I've written before about some of my language adventures at the supermarket in our town. I told you about the preservatives and the cuisses de canard. But I haven't yet told you about the incident of the crème fraiche. When we first moved here, I went to the supermarket one day looking for whipping cream. All I could find was crème fraiche. Everywhere I looked—crème fraiche. I didn't want thickened, cultured cream, I wanted whipping cream. And there was none to be seen.
I looked in the dairy section, and then tried to think where else it might be. It's a dairy product, after all. Luckily for me (but maybe not for her) there was a woman there stocking the shelves. I went to her and asked her where I could find crème a fouetter (whipping cream). She gave me one of those looks that you give someone when you're trying not to show that you think they've lost their mind. Without turning away from me, she pointed over her shoulder at the shelves of crème fraiche. She moved her finger left and right to indicate that there was lots of choice.
But no, I said, that's not what I want—that's crème fraiche. I want crème a fouetter! She rolled her eyes and said, “Yes, madame, that's what this is for. A fouetter. That's why it's fraiche and not sterilizée.” It seems that in Belgium, unlike in France, crème fraiche is literally FRESH cream. That is, it's not sterilized. Crème fraiche a la Française – that is, cultured cream-- doesn't exist here. At least I haven't found it. And I've looked.
So when we were in Paris recently, I bought some crème fraiche. Real, honest to goodness not-sour-but-sourish-in-a-good-way crème fraiche. And I've been using it. These verrines are one of the things I've made with it. There are more to come...
These verrines start with a simple but delicious crème made with crème fraiche and brown sugar. That's it. These two ingredients mix with each other like a perfect marriage. Like Ozzie and Harriet. Like tomatoes and basil. Like blue cheese and pears. So why haven't we heard about this combo before? Beats me! I'm doing my best here.
When Pam was here last summer we had some crème fraiche and we made these. At that time we used speculos cookies as the base. Now that I'm not eating wheat, I substituted some crushed oat shortbread cookies. Even better, I think! But you can use any sort of crunchy buttery cookie you have on hand.
The red fruit I used was frozen from last summer. It was a mixture of raspberries, blackberries, red currants and strawberries, with maybe a few blueberries in there as well. I thawed it out and mixed a little bit of sugar with it to bring out some of the juice.
Crème Fraiche Verrines
1 cup crème fraiche (the French kind)
¼ cup brown sugar (or more, to taste)
½ cup mixed red fruit
1 Tablespoon caster sugar
Crushed shortbread cookies
- Mix the crème fraiche and the brown sugar. There will be little brown specks in the mixture—don't worry. Cover the mixture and put it in the fridge to allow the sugar to dissolve.
- Mix the fruit with the caster sugar and put it in the fridge too so that it will begin to render its juice. If it's frozen, though, leave it out of the fridge.
- After about ½ hour, stir the crème fraiche mixture to mix in the now-dissolved brown sugar. At this point, DO NOT TASTE IT or you'll find yourself sitting in the corner hunched over the bowl as you lick the last of the crème from the spoon, then your fingers, then the bowl.
- Fill your verrines: crushed cookies, crème fraiche, fruit, crème fraiche, cookies.
- Now you can taste the crème fraiche mixture. Try not to let anyone see you licking the bowl.
Enough for 6 verrines.
- In strawberry season, this crème is delicious as a dip for fresh berries. Or peaches. Or apricots.
- All of the measurements given here are approximate. You can change everything to your taste. How easy is that?
- These verrines will keep in the fridge for several hours, or even overnight. Of course, the longer you keep them the more you risk the crunchy cookies getting soggy. If I want to keep them for a while, I'll put some of the fruit juice over the bottom layer of the cookies so that they'll lose their crunch on purpose. They I'll put the last layer on at the last minute so that it's still crunchy.