How to Temper Cream When Making a Sauce

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If you are a novice cook you have no doubt at some point had problems adding cream to a hot broth or soup. you cannot add the cream directly to the hot liquid as it will cause it to curdle. This is caused when the milk solids in the cream seperate. To get over this problem cooks use a process called tempering which I will explain.

The idea of the tempering process is to even the temperatures of the cream to the hot liquid you are tempering to. However its not an exact science and this doesn’t mean you should read the temperatures with a thermometer. Provided they are roughly similar, the cream will not curdle or break. Assuming you have your hot liquid, be it stock, soup or any type of broth in a saucepan on the stove simmering, remove it from the heat. Add your cream to a bowl. Take a ladle and ladle a small amount of the hot liquid to the cream and whisk. Because the cream is cold from the fridge, the hot liquid will hardly warm the cream. Repeat this action 3-4 more times, whisking the mixture in between until the temperature has siginnificantly raised. the cream and broth mixture should now be hot to touch. Add the contents of the bowl to the saucepan and whisk. You can now return the saucepan and bring back to simmer.

The type of cream you use also makes also makes a difference, for example sour cream, creme fresh and yogurt seem to be especially fragile. Probably because they have a lower fat content than heavy cream which is most often used for sauces. You will also need to temper other kinds of cream that are not dairy, for example coconut cream or milk. If you have tried implementing the previous steps and the cream in your sauce is still seperating, there is a mistake proof way of making sure it turns out right. Try adding a little corn starch to the cream before you temper it. I am not sure how this works but it seems to help bind the components of the cream, a kind of culinary glue, you could say. (the same works with roux) The cream is more substantial and less likely to break.  I always use this technique when preparing buffets. because the sauces are held at temperature, often for hours, they are more likely to seperate.                              



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