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Can I sub Sour Cream for Heavy Cream?

  • p

The scones thread below has inspired me to try a cream scones recipe, but when I went to the store I was put off by the expense of heavy cream these days -- $2.99 for a pint!! (OK, it's 3 bucks, which isn't a lot, but a huge increase in price from even a year ago.)

Instead, I grabbed a pound size (16 oz) container of sour cream. Can anyone comment on whether I can sub the sour cream for the heavy cream? Any tweaks required for the cream scones recipe?

As a side note, noticing that there have been variances to dairy price increases in the last year. Butter, milk, and cream prices have gone through the roof, but ice cream and sour cream, as well as industrial domestic cheese ie. Kraft cheddars, have barely gone up at all. What gives?

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  1. the acid in the sour cream will affect leavening. extra milk solids will definitely affect texture and make the scones denser. who knows what the additives will do.

    1 Reply
    1. re: anon

      Good point. I was asking because the main difference between sour cream and heavy cream is the viscosity and the acidity. But I have made layer cakes where oil, butter and sour cream were basically interchangeable as the fat source, so I wasn't sure if that could be carried over to scones with a little tweaking.

      1. Considering the recipe specifically said DO NOT SUBSTITUTE for the heavy cream, I wonder why would you bother?

        Sour cream is thicker, so you will need to adjust dry to wet ingredients proportions, it also has more acid, so you will need to adjust the amount of baking soda/powder to make up for it. And is the list of ingredients on sour cream "cream and bacterial culture" or is there some other stuff in it (as is often the case these days) which will further alter the flavour, texture and the end result?

        There are half dozen recipes on epicurious with sour cream as ingredient. Why not follow those instead or at least use it as a guide in altering the proportions?

        3 Replies
        1. re: summertime

          I interpreted the no substitution as don't sub with a lesser fat item, ie. milk, half/half, or light cream. I figured that sour cream has the same amount of fat content as heavy cream, therefore a do-able substitution.

          1. re: Pupster

            I do not think sourcream has the same fat content. You might be lucky enough to find a sourcream with 30 percent milk fat content which is the bare minimum fat content for a heavy cream, but the typical "regular" sourcream has only 18-20 percent milkfat and it is even lower for "light" and "low fat" types.

            1. re: summertime

              Good to know. I thank you for the info.

        2. I would not substitute them--much different flavor/consistency.

          (You could try it, but if you think about the time it takes to prepare and cook the scones, if they turn out poorly you may be in the negative financially. Just a thought.)

          1. Agree w/ others that it's not a good idea. I wouldn't use sour cream as the main dairy in any scone recipe. I'm actually surprised that your linked recipe doesn't call for any butter, but I guess it's all about the cream. Either go get some cream and follow the recipe or make a sour cream coffee cake instead.

            I get most of my dairy products at Trader Joe's. Pint of cream and pound of butter run around $2 each.

            2 Replies
            1. re: Carb Lover

              Well, cream is essentially unchurned butter, so it's not totally absurd. But I get your point: all my previous scone efforts always had butter in the recipe. That's kinda why I wanted to try this one.

              1. re: Pupster

                Didn't think it was 'absurd' just different. Most scones that I've made before have called for both cream and very cold butter. The butter gives it a nice flaky texture and enhanced flavor.

                Whatever you decide to do, please report back on your results.

            2. Here are some reasons that the price of dairy is up in the last year or so:
              1) production is declining on milk, due to the number of dairy cows declining over the last few years. DAiry farmers are discouraged from adding to their herds due to the price of soy feed, and also Canadian mad cow. Demand is higher than supply. There were 9.1 million cows in 2003 and only 9 million in 2004.
              2) The Chicago Mercantile Market which sets all domestic cheese prices have more than doubled them in the last year, has to do with futures trading. Cheese prices directly influence the price of milk for obvious reasons.
              3) Groceries used to use milk as a loss leader, but there were 2 years of decreases in dairy prices (2002&3) which were not passed on to the consumer
              4) Demand was suppressed by a bad ecomony after 9/11, especially with restaurants who are the heaviest users of dairy products.
              Anyway, that's what we were told earlier in the year.

              1. Of course you can substitute sour cream for heavy cream...if you feel like compensating for the extra acid, add more baking soda. The major scones recipes call for heavy cream, no butter.

                2 Replies
                1. re: Jim H.

                  Jim H., is it pretty much an even-up substitution, or do I need to add a little more fat (butter)? I'm not too worried about the extra acid, which I think will add an interesting dimension, but I would like to get the texture and crumb right.

                  BTW, 16 ou of sour cream was $1.29 vs 1 pint of heavy cream was $2.99. Not quite sure why there's such a large price discrepancy.

                  1. re: Pupster

                    Acid is not just a flavour, it takes away the leavening effect of baking soda/powder. If you do not add more to compensate for the acidity, you will end up with heavy rocky scones.

                    As for your price inquiry, have you ever thought why butter is more expensive than milk? It is quite similar for sour cream and heavy cream.

                2. I don't have anything to say about substitution- the previous posts about fat & acid content cover it very well- but as for prices:

                  This is all a consequence of capitalism. Whatever is convenient to ship, or easy to mass-produce, has a low wholesale price. Low wholesale prices or loss-leaders allow cheap retail prices. In a capitalist system, prices have nothing to do with efficiency or availability.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: Noah

                    The last sentence in your second paragraph contradicts the 2nd sentence. Did you mistype?

                    1. re: Noah

                      contributing to this is the ability of large dairy product manufacturers to hedge their costs through futures contracts. the price is basically locked and because their processed products are relatively shelf stable compared to fresh milk, they can better handle inventory problems. there may be fresh milk at any given time, but it has already been sold well in advance.

                      an example of this is how delta airlines got clobbered over the past few quarters because of rising fuel costs but southwest airlines locked in their fuel costs and so were able to maintain profits while keeping the ticket prices stable.

                    2. I looked up the ingredients and nutritional info on heavy cream vs. sour cream, and while heavy cream is just heavy cream, sour cream is made from mostly milk (1st ingredient and skim milk is 3rd ingredient) and then heavy cream (2nd ingredient). That would explain the price difference, as, ounce for ounce, milk is much cheaper than cream.

                      2 T of sour cream has 60 calories and 5 grams of fat. 2 T of heavy cream has 100 calories and 10 grams of fat. So essentially you are taking out half of the fat from your scone recipe. If the recipe calls for 2 cups of heavy cream, you would be using 80 grams of fat instead of 160.

                      I find it interesting that you have found you can sub oil, butter, and sour cream interchangably. Butter has even more fat (100 calories and 11 gram fat per 1 T) than heavy cream which makes sense, since it is agitated cream with excess liquid drained out.

                      And that's just the fat content. I can't even begin to tell you the effect of enzymes or whatnot. So I join the chorus of those folks that say not to substitute. But if you do, let us know. It sounds like an interesting experiment.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: Jujubee

                        Thanks for additional info, which supplements what 'summertime' was pointing out below.

                        As for interchanging butter, oil, and sour cream, I wasn't implying a one-to-one, but that different layer cake recipes use any of those 3 items as the fat source, of course with adjustments for the ingredient. I thought it might be possible in this case.

                        I think what I might do is google a sour cream scone recipe to see if one even exists. Then I may experiment making a small batch. There seems to be an adequate enough curiosity about it, so now it's brought out the scientist in me.

                        1. re: Pupster

                          As I mentioned yesterday, there are 6 different scone recipes on epicurious which all use sour cream:)

                      2. I have not read all of the responses, but many years ago, I tried to make a dijon cream sauce recipe. I did not not know about the various types of creams available. The recipe wanted heavy and I could only find whipping. I decided sour cream was "heavy" so I tried to use sour cream, I knew whipping cream was used for deserts. The dish was edible, but not very good. It wasn't until years later, a neighbor made a similar recipe for me and I learned about the different types of cream available at my local stores.

                        I would recommend using cream, not sour cream. But, I would also recommend trying the sour cream. I have been reading Cook's Illustrated, and like that they report the results of the various methods they tried, vs. Sunset Magazine (and others) where you only get the results they liked.

                        Reminds me of a saying. An unwise person will spend $1 on a $2 item they can't use, a wise person will spend $2 on a $1 they need.

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: Alan408

                          Or, penny-wise, pound foolish.

                          1. re: Alan408

                            I heed your warning about being penny-wise, pound-foolish. I figured I can always use the sour cream in other recipes, should chowhounders dissuade me from trying out sour cream scones. It was more about the possibility than the money saved.

                          2. Thanks, everyone, for your input. I did a web search for sour cream as an ingredient in scones, and it turns out everyone was right. There are lots of sour cream recipes out there, but most supplement with additional fat, in the form of butter, cream, or buttermilk.

                            However, I did find one that was exclusively sour cream:

                            Sour Cream Scones

                            2 cups flour
                            2 1/2 tsp baking powder
                            1/2 tsp baking soda
                            1 tsp salt
                            1/4 cup sugar
                            1 egg
                            1 cup sour cream
                            1/2 tsp vanilla

                            Combine flour, powder, soda, salt and sugar. In separate bowl, whisk egg, then add sour cream and vanilla. Add wet into dry. Pat together and knead 10 times. Halve the dough, pat into 2 6" wide circles. Bake at 400, for 13-15 min.

                            Gonna give this one a try.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: Pupster
                              c
                              Caitlin McGrath

                              The difference here is the addition of an egg (another source of fat, but also makes baked goods tender), which is not part of traditional scone recipes. But then, neither is sour cream! Please let us know how they turn out.