit like ‘proper’ whipped double cream of the UK! Mind you, fewer calories so it’s not all bad. My problems start when I read to add a cream in a recipe and I’m not sure which to substitute.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Oh how I searched for whipping cream when I first moved to France!! It’s a little easier to find nowadays, even the discount stores now have creme entiere! I used to be able to find liquid vanilla extract in the bakery sections of the grands surfaces (vahine?), but of late it’s been mostly powered vanilla, which I don’t like as much.

    Liked by 1 person

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