Saturday, November 23, 2019

Crème and Crèmes on French Menus. Crèmes in French Cuisine. The Lexicon you Need.

Behind the French Menu
Bryan G. Newman

Crème on the menu can be very confusing.

When visiting France for the first time, it’s all too easy to read crème as cream and expect all cocktails or other drinks with crème in the name to have cream in all of them. However, there are fine lines drawn between a Crème de Pêche - an alcoholic peach liquor made without cream and a Crème d’Avocat, an avocado soup, sauce, or even a dessert made with cream. Much depends on how and where the word Crème appears on the menu.

Alcohol-Free Crèmes.

Soups, sauces, main dishes and desserts that include cream but no alcohol are often marked …. à la Crème and have been cooked in or with cream.

Choux a la Crème
Cream puffs with matcha custard cream and crème mousseline
 with halved strawberries.

Crèmes with Alcohol That Contain no Cream

To be an alcoholic crème a liquor must contain between 15% -55% of fruit or vegetable-based alcohol and at least 250 grams (9 grams) of sugar per liter. No milk or cream is included in an alcoholic crème, and their production process will take a minimum of 6 months with many taking longer.  The fruit or vegetable on the label is fermented (but not distilled); it is macerated with the alcohol; that and the sugar in the liquor makes the result creamy, more viscous, more syrupy, denser, and (obviously) sweeter without containing any milk products. Imported products like Baileys Irish Cream are sold in France with their English names. Permitting Bailey’s to be called a crème would be considered a case of Lese Majesté by the French alcoholic crème producers.  The bureaucrats in Brussels spent years putting all the rules together.

Liqueurs – Liquors

Any alcoholic liquor to be called in France a ”liqueur” must have at least 100 grams of sugar per liter, and the bottle label or tag must clearly say liqueur, not crème. The step up to Crème is clear as they must have at least 250 grams of sugar per liter.
There are, obviously, more regulations.

More regulations include the type of alcohol, but and how they receive their AOP gongs., but all those closely typed pages might give you indigestion at the dinner table, so I’ve left them out. In any case, I suggest that instead of memorizing all the regulations that may take up valuable time on a business trip or vacation I suggest that you start discussing the next morning’s breakfast in France. That, or read about what happened when I ordered two fried eggs for breakfast, my personal trials and tribulations, 

Crème de Cassis de Dijon (a black currant cordial) is even more regulated than other Crème liqueurs as it must have a minimum of 400g of sugar per liter. It must also contain at least 25% of the Noir de Bourgogne blackcurrants. (Compare that to the non- alcoholic blackcurrant UK cordial Ribena© that is supposed to be really healthy for kids. I loved it and still like it, but it only contains 7% blackberries.

Cocktails with Alcoholic Crèmes

When you are using Crèmes in cocktails or other recipes, you should use less of a Crème Liqueur compared to a traditional liqueur. I love a Kir Royale and make them when they are a suitable aperitif and they are still in the top ten cocktails in France even if their glow has dimmed in the UK and North America. I learned long ago that  Crème de Cassis de Dijon with a wonderful sparkling dry Crémant makes a wonderful aperitif; but not if you put more than a teaspoon and a half of the Crème de Cassis in the Champagne flute or coupe. Too much and it will be undrinkable. You have been warned, you can always add more, but carefully.
Kir Royale
Crème on your menu:

…. à la Crème - Dishes cooked in or with, or served with a cream sauce.
Épinards à la Crème Creamed spinach.
Filet de Sole à la Crème de Girolles Sole filet served with a Chanterelle wild mushroom sauce.
Souris d’Agneau Confite, Jus au Thym, Gratin de Pommes de Terre à la Crème Fraîche..- Lambs  hank confit prepared with a thyme sauce (made from the natural cooking juices and the herb), browned potatoes prepared with crème fraîche,
Épinards à la Crème – Creamed spinach

Crème à Papet - A custard made with milk, flour, egg yolks, sugar, and cornflower orange-flavored custard that originated in the Franche-Comte part of the super region of Bourgogne-Franche-Comté. 
Crème Aigre or Crème Acide - Sour cream. Surprisingly, sour cream has only been generally available in French supermarkets in the last fifteen years, until then Crème Fraiche was used for imported dishes whose recipes included sour cream. In the French-speaking part of Canada, Crème Sure is the name used for sour cream.
Saumon Fumé, Blinis, Crème Aigre – Smoked salmon, blinis and sour cream.

Crème Anglaise - English cream or English custard; luckily, this is nothing like the real English custard and if it is, you shouldn't be eating it in France. Crème Anglaise is a creamy vanilla-flavored custard sauce much used in pastries and also served with cakes or fruits.
Crème au Beurre - A butter-based filling made in many flavors for cakes and icing. 
Crème Brulée -  A chilled creamy custard, served beneath a caramelized crust. The original version was taken by the French chef Alain Sailhac’ from a similar Catalan/Spanish dish called Crème Catalan. Originally flavored with vanilla today’s crème brulée will come with many many flavors.
Crème Caramel or Crème Renversée – Cream caramel, a custard baked in a caramel-coated mold. Before serving, the custard will be chilled and then turned out of the mold onto a plate so that the caramel glaze will be on top. 
Saffron flavord Crème Caramel

Crème Caramel–The dish that influenced the creation of its godchild crème brûlée. Crème Catalan is richer than crème brûlée and has a thicker caramelized crust. 
Crème Chantilly - Whipped fresh cream sweetened with sugar and initially flavored with vanilla. Today’s Crème Chantilly may have many other flavors and will also be seen when made with whipped vegetables or fruits.
Crème d'Ail – Garlic cream is made with garlic cloves cooked in milk and then mixed with butter or crème fraîche along with any additions the chef may have chosen. Garlic cream will be on the menu as part of any number of dishes.
Crème de….This may be soup or sauce with added cream, a milk-based dessert, or an alcoholic liquor made from fruit. The soup will be alcohol-free as are most main dishes. However, it is here that the use of the word crème creates the most confusion. French cream soups or sauces are not always fruit or vegetable soups that have been through an atomizer; many French crèmes will contain pieces of the meat, fish, or vegetables they are made with.  Alcoholic Crèmes are the result of maceration with an alcohol base and the fruits or vegetables they are made with. They may have anywhere from 15 –55 percent alcohol and require a minimum of 250 grams of sugar per liter, some require 400 grams.  
Crème d’Asperge - Cream of asparagus soup. 
Crème de Céleri - Cream of celery soup.
Crème de Lentilles Vertes du Puy AOC - A cream soup made with the AOC green lentils of Puy. (See Lentilles).
Crème de Potimarron
Cream of Pumpkin Soup

Crème de Marron  - A chestnut purée, often made with a vanilla accent.
Crème de Framboise – A raspberry liquor.
Crème de Framboise de Bourgogne – A liquor made with raspberries from Burgundy.
Crème de Cassis - The black currant liquor used to give that unique taste to France's most the aperitifs, Kir and Kir Royal.  
Crème de Noyaux – A nut liquor, a sweet alcoholic liquor made from the pits of various fruits, with an almond flavor; similar but not the same as the Italian Amaretto. Noyaux is French for pits, a fruit's stone, or seed.
The Crème de Cassis AOP is unique in requiring 400 grams of sugar per liter. It is often used in sauces and is behind the success of the aperitifs Kir and Kir Royale and the dish Magret de Canard à la Crème de Cassis – Duck breast prepared with Crème de Cassis.

Crème de Lait - A simple, traditional dessert made with milk, flour, egg yolks, and sugar and flavored with lemon or vanilla, or as the chef chooses. It may also be on the menu as part of a sauce.
Crème Double – Double cream. (See Crème Épaisse).
Crème Chiboust also called Crème Saint-Honoré -  A patisserie cream created in 1846 by a Parisian pastry chef, surprisingly enough called Chiboust. The basic recipe that Chiboust left for us has changed little over time apart from the original vanilla flavoring that is often changed. The traditional crème Chiboust will still include milk, vanilla, or other flavoring, egg yolks, and sugar. These ingredients will be used to create a crémé pâtissière and a meringue Italien.
Crème Du Barry or Crème Dubarry – A cream of cauliflower soup named after the famous, or rather infamous, mistress of Louis XV, the Countess du Barry. (See Du Barry).
Crème Épaisse – A pasteurized cream with 30% fat, épaisse means thick in French. Crème épaisse should not be confused with crème fraîche épaisse.
Thick Cream - Crème Épaisse

Crème Fleurette or Crème Liquide - Fresh cream. 
Crème Fouettée – Whipped cream, mostly the same as Crème Chantilly, but usually without the vanilla flavoring.
Crème Fermier – Fresh cream from the farm. Another way a restaurant may try to show their connection to nature.
Crème Fraîche – There is no English translation for crème fraîche as it is a uniquely French creation and so crème fraîche it remains in English. Crème fraîche’s taste is somewhere between sour cream and fresh cream with a slight tang; it is pasteurized and contains 30% plus fat and is only made with cow’s milk. Crème fraîche is the ingredient that produces much of that important, je ne sais quoi; that inexplicable, different taste in French cream sauces, cream soups, and other recipes. 
Crème Fraîche Épaisse – A Crème Fraîche with over 36% fat. 
Crème Fraîche Légère – A lighter form of crème fraîche; less than 30% fat, as little as 18%! That’s low? Each producer may decide how much fat their below 30% light crème fraiche will contain. Read the details on the carton or bottle; the percentage next to the word grasse is the fat content.

Creme Fraiche Mousse cake.
Madeleine bisquit, blood orange gelee, pomegranate mousse,
creme fraiche mousse.
Crème Frangipane – An almond-based custard filling, and also a type of pastry. The name is attributed to a 13th Century Italian nobleman Muzio Frangipani who created a perfume for scenting leather using a bitter almond base. Then, some 300 years later, French pastry cooks who liked the scent made almond custard with a similar scent and named it after Senor Frangipani. Frangipane is also the name of a family of North American tropical shrubs with fragrant, multi-colored flowers; Hawaii is the primary grower of Frangipane flowers today, and the name is also given to perfumes made of or with a scent similar to those flowers.
Crème Glacée - A dessert cream with a milk base; this is not ice cream. It is made with milk, egg whites, sugar, and usually a vanilla flavoring and frozen before serving. This dessert is often served with fruit or as part of another dish.
 Crème Légère – A light cream. Light has many meanings in the world of French cuisine, so look at the contents. One dairy may produce a light cream with 12% fat and another with 30%. 

Elle & Vire Crème Légère
12% fat.
Crème Liquide – Fresh cream, usually 35% fat, read the labels of the various offerings.
Crème Montée – A light form of whipping cream. Regular whipping cream is crème fouettée in French, but this is a light cream similar to a single cream in the UK; it may be added directly to a dish or whipped first. (See Crème Fouettée).
Crème Pâtissière - A thick pastry cream, usually vanilla flavored. Crème pâtissière may be made of milk, butter, eggs, sugar, and flour. As the name pâtissière implies, it is much used by confectioners.
Crème Plombières -  A custard filled with fresh fruits and egg whites. Plombières-Les-Bains is a small town in the department of Vosges in the Lorraine part of the region of the Grand Est that since Roman times has been recognized for the curative powers of its mineral waters. Today these are modern baths with a beautiful setting and fifteen minutes from the ski slopes in winter. Add the small casino and some excellent local restaurants and the baths bring visitors to the town all year round. Napoleon I's first wife Joséphine and many of her friends were frequent visitors to the baths.  Great chefs came to this town with their employers to prepare grand dinners for their famous guests.  Many dishes were named after the town and two are still popular enough for Crème Plombières and a dessert called Glacé Plombières or Délice Glacé de Plombières to be on menus two hundred years later.
Crème Pralinée - Praline cream. A crème pâtissière flavored with praline powder and used to fill pastries. (See Crème Pâtissière and Praline).
Gateau Paris-Brest - Crème Mousseline Praliné
  The Paris-Brest cake is named after the world's first long-distance bicycle race. The Paris-Brest Gateaux will still be on quite a few menus at the end of August, the race is held once every four years, and the cake is made to resemble a bicycle tire.  It is made with puff pastry with a praline buttercream inside, and almond paste is traditionally used for the wheel. Still, different chefs have different traditions.  The race was first run in 1891 and preceded the Tour de France, which began in 1903. Since 1931 the PBP, the Paris-Brest-Paris race, all 1,200 km (746 miles) of it, has become a once every four-year endurance race held in August. The race is not a speed race; rather, it is a race of endurance and a spectacle with thousands of participants and tens of thousands of spectators. The minimum requirement is the completion of the course within 90 hours. This is a race for all men and women, and the rules are the same. This race is for you if you are an excellent randonneur, a proven amateur long-distance cyclist, as professional riders cannot enter. All you have to do to have the glory of having your name entered in the "Great Book," the winners' book, is to finish the race in less than 90 hours. The time allotted includes pit stops, sleep, and food; if you're not back on time, you lost.
Crème Renversée - See Crème Caramel. 
Crème de Tartre – Cream of tartar. Cream of tartar is tartaric acid. It’s a byproduct of wine production. It is unlikely to be on the menu, but combined with baking soda is used in baking.
Crèmerie or Laiterie - A shop selling milk products, these shops may also sell cheese and may, in fact, be a Fromagerie, a cheese shop.
Crémeux, Crémeuse, Crémeuses – Creamy. A descriptive term that may be used for a creamy soup, sauce or salad dressing.
Crémets - Crémets are desserts made in many parts of France usually with a fresh, white, strained, 35% fat cow’s milk cheese. There seem to be as many variations of crémets as there are towns to name them; the difference is in the flavorings and additions. 
Crémeuse – see Crémeux.


Bryan G. Newman
Behind the French Menu
Copyright 2010, 2019

For information on the unpublished book behind this blog write to Bryan Newman

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