Dairy Decadence to Drive the Dark Dreary Doldrums Away
Hot tea, fresh scones, clotted cream, and jam: all elements of the English “Cream Tea,” and a fantastic remedy for the damp, dreary weather which, though perfectly normal for the season, can cast a pall over the seeming endless dark days.
Clotted cream is made by thickening rich cream with indirect heat, resulting in a delicious, high-butterfat spread whose flavor falls somewhere between butter and whipped cream. This amazing concentrated cream flavor combines with scones, biscuits, cookies, fresh fruit, fruit or nut pies, toast and the like with amazing synergy. It is also called Devonshire or Cornish Cream, though the product made in those locations is made from the local cream and has proprietary characteristics.
Prior to my experiment in making clotted cream, I had only ever had the imported variety sold in jars, which I found heavenly. Little did I suspect that it was only a pale (and expensive) shadow of the homemade article, which is not only toe-curlingly delicious but simple to make as well, though there is an investment of waiting time.
For my batch of clotted cream I used five half-pint containers of Lochmead whipping cream poured into a glass 13 x 9 baking dish. This made in excess of two cups of finished clotted cream, which goes a long way! From the reading I did, it sounds like the cream will keep, covered in the refrigerator, for about a week, though I confess my batch didn’t last half that long (I shared it, though!).
You don’t need to start with so much cream, but the depth is important: the cream needs to be poured into an oven-safe glass or ceramic dish, and the liquid should be at least one but no more than three inches deep. All the action happens at the surface. The variety is also important: ultra-pasteurized cream will not work.
I used an oven set to 180° for ten hours. Check the temperature if your oven is unreliable; you don’t want the cream to scorch. The dish should not be agitated during that time. After a few hours, a cracked yellow surface crust forms which changes little in appearance for many hours. When ten to twelve hours have elapsed, turn the oven off and let the dish cool until it can be transferred to the refrigerator. Don’t pour it into another container, stir it, or agitate it: the layer of thickened cream can be recombined with the whey at this point.
After refrigerating for about eight hours, the thickened cream, with its yellow crust of butterfat, can be skimmed from the dish. In my experiment, the layer was thick and easy to separate from the thin whey. At room temperature, the clotted cream was about as spreadable as soft butter, though with a more creamy consistency; refrigerated, it was slightly stiffer, though not as hard as cold butter.
There was about a pint or a pint and a half of remaining whey, about the consistency of 2% milk–a little richer than skim–and had a lovely, almost toasty flavor. I heated this and used it to make café au lait.
As previously mentioned, clotted cream can be used in a lot of ways, but it’s traditionally paired with hot, fresh scones (this is one of my favorite recipes) for a delightful treat.