So, when I first moved to Costa Rica, I was surprised that I couldn’t find cream in the refrigerated section of the grocery stores. I searched and searched – several different grocery stores – all to no avail. And I’m talking about any kind of cream: half and half, light cream, whipping cream or heavy cream.
Eventually, I DID find these little boxes (about 8 ounces each) called crema dulce on the shelf in the middle of an aisle (read: not refrigerated), which I immediately rejected:
I couldn’t understand how it could be called cream (crema dulce literally translates to “sweet cream”), and be on the shelf at room temperature. No way was I buying that. I mean – even if I could read the ingredients, what would I find? I assumed totally fake and fabricated chemicals.
After talking to some friends who had lived here longer than me, they encouraged me to try this boxed-cream-stuff out. So I did.
Now? Wow, you guys. There are SO many uses for this little box! Come to find out it IS actually real cream, which is ultra pasteurized with stabilizers so it can be vacuum packaged and kept on the shelf. The small box equals approximately 8 oz (1 cup), and you can also buy it in a larger box. It is 35% fat, which is equivalent to heavy cream. There are two ways to store the crema dulce – in your pantry shelf at room temperature, or in the fridge.
Some towns/stores in Costa Rica have fresh crema dulce in bags in the refrigerated section, but I have only seen this once in my 2 ½ years of living in Grecia.
So – what can you do with this magical box of crema dulce? Well, LOTS of things! Here are a few:
#1 – coffee creamer. Here’s a quick run down of the fat content in creams for you:
Half and Half is between 10.5 and 14% fat
Light Cream is 18- 30%
Whipping cream is 30 to 36%
Heavy Cream is 36-40%
Clotted Cream is 55-60%
So, because crema dulce is 35% fat, you can make the following with milk:
HALF AND HALF:
2 cups milk
1 cup crema dulce (1 small box)
1 cup milk
1 cup crema dulce (1 small box)
Of course if you want it flavored, just add your favorite flavor. Keeps in the fridge for more than a week. Here’s my light cream (1 box crema dulce, 1 cup milk), I store it in a mason jar with this cool reCap pour lid I had muled in:
#2 – whipped cream. For this, you’ll want the crema dulce stored in the refrigerator so it is very cold. Also put your mixer bowl and beaters in the freezer for 30 minutes beforehand. Take your box of cold crema dulce, shake it (if you can – it will be thick), flip up the top and bottom corners (makes the box bigger) and squish it around. Cut off the very top part and squeeze the contents into your mixer bowl. I usually squish the box from the bottom while squeezing it out (like when you’re trying to get that last bit of toothpaste out of the tube). You can also use a rubber spatula to scrape every last morsel out of the box. The contents may be part liquid, and part solid – don’t worry! Just start your mixer, and then put it on a higher speed until it forms into a thick whipped cream. Remember not to whip TOO long or you will have butter! Add a little vanilla and powdered sugar to taste. Pictured here are my mini chocolate cheesecakes with whipped cream on top:
#3 – butter. See #2 above, but just keep whipping and whipping until it turns into butter. Add salt to taste.
#4 – cream base for soups. Here is my tomato basil soup I use the crema dulce in (recipe in my Costa Rica Chica Cookbook).
#5 – base in homemade ice cream. These are my homemade ice cream sandwiches and chocolate ice cream. Who needs Ben & Jerry when you have Crema Dulce & Jen?
#6 – alfredo sauce. Actually, my hubby Greg makes this, and I must say this turns out great every time. He always make this with angel hair pasta, and several other things can be added: shrimp, chicken, broccoli, etc. Garnish with fresh cilantro or parsley!
#7 – easy scones. I love these scones, because they are so easy, and you don’t use cold butter, but a box of crema dulce instead. They really turn out pretty darn good for a “no butter scone”. Here is a picture of my scones (also found in Costa Rica Chica Cookbook) with craisons and chocolate chunks added:
#8 – potatoes au gratin. What could be better than potatoes, cream and cheese? I love this recipe from the Pioneer Woman for her Perfect Potatoes Au Gratin:
#9 – chocolate ganache. I’ve always made this recipe from Martha Stewart (simple, beautiful and so glossy!).
#10 – panna cotta. Confession – I’ve never made panna cotta before. But check out this recipe, it sounds really good!
#11 – caramel. Unfortunately I cannot get caramel to work for me here – not sure if it is the elevation (4,700 ft) or the difference in sugar or butter here, but I’ve tried and failed 3 times. Also my pal Mike (who lives at a similar elevation in Costa Rica, and can cook anything) has tried with no luck as well. Oh, and one time my mom-n-law was visiting and tried to make her English Toffee Bars which have caramel in them, and they didn’t turn out either. IN ANY CASE – if you are in Costa Rica at no weirdly high elevation – maybe you could try to make caramel with crema dulce and let me know how it works? I’d appreciate! Here’s a recipe from one of my favorite bloggers, Sally’s Baking Addiction.
#12 – pots de crème. I haven’t tried these in Costa Rica, but wow, look at these wonderful things – click here for recipe:
#13 – crème brûlé. I loved making crème brûlé when I lived in Dallas, but haven’t made it in Costa Rica as I don’t have any ramekins or torch to my name anymore. I love this dessert because it’s not too sweet. It has a melt-in-your-mouth custardy goodness with a thin coating of burnt sugar on top that you crack with a slight tap of your spoon. Um, I kinda want some right now.
#14 – quiche. I love quiche. This is my easy broccoli quiche (with an easy homemade pie crust, can you tell I’m all about easy recipes these days?):
So, do y’all want to see my recipes for quiche, creme brûlée, chocolate cheesecakes, ice cream sandwiches, chocolate ice cream & alfredo sauce? Comment below, maybe I’ll do another post with my recipes!
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