So what is it that makes cream so darn fabulous? I mean…technically. What’s so special about cream? Some argue that it’s cream’s texture that makes it so attractive to our senses. And indeed, cream’s texture is unique in the realm of food, often imitated in food science labs, but never quite duplicated. Cream has a not-quite-liquid, not-quite solid consistency. It’s rich, but not off-puttingly so. It lingers, yet it also washes down without leaving a greasy film on the tongue and in the mouth. Nothing else in nature — or in science — pulls off that balance quite as effectively.
How is it so? It has to do with the way the little butterfat blobs in cream are crammed together, in such a way that they leave room for tiny droplets of water between them. These water droplets are what keep the fatty matrix flowing, preventing the fat blobs from adhering to any mouth surface for too long.
But adhere they do, at least to some degree, which is where the flavor aspect of cream comes in. As some of you may remember from other posts on the qualities of fat, it is an excellent flavor carrier. Flavorful molecules dissolve easily in it, and because watery saliva can’t wash fat out of the mouth very quickly, those flavor molecules stay in contact with tongue surfaces longer, massaging the taste buds with their sweet and/or savory goodness…oh baby. The bigger the fat blob, the greater the effect, which is why the process of homogenization makes cream taste “bland”. Turning big fat blobs into little ones is homogenization’s raison d’être.
Which raises the question: does cream have any flavor of its own? But of course. Cream and milk are rife with flavorful compounds, especially molecules known as gamma-lactones, which produce a variety or aromas reminiscent of peaches, strawberries, coconut and raspberries. If you’ve ever wondered why it is that cream marries so well with all of those foods, well, now you know.