Double cream is a dairy product often found in Britain and Europe. It is extremely dense, rich cream that whips easily and can be used in an assortment of desserts and foods. Working with the thick cream can be difficult, as it separates when beaten too much and has a tendency to be very stiff. Generally, this product is called for in British recipes, while other types of cream are used in the Americas and other parts of the world.
The butterfat content of double cream is around 48%, which makes it less fatty than clotted cream, but more dense than American whipping or heavy cream. Single cream has an even lower fat content and is similar to half and half. The high fat content of double cream makes it an excellent addition to hot foods, since the fat acts as a carrier, making it less likely to separate. For this reason, it is often used in things like creme caramel or in hot sauces.
When milk is initially collected at the dairy, it is centrifuged to extract various products. Originally, milk was allowed to stand and separate, but centrifuging is much faster and safer. Prolonged centrifuging will result in higher butterfat, creating double cream. Unfortunately, the high butterfat can also be a problem, as is the case when this cream is whipped too long and starts to turn into butter.
Since this dairy product can be easily whipped, it is a popular cream for pastry cooks, who often work with whipped or heavy creams. It can also be flavored and used to make things like creme Anglaise and other custards. The high butterfat makes a richer custard, which leaves a greater feeling of fullness. In sauces and soups, the cream makes the end result feel much more decadent.
The availability of double cream varies, depending on where in the world one is. In some areas, it is readily available at markets or directly through dairies, while in other regions, it can be hard to find. Other heavy or whipping creams can be used in recipes as a replacement, although the end result may not be as rich as the cook expects it to be. Chefs should avoid the use of clotted cream and cultured cream products like sour cream in its place, as these dairy products will behave extremely differently and can ruin a recipe.