Half-and-half sits quietly next to regular milk and cream in the dairy section, a constant presence that doesn't seem to be as widely used as its neighbors. Is there some special about it, and how do you use it besides in morning coffee?
What Is Half-and-Half Made Of?
Half-and-half, also known as half cream in the United Kingdom, is a simple blend of equal parts whole milk and cream. It averages 10 to 12% fat, which is more than milk but less than light cream. Due to its lower fat content than cream, it can't be whipped.
Then What Is Nonfat Half-and-Half?
Nonfat half-and-half is actually misleadingly named, as it doesn't contain any cream. Instead, it's nonfat milk that's been treated with corn syrup and thickeners to approximate the taste and texture of regular half-and-half. It has half the calories of regular half-and-half but twice the amount of sodium.
How Should I Use Half-and-Half?
Half-and-half is best used when you want something richer than milk but not quite as heavy as cream. Since it has more fat than milk, it can add a touch of richness, which is why it's so popular in coffee.
Try using half-and-half in cocktails, ice cream bases, or quiche. While it can be used to enrich sauces, be careful to just splash it in at the end — overcooking the half-and-half can curdle the sauce.
Half and half is also a good solution for desserts that call for equal parts milk and cream, but have a tendency to separate. The fat has been homogenized in the half-and-half, so using it in desserts like panna cotta will deliver a smoother, more consistent result.
→ More on half-and-half in panna cotta: How To Make Panna Cotta
What do you like to use half-and-half in?
(Image credits: Cambria Bold)