Question: I recently returned from a vacation in England and I miss the clotted cream and double cream I discovered there. I think they would be wonderful over California fruit. Could you please tell me where I can find these decadent creams?
Answer: We found English Double Devon Cream at Gelson's Markets. It's our understanding that this is the English clotted cream, but we'll let you be the final judge. According to our research, the closest available equivalent to English double cream is our whipping cream.
In "Traditional British Cooking" (Salem House: 1986, $21.95) author Audrey Ellis explains that the "counties of Devon and Cornwall are famous for this speciality (i.e., clotted cream) well beyond their boundaries. The old Cornish name was clouted cream, and a teatime treat, 'Thunder and Lightning,' consisted of a Cornish split topped with cream and black treacle."
We doubt if the author's instructions for making the cream are practical for Southlanders, but they do explain the process used to make this rich, very thick dairy product:
"Take very fresh milk, warm from the cow if possible, and strain it into a large shallow pan. A well-scrubbed copper preserving pan can be used. Leave undisturbed in a cool place for at least 12 hours, or longer if the weather is cold. When all the cream has risen to the surface, transfer the pan gently to the stove, taking great care not to break up the cream. Place over a very low heat for about 30 minutes, or until the top is crusted. Never allow it to boil as the secret of success is to bring the milk just to scalding point. Remove the pan, again using great care, to a cool place, or merely switch off the heat under the pan. It will take about 12 hours for the cream to clot, and it can then be skimmed off with a slotted draining spoon or slice. Any tiny 'clotties' can be strained off by pouring the creamy wade (skimmed milk) through a sieve lined with muslin."
Q: I've been using the same lemon pie filling recipe for ages. It always worked great, until just last week when it turned runny after being refrigerated. Any idea why?
A: We found a possible explanation in "Secrets of Better Cooking" (Reader's Digest Assn. Inc.: 1979): "Not only lemon pie does this; chocolate cream pie or butterscotch pie made with brown sugar may also turn runny. All these pie fillings include ingredients that act upon the starch used in thickening and prevent its full effectiveness.
"In a lemon pie, your recipe may be right one time and runny the next; an extra-sour lemon may cause the trouble. To be sure with lemon pie, add 1 teaspoon more of the starch thickener than your recipe specifices.
"In cream fillings thickened partly with starch and partly with eggs, incomplete cooking is usually the trouble. Be sure the mixture is thoroughly cooked before adding the eggs. The best way to make sure is to taste a bit of the mixture. You will feel the grittiness of the flour or cornstarch on your tongue if they are not thoroughly cooked. When the maximum thickening is obtained, add the eggs called for in the recipe and cook for three minutes longer.
"Another cause of a runny filling may be that too much sugar was used. Sugar liquefies during cooking and tends to thin the mixture."
In response to the Sept. 22 You Asked About . . . column on recipes for slow cookers, J. Sweeley recommends the book "Rival Crock-Pot Cooking," available for $3.95 plus 50 cents postage and handling from Rival Manufacturing Co., Customer Relations Dept., P.O. Box 419556, Kansas City, Mo. 64141-6556. The book may also be available at some area bookstores.