What do strawberries and cream make you think of? Sitting on a grassy bank watching rowers on a tree-lined river Thames at the Henley Regatta? Sipping champagne in a flower festooned marquee at a summer wedding reception? In short, to many people, strawberries and cream mean a perfect summer’s day in England.
And something you may not know – the combination of strawberries and cream was created by Thomas Wolsey in the court of King Henry VIII, so it is a very long established English royal tradition.
What is this fruit, the queen of all summer fruits, the strawberry? Well, the strawberry is not, from a botanical point of view, a berry. Technically, it is an aggregate accessory fruit. This unromantic description means that the fleshy part, which makes up most of the strawberry, is derived from the receptacle that holds the ovaries, not from the ovaries themselves. Each little “seed” (called an achene) on the outside of the fruit is actually one of the ovaries of the flower, and has a true seed inside it. The garden strawberry (Fragaria ananassa) is a hybrid species of the genus Fragaria and is cultivated worldwide. We know and love it for its summery smell, bright red colour, juicy texture, and sweetness. We get through huge quantities; world production of strawberries is around 10 million tonnes, China being the top producer. We not only eat them fresh, we also drink them, in juices, milkshakes etc, and they are used for jam, pies, ice cream, and chocolates as well.
Although England is by no means a major producer, it is difficult to beat the quality and flavour of English summer grown strawberries. To maintain top quality, berries are harvested, by hand, at least every other day. They are picked with the green caps and a short stem still attached. Strawberries need to remain on the plant to fully ripen because they do not continue to ripen after picking. To be eaten at their best, they must be freshly picked and not washed until just before consumption, meaning that the popular activity of ‘pick-your-own’ is perfect for them. And they’re healthy too – one serving (100 g) of strawberries contains approximately 33 kilocalories, is an excellent source of vitamin C, a good source of manganese, and provides several other vitamins and dietary minerals.
Not only are the strawberries in our macarons grown in England but the cream is too! Our cream is organic cream of the very highest quality from cows who live in England’s green and pleasant land.
Different types of cream
Fresh unpasteurised milk quickly separates and the rich fat rises to the top. When this layer is skimmed off, the result is cream, a very versatile ingredient in the kitchen. It is used in cakes; can form a base to desserts, such as posset; be added to both sweet and savoury sauces; or used as a garnish for soups. But there are several different types of cream. Single cream is basically a richer version of milk, with around 18% fat content. You use it for pouring or adding to coffee. Single cream will not whip and will curdle if boiled, so it can’t be a substitute in recipes that call for whipping or double cream. Whipping cream has around a 36% fat content, which allows air to be trapped when whipped, roughly doubling the volume. Once whipped, it can be used to top desserts or fill cakes and pastries. Double cream is the thickest with around 48% fat content. It makes an ideal pouring cream, such as when serving with strawberries, or it can be whipped and piped for decorating desserts. It can also be used to add richness and creaminess to savoury dishes. Extra thick double cream is made by heating then rapidly cooling double cream. Clotted cream has the highest fat percentage of all creams at 55%. It’s made by baking double cream until a delicious crust forms on the surface. This silky, butter-coloured cream is a speciality of Devon and Cornwall where it is served with scones, butter and jam.
The strawberries and cream are English; macaron is a French word. The combination of strawberries and cream in 7Marvels macarons is surely an entente most cordiale? And mouth-wateringly delicious to boot – no wonder they are so popular!