The British love cream in all its varieties, from clotted cream to double cream to Devonshire cream (or Devon cream), to Cornish clotted cream and many other varieties. It’s enough to make your head spin, and it’s particularly confusing if you’re an American trying to follow a British recipe. I recently ran into this problem when I was trying to make a delicious-looking and –sounding lemon tart that was featured on an episode of “How to Cook Like Heston” with Heston Blumenthal. It called for double cream, which sent me on a quest to figure out: can I just substitute heavy whipping cream for double cream? The answer is no. But I have found a solution…
A Cream Maker.
I actually started looking into this gadget several years ago, but never bought one because they were mostly offered on the UK version of eBay, and the shipping was prohibitively expensive. This is a simple, old-fashioned gadget that does its one job perfectly, and that job is to make double cream (or single cream or extra thick double cream or any of the other varieties of cream) out of plain old milk and unsalted butter. Basically, it re-homogenizes the fat into the milk. It came into popular use during World War II, when rationing led to cream becoming almost impossible to find. People could get their standard ration of milk and butter, but no cream. Since butter is nothing but milk fat that has been separated from the liquid portion of the milk, it stands to reason that putting the butter back into the milk would reconstitute the cream, but the process is tricky. You can’t just stir it together, because the melted butter floats. You can’t shake it together, because that is actually how the butter is created in the first place—shaking only forces the sticky butter to cling together. What you can do is force the liquid butter and milk through a fine nozzle a bit at a time under pressure, and this will recreate the original cream.
I finally found an old Bel Cream Maker on eBay in the US, and it looked completely unused. I was excited to give it a whirl when it arrived in the mail today. I washed and assembled the parts, and followed the directions in the accompanying original brochure, and I soon had extremely thick double cream! I document the recipe and procedure below.
If you want to buy one of these gadgets for your own use, here are some tips: they were most commonly made by a company called Bel. You can also find an attachment for a Kenwood mixer that does the same things, but that’s only helpful for people who have such a mixer. Anybody can use one of the Bel cream makers. When searching on eBay, you find a wide range of conditions and prices. These usually go for around $10 to $20 US, but I’ve seen sellers who think they can get $50 to $300 for them just because they are cute and vintage. I can assure you there is no need to pay that much! Several of these come up for sale each week, so just be patient and check back and you’re bound to be rewarded.
You will find many more “ice cream makers” than cream makers, so it’s best to find a way to filter those out. One of the Bel models was called the Jubilee, and many of the older models are made of Bakelite, so the best search I found was the following (leave all punctuation and spacing intact):
(bel,jubilee,Bakelite) “cream maker”
What this search is telling eBay, just in case you don’t know how eBay advanced search works, is: show me any items that have any of the words bel, jubilee, or Bakelite AND the words “cream maker” in exactly that order. In essence, this gets rid of the glut of whipped cream makers and ice cream makers so you don’t have to wade through them. Now on to the Recipe (*see note at the end regarding different measurements or percentages of butterfat–one of my helpful readers actually created a calculator that I will link to)!
Double Cream Recipe:
Double Cream is 48% milkfat. The highest percentage milkfat available in the US is typically 36%, so it doesn’t substitute. Once you have your cream maker in hand and assembled and ready to go, follow these steps:
Weigh or measure out:
4 fluid ounces of milk (100 ml)
5 ounces of UNSALTED butter (you don’t want salty cream, do you?) (140g), cut in pieces
Put these two ingredients together in a small saucepan and heat gently over low to medium heat. You do not want to boil or scorch your milk because it will change the flavor. If you keep the temperature below 180 degrees F, that is best. You can remove it from the heat once the butter is about halfway melted and the residual heat will continue melting it. Once it has been completely melted, stir it and then quickly pour it into your cream maker. Next, hold the maker FIRMLY with one hand (you need to pump the handle of the thing up and down with some force, so you will need to keep a firm grip on the base of the thing to prevent any spills). Pump the handle. If nothing is coming through into the chamber below after a few pumps, stop pumping, carefully take off the lid from the base, and adjust the nozzle nut by loosening it slightly. Reassemble and start over. Once you see something coming through (you should probably see about ½ teaspoon of cream being created with each pump), continue pumping until all of the milk and cream have been forced through into the lower chamber of the cream maker. Congratultions! You just made Double Cream!
Here are some handy photos I took while I was making my first batch, along with some photos of the resulting (THICK!) cream:
Melting the butter. After heating it up and removing if from the heat, you can let it sit for a few minutes. You can see some of the remaining small pieces of butter sitting in little yellow pools of melted butter. Once you stop seeing those little pools of melted butter appear, your butter is ready to go.
All done. The final product. This cream is about twice as thick as American Heavy Cream. I can’t wait to try the Heston Blumenthal Lemon Tart recipe (it appeared on Episode 2 of “How to Cook Like Heston”, the “Eggs” episode).
Of course, the tart recipe is not one of my normal Primal Recipes. It’s one of my “cheat day” recipes. I plan to use the eggs from my amazing French Marans hens to make this incredibly rich looking custard tart. Can’t wait to try it. If it’s as good as I hope, I’ll share the recipe.
*Note on measurements and percentages of butterfat: I have had many questions from readers regarding different percentages of butterfat, or what they could subsitute to come up with the preferred 48% of double cream. One of my readers, Matt, actually made a calculator that will help you with any such questions! You can find it here. It will open up pre-populated with 80% butterfat (the percentage in plain butter) and 3.25% fat (for whole milk). If you are using this calculator, you will want to leave the 80% for butter, but you could change the milk fat percent to 12% for half-and-half, or 0% for skim milk, 1% for 1% milk, etc. You can even change the desired volume, depending on how much double cream you need. Very handy! Thanks, Matt, whoever you are!