Heavy cream is the backbone of many creamy sauces, soups and sides — and for good reason! — who doesn’t love the mouth-feel of super-creamy foods? Still, in some situations heavy cream can end up making a dish overly rich. And, of course, since heavy cream contains a high amount of saturated fat, it’s not the best for our bodies. Luckily, there’s a healthier alternative that enriches most dishes just as well. Enter light cream: The dairy swap that contains around 80% less saturated fat than heavy cream, yet endows all that’s made with it a creamy mouth feel. Keep reading to learn about the process of making light cream, how it’s different from other dairy products and inspiration for adding it to your favorite recipes.
What is light cream?
Like many dairy products, the process of making light cream starts with milk. “Light cream, a delight in many of my desserts, is made by skimming the higher-fat layer off the top of raw milk before it’s homogenized,” says Sarah Bridenstine, professional baker and founder at Baking Kneads. The homogenization step blends the milk fat and liquid together so it creates light cream.
Light cream vs. heavy cream vs. half-and-half
Light cream is sold alongside other dairy products like heavy cream and half-and-half. Although they all hail from the same dairy family, Bridenstine says the amount of milk fat in each product varies. “Light cream generally contains between 18% to 30% milk fat,” she explains. “Half-and-half, on the other hand, as its name suggests, is half milk and half cream, usually with about 10% to 18% milk fat. Heavy cream packs a punch with a minimum of 36% milk fat.”
The milk fat content is the driving factor for the dairy’s flavor and texture. “Think of light cream as a rich, smooth blanket of dairy goodness, but lighter on the palate than its heavier counterpart, heavy cream,” Bridenstine notes. “Its consistency? A tad thicker than milk, but not as dense as heavy cream, striking a lovely balance.”
Light cream’s reduced fat content also makes dishes lush and creamy. In fact, light cream contains 6 grams of saturated fat per 2 oz. (or ¼ cup) versus the nearly 14 grams found in the same amount of heavy cream. This difference is key as excess consumption of saturated fats are linked with spiking LDL (or “bad”) cholesterol levels — raising the risk of stroke and heart disease. (Click through to discover more ways that your diet can impact your heart health.)
Ultimately, a light cream like Lucerne Light Cream (Buy from Acme, $4.79) is a less fattening swap that still provides a significant amount of flavor and richness.
How to use light cream as a substitute in recipes
When swapping in light cream for heavy cream, Bridenstine suggests using 25% more than the full amount of heavy cream listed in the recipe. So, if a recipe calls for 1 cup of heavy cream use 1¼ cups of light cream. This ensures the dish will have a velvety texture as if it contained heavy cream, but it’ll still have a lot less saturated fat. Alternatively, if you’re stirring it into coffee just swap your usual amount of coffee creamer for light cream.
It’s worth noting that light cream isn’t an ideal candidate for whipping as its lower fat content makes it difficult to form and hold stiff peaks. So, for best results use this cream as a coffee add-in or when making soups, baked dishes and sauces.
3 delicious recipes that use light cream
Light cream will never lose its luster thanks to the various ways you can cook with it. Below, you’ll see three recipes from our test kitchen that use light cream to add richness to both sweet and savory dishes. Yum!
Berry Baked Oatmeal
This fruit-kissed breakfast is ready for the oven in just 15 minutes and is loaded with heart- healthy grains for a satisfying start to the day
- 2 cups milk
- ⅓ cup maple syrup
- 2 Tbs. butter, melted
- ½ tsp. ground ginger
- 1¼ cups light cream
- 1½ cups old-fashioned rolled oats
- 1 cup muesli
- 2 Tbs. pistachios
- 2 cups fresh mixed berries
- Active: 1 hr.
- Total time: 2 hrs.
- Yield: 12 servings
- Heat oven to 350°F. Coat 2-quart baking dish with cooking spray. In large bowl, combine ½ cup milk, maple syrup, butter, ground ginger and ¼ tsp. salt; stir in light cream and remaining 1½ cups milk, then oats and muesli.
- Cover with foil; bake 30 minutes. Uncover; bake until oatmeal is tender and most of liquid is absorbed, about 10 minutes. Top with pistachios and mixed berries.
A touch of cheese and balsamic infuses this bowl with a creamy kick.
- 4 pita breads
- 2 Tbs. butter, melted
- 2 (12 oz.) jars roasted red peppers, drained, patted dry
- 1 cup crumbled feta cheese
- ¾ cup light cream
- ½ cup plain dry breadcrumbs
- 2 tsp. balsamic vinegar
- Active: 10 mins
- Total time: 15 mins
- Yield: 8 servings
- Heat oven to 300°F. Brush both sides of pita bread with butter.
- Transfer to baking sheet. Bake until lightly browned, 5 to 7 minutes. Transfer to rack; let cool. Cut each into 8 wedges.
- In food processor, puree peppers, cheese, cream, breadcrumbs and vinegar until smooth. Transfer to serving bowl. Serve with pita wedges.
Roasted Garlic Mashed Potatoes
Our twist on classic mashed potatoes starts with roasted garlic for a slightly sweet and nutty side.
- 1 head garlic
- 2 tsp. olive oil
- 2 lbs. Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled, quartered
- 4 Tbs. butter, cut into pieces
- ¾ cup light cream
- Chopped fresh chives
- Active: 20 mins
- Total time: 1 hr.
- Yield: 6 servings
- Heat oven to 350°F. Trim off top of garlic head to expose cloves; coat with olive oil and wrap in foil. Roast until golden brown and cloves are soft, 35 to 45 minutes. When cool enough to handle, squeeze out cloves into bowl; using fork or back of spoon, mash to form paste.
- Meanwhile, in large pot, combine potatoes and 2 Tbs. salt with enough water to cover by ½-inch. Over high heat, bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low; cook until potatoes are tender, 15 to 20 minutes. Drain well.
- On low speed, beat potatoes until coarsely mashed. Beat in butter until melted. Beat in garlic, cream, ½ tsp. salt and ¼ tsp. pepper. Transfer to serving bowl; garnish with chives.
Keep reading for more dreamy dairy options!
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