By Harold McGee
Cream is manufactured with a number of different fat levels and consistencies, each for particular purposes. Light creams are poured into coffee or onto fruit; heavy creams are whipped or used to thicken sauces; clotted or “plastic” creams are spread onto breads, pastries, or fruit. The proportion of fat determines both a cream’s consistency and its versatility. Heavy cream can be diluted with milk to approximate light cream, or whipped to make a spreadable semisolid. Light cream and half-and-half contain insufficient numbers of fat globules to stabilize a whipped foam, or to resist curdling in a sauce. Whipping cream, at between 30 and 40% fat, is the most versatile formulation.