A variety of sweet and savory dishes contain cream as an ingredient or as a topping. Adding it to a dish adds dimension, volume, and dense richness.
The most common type of cream used in cooking is heavy cream, which is also the most versatile.
As a dense and heavy ingredient, it is used in cake, mousse, pasta, curries, soups, sauces, and countless other recipes.
There are times when you may need thicker and denser cream to add additional texture to your food. While heavy cream has many uses in cooking, it may not be right for your needs. It must be thickened as a result.
How can you thicken cream? For a different texture to add to your food, there are three simple methods for thickening heavy cream. Thickening agents such as flour or cornstarch may also be added. It can be reduced over heat, added gelatin, or thickened with flour.
Your choice of method depends on your availability of time and ingredients, as well as what you find easier.
Here’s everything you need to know about thickening cream and determining which method works for you.
The 3 Best Ways to Thicken Cream
Our top three suggestions for thickening cream are listed below. Considering each method to see how it could potentially benefit you will depend on your preferences and application.
Heating the Cream
Cream is heated to evaporate its water content and reduce the thickness to the desired level.
It is often considered to be the most time-consuming, and to require the most attention from you, even though the concept is rather simple.
Here are the steps to making thicker cream:
- Be sure to keep the cream below boiling point while you heat it.
- The texture can be ruined if it is boiled.
- Stir it constantly with a wooden spoon or whisk on low heat, so that it does not curdle or burn.
- The cream should be removed from the burner or immediately reduced in heat if the cream begins to boil.
- Ensure that the cream is not overcooked by checking its thickness every 10 minutes.
- It’s time to cool it down once you reach the desired consistency.
- Taste the cream once it has cooled a bit to see if there have been any drastic changes in taste and whether it is suitable for the dish you need it for.
Temperature and the length of time that the cream is heated determine how thick the cream will be. It gets thicker by heating it longer.
When you heat milk and cream, a slight change in taste is to be expected. The thickening of cream using this method should be considered when using it for a recipe.
Your cream has not been burned, even if it tastes different from the original. In the event you burn your cream, you will be able to taste the bitter flavor of burned cream.
Adding Gelatin to the Cream
You can thicken cream by adding gelatin, but this does not affect its flavor. A few quick steps and the right amount of gelatin are all you need.
To reach a desired consistency, you must determine the amount of gelatin you require. The process is relatively simple once you understand how it works.
The following are the steps to make cream thicker by adding gelatin:
- To prepare gelatin for incorporation, follow the instructions given with it once you have determined the amount you will need to thicken the cream.
- Put the gelatin powder into a bowl of cold water (or, if the gelatin is in sheets, submerge it in the water).
- After soaking up the water for 5 minutes, let it thicken. This is the blooming process.
- If you pour too much at a time, you may end up with a texture you don’t want. Pour slowly to avoid overwhelming the cream.
- You must constantly beat the cream so that the gelatin is properly incorporated and the cream can thicken evenly.
Unless the gelatin and cream are fully incorporated, the texture may be poor and only certain areas will be thick.
You may end up with a cream that is completely different from what you intended for it to be and unusable for your recipe.
Adding Flour or Cornstarch to the Cream
The easiest way to thicken cream is by adding flour or cornstarch. Making the decision between flour and cornstarch to thicken is the most difficult part.
Regardless of what type of flour you use, cornstarch and flour both have the same effect on cream, so selecting the right one won’t matter. If you’re more comfortable working with something you find readily available, go for it.
The following are steps to make cream thicker by adding flour (or cornstarch):
- Stir equal parts flour (cornstarch) and cold water together to make a slurry.
- It is important to mix the cream thoroughly to avoid any clumps, which can change its texture when combined.
- To make the cream smooth and even, gradually add the flour (or cornstarch) mixture, about 1 teaspoon at a time, stirring thoroughly to get a smooth and uniform texture.
- Until you have achieved the thickness you desire, slowly add the slurry into the cream.
- If you add flour to anything, it may add a raw flour flavor to the cream. Do a taste test as soon as it is ready to check for this.
- This can be removed easily by simmering the thickened cream for a few minutes and your recipe will be ready before you know it.
Here are a few questions that you might have had, after reading about some of our favourite ways to thicken cream.
How do you choose the best method for thickening cream?
The thickness of your cream can be increased in three different ways, as indicated above.
It may be reduced using heat, a thickener such as gelatin or another standard thickener such as flour or cornstarch, or both.
In addition to the risk of burning, thickening cream will cause some flavor to change even if you are successful.
You might have a little trouble getting the right ratio of flour/cornstarch to gelatin, especially if you haven’t worked with it before.
There is no clear winner among the three methods for thickening cream, as they all have their pros and cons. Find out what works for you through trial and error and your personal preferences
.Can you freeze cream?
If heavy cream is left unused for an extended period of time, it can go bad. Therefore, it’s important to think about ways of storing it safely so you can use it later.
For 1-2 months, you can store heavy cream in the freezer, just like milk. Upon thawing, there may be a slight change in taste and texture.
The cream can be frozen in ice cube trays when freezing small amounts. Take a cube or two from the freezer bag when you need them. Once the tray is frozen, transfer it to a freezer bag.
It is possible to freeze cream in the carton in which it was purchased for storing large amounts. Keep a space of 1 inch free in every container to allow room for expansion.
If you plan to use a bag or carton beyond the storage date, label them with the date.
How to defrost cream?
Cream can be frozen easily for defrosting. The frozen cream needs just overnight to slowly defrost in the refrigerator.
Upon fully thawing, the consistency of the cream will be runnier and there may be some separation. This is to be expected.
It is as simple as stirring the defrosted cream with all the ingredients to make sure they mix well.
Can you re-freeze defrosted cream?
Defrosted cream should never be attempted to be frozen. Defrosting and freezing cream have small effects on their texture and taste. Refreezing it will permanently degrade its texture, taste, and consistency.
If this happens, freeze the cream in small batches so that you can each remove a portion and defrost just what you need at a time.