Crème fraîche is a cultured or lightly soured heavy cream. I first had it as a teenage exchange student in France. Where had this creamy manna been all my life? I slathered it on bread with jam as an afterschool snack everyday. While straight-up crème fraîche is wonderful in place of sour cream in many dishes, particularly as a garnish or topping, the extra tang of flavor in crème fraîche is put to equally good use when it is whipped and added to desserts for a touch of tangy creaminess
You can buy crème fraîche at specialty and gourmet stores or simply make it yourself starting with heavy cream and a bit of sour cream or yogurt as a souring agent. To whip crème fraîche, proceed as with whipped cream: make sure it is well chilled, use a chilled metal bowl and beaters or whisk, and simply whisk or beat until soft peaks form and it attains a thickened yet lightened texture that allows you to dollop it nicely.
Whipped crème fraîche will keep, covered and chilled, for several days - just whisk it a few strokes to bring it all back together. Serve it on top, alongside, or layered with cakes, tarts, pies, and puddings of all sorts, or simply with fresh summer berries like the sweet blackberries shown here.