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Thomas column: How to make homemade clotted cream

Nick Thomas
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Homemade clotted cream, the perfect topping for fruit pies and other desserts.

Many Americans have never enjoyed the heavenly taste of clotted cream, much less attempted to make their own. Known in Great Britain for centuries as well as other Commonwealth countries that share a culinary history, clotted cream remains a popular topping for scones with jam as well as pies, puddings, and other desserts.

Clotted cream can be prepared at home from one ingredient: heavy whipping cream which contains around 35% milk fat. Its richness is the result of concentrating the fat content to over 60% (pure butter is around 80%), so it should be considered a rather self-indulgent food luxury to be served and savored occasionally.

Combined with a little heat, ordinary runny cream is transformed into the thick decadent delicacy that is astonishingly simple to prepare, but it does take time. When gently heated over 12 hours, the cream forms thick clots that separate and, after cooling, can easily be separated from the remaining liquid.

With a consistency of soft cream cheese, clotted cream is far richer and delicious than ordinary whipping cream that has been aerated though beating. And because it’s so rich, you may find yourself using less than plain whipped cream on that slice of homemade fruit pie. But then again, you might not!

To prepare clotted cream, pour a quart of heavy whipping cream into a shallow glass baking dish to the height of about 2 inches and place in a 180-degree oven for 12 hours. Remove the dish from the oven and let sit for about an hour to cool to room temperature. At this point, the crust that develops on the surface during heating may carefully be removed with a fork and discarded. However, it can also be left on the cream and mixed in giving a slight buttery, nutty flavor to the cream. The dish is then covered with plastic wrap and refrigerated for at least 8 hours.

The dish now contains the clotted cream surrounded by a milky liquid that can be poured off into a container and refrigerated (the liquid can be used as a rich milk replacement in other recipes).

The clotted cream is then scraped from the dish into a separate container, covered, and refrigerated. Serve with pies, cheesecake, fruit, or any dessert that would be enhanced by a creamy rich topping.

Nick Thomas teaches at Auburn University at Montgomery, Ala., and has written features, columns, and interviews for over 850 newspapers and magazines. See www.getnickt.org.