Types of Cream: Their Uses & How to Make Each

Cream is a rich fat-based dairy product that you obtain by skimming milk with 4% fat content. Different types of cream depend on the type of separation/cream concentration used.

After separating the cream, concentrate it to 10% - 75% fat content depending on your intended purpose. On the average, most creams have about 40% fat content.

You can also obtain cream from milk by scalding, i.e. warming the milk and separating the fat as it rises to the top.

After separation, cool the cream to below 5°C to avoid spoilage by inherent enzymes such as lipases. Concentrating the cream causes rapturing of the fat globule membrane (FGM), which facilitates an easier access to the fat nucleus.

In addition to preventing spoilage, cooling also slows down the microbial growth, which minimizes spoilage considerably. Again, cooling avoids oiling off. The butterfat at the center of the globules are liquid, which oozes out during separation.

General uses of cream:

  1. Consumption
  2. Manufacturing butter and ghee
  3. Used in the confectionery industry
  4. Standardizing other products. (recombined milk)
  5. Manufacturing butter oil and ice cream

Categories/types of cream

The fat content of the cream determines the category of the cream. They include:

  • Half cream, minimum fat content of 12%
  • Single cream, minimum fat content of 18%
  • Whipped cream, minimum fat content of 35%
  • Double cream, minimum fat content of 48%
  • Plastic/clotted cream, minimum fat content of 55%

Consumption creams are majorly of two types; light cream and heavy cream.

a) Light (thin) cream

This category of consumption cream includes common coffee cream and table cream.

i) Common coffee cream

Has about 12% butter fat content, used in beverages. It is a sweet cream (without developed acidity). Due to its low butter fat content, it falls under half-cream category.

How to handle this type of cream

This cream undergoes high temperature pasteurization (higher temperature above the normal fluid milk pasteurization temperatures, i.e. 75°C for 30 minutes). After pasteurization, homogenization process begins with an aim of increasing the widening power and improving the viscosity of the product.

After homogenization, packaging and sterilization (retort sterilization) at 115°C for 20 to 30 minutes follows, and finally cooling to ambient temperatures.

ii) Table cream

Has slightly higher fat content of between 15% – 20%, therefore, falls under single cream category.

How to handle this type of cream

You heat tret it the same way as you do coffee cream. However, you add destabilizing salts such as disodium phosphate or sodium citrate before homogenization. This will improve the instability between the fat and non-fat portions of the milk. These salts also minimize flocculation of fat during separation.

To obtain a high-quality table cream, you must only use fresh raw materials.

Table cream is mainly used for dressing salads and cakes.

b) Heavy (thick) cream

i) Whipping cream

Contains higher fat content than table cream (minimum fat content of 35% - 40%). This type of cream is mainly used in the confectionery and the pastry industry.

Since whipping cream contains incorporated air, its quality depends on the speed of whipping, its consistency and the permanency of the acquired volume.

How to handle this type of cream

After pasteurization, it is advisable to keep the whipping cream under cold storage (at 5C) for about 24 hours. During this time, the cream will mature by allowing some of the fat to solidify and agglomerate.

Fat agglomeration results into formation of networks that will facilitate faster whipping and butter consistency and stability. Whipping cream is not usually sterilized.

It is advisable to keep the cream under cold storage to obtain an excellent quality whipped cream.

ii) Plastic cream

Has a minimum fat content of 55% to 60%. You can extract this type of cream by using an overly efficient separator, or by performing two successive separations.

How to handle this type of cream

After pasteurization, perform peroxidase test to ascertain the efficacy of the pasteurization process. You can then freeze the cream for storage. In the frozen state, plastic cream has a very high keeping quality and can go for several years without spoilage.

Note\\: pasteurization of heavy creams can cause partial churning.

Types of cream for making butter

According to FAO, butter is a fatty product exclusively derived from milk whose composition is as follows:

  1. Milk fat – not less than 80%
  2. Milk solid non-fat (MSNF) – maximum legal 2%
  3. Maximum amount of water – 16%
  4. Microbiological requirements – no pathogenic strains
  5. Permitted additives – sodium chloride, starter culture, lactic acid, food colors (annatto), and neutralizing salts.

Commonly available butter falls under either sweet cream or sour cream butters.

Sweet cream butter

Produced from fresh cream, without any developed acid. You can still obtain sweet cream butter from milk with neutralized acid.

You can choose to either produce salted or unsalted sweet cream butter.

Due to high temperature pasteurization, sweet cream butter has a characteristic cooked flavor of the denatured serum proteins.

Sour cream/cultured butter

Produced from the cultured cream and has a characteristic aroma of the diacetyl compound. Here, after pasteurizing fresh cream, you add a known culture into the cream and allow to ferment.

This type of butter has a better keeping quality due to the low pH, which suppresses growth of spoilage microorganisms.

Buttermilk from sour cream has high acidity making it hard to dispose. However, this type of butter is more prone to oxidation problems due to the formation of complexes with some milk ions (especially the cations of copper).

These complexes further form larger complexes with hydrogen ions due to low pH. Iron and copper are catalysts of oxidation processes and their presence increases the risk of oxidative rancidity in cream.

The cream for making sour cream butter should have a relatively higher MSNF content, which will provide enough substrates for the acid-producing bacteria.

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MSc. Food Science | Interested in Data Science for Quality Management - learning python | Agribusiness consultant with special interest in food processing and quality management. | Solve this if you can - if a ship had 26 goats and 10 sheep onboard, how old is the ship's captain?