To use crème fraîche in place of sour cream in quickbread. I have heard nothing but wonderful things about crème fraîche. It's widely popular in Europe, but you don't hear much about it in the United States. It is cultured like sour cream, but closer to 30% butterfat whereas sour cream is only up to about 20% butterfat. The flavor isn't quite as sour as sour cream.The texture of crème fraîche is much thicker than sour cream and the best description I can give is that it's "goopy." For you scientists out there, as I was stirring it, it reminded me of cell lysate, but not as cohesive. Needless to say, I quickly became skeptical. I elected a blueberry muffin recipe because I had fresh blueberries that needed eating and the combination of sour cream and blueberry is popular in baking. Adapted from Doris Greenspan's Baking with Julia.
1 ¾ cup cake flour
2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 teaspoon salt
1 pint fresh blueberries
¾ cup milk
¼ cup crème fraîche (could use full-fat sour cream)
1 stick (4 oz) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2/3 cup sugar
1 large egg, at room temp
1 large egg yolk, at room temp
1. Preheat the oven to 400° and grease two 8" x 2.75" loaf pans (or muffin tins if you prefer).
2. Sift the dry ingredients three times. Use two tablespoons of the flour mixture to coat the blueberries and set the blueberries and flour mixture aside. In a small bowl or liquid measuring cup, whisk together the milk and crème fraîche and set aside.
3. Cream the butter on medium speed until it is pale (I used speed 3 or 4 on my mixer and it took just under 3 minutes).
4. Add the sugar and continue to beat another 3 minutes.
5. Add the egg and egg yolk and beat 2 minutes until the mixture is light and fluffy.
6. Remove the bowl from the mixer. Add half of the dry ingredients and half of the milk/crème fraîche mixture and fold into the batter with a spatula until just incorporated. Repeat with the other half.
7. Gently fold in the blueberries.
8. Divide the batter evenly between prepared loaf pans (or muffin tins). Bake 10 minutes, or until the tops are just starting to brown, reduce the oven temperature to 350°, tent the loaves with foil, and continue baking another 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean (less time for muffins).
9. Cool on a cooling rack 10 to 15 minutes before turning onto a wire rack to cool completely. Wrap tightly and store at room temperature.
The bread is light and flimsy. All of the blueberries sunk to the bottom. The top is nicely browned. The texture is light. The flavor is rich, but not sweet.
Conclusions and Future Directions
The first two things I ever made from scratch were chocolate chip cookies and banana bread. These were my favorite baked goods growing up. Both are sweet, but not rich. This recipe for blueberry quickbread is rich, but not sweet. Because I was expecting something much sweeter, I'm hesitant to say that I didn't like the bread. It's simply not what I expected. The use of cake flour had me dreaming of a sweet, rich pound cake sprinkled with blueberries for a little tang. If that's what you're looking for, the richness is there, but increase the amount of sugar. I think the addition of brown sugar could do wonders!
That being said, the bread probably would have been sweet enough if the blueberries hadn't all sunk to the bottom. If they had been evenly distributed, it would have added sugar to each bite. The purpose of coating the blueberries with the flour mixture was to reduce sinking. It simply didn't work. I've read that some people swear by frozen berries coated in flour instead of fresh berries. The argument that ice is less dense and more buoyant doesn't work here--it's a weight thing. This batter is really light and airy. I think the batter simply can't withstand the weight of the berries. Making muffins might be the way to go because the shorter baking time might catch the berries in their fall so a few of them will be incorporated.
But, back to the point: crème fraîche! The point of adding sour cream or crème fraîche is moisture. These loaves are incredibly moist and tender, so the crème fraîche did its job! I don't think there will be a next time for this blueberry quickbread. Quickbreads and muffins with fruit always seem to disappoint me, unless that fruit is banana. I have 12 or so bananas sitting to ripen for an ice cream recipe I'm planning to make with a Mexican sugar called piloncillo. I think I'll use the extra bananas next weekend to give crème fraîche it's chance to shine in banana bread!