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Heavy cream, sometimes sold as whipping cream or heavy whipping cream, is cream with a fat content of 36% or more. It enriches sauces and often appears in traditional French and Italian sauces. As a home cook, you may wish to avoid its high saturated fat content. At other times, you may not have it on hand. Fortunately, you can create a versatile creamy white sauce with a little less fat and a few ingredients that you probably have in your home.

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Melt 2 tbsp. butter in a pan over low heat until it melts and starts to bubble.

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Whisk in 2 tbsp. flour. Stir vigorously for 3 to 5 minutes, so it cooks fully.

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Turn heat to medium. Continue stirring.

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Add 1/2 tsp. salt to the flour and butter. Stir for a few seconds, until the mixture begins to bubble.

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Warm 1 1/2 cups whole milk and add it to the sauce mixture as soon as you see it start to bubble. This prevents the ingredients from burning.

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Stir rapidly; do not stop because this can lead to burning. The mixture will begin to evaporate, or reduce.

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Stir for 5 to 10 minutes, until your sauce reaches the desired creaminess. The longer it cooks, the thicker the sauce becomes. There is no correct consistency here; just taste and cook until you are happy with the result.

Tip

Measure and set aside all of your ingredients before you begin the cooking process. That way, you need not return to the pantry or refrigerator for ingredients and thus neglect stirring.

Add any seasonings you like to finish off a wide variety of dishes. For example, 3/4 cup cheddar cheese melted into the finished sauce makes a great topping for broccoli. Alternately, try adding 1/4 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano, three or four cloves of sauteed garlic and a bit of chopped Italian parsley for a rich Alfredo sauce. Experiment with different seasonings and dishes, as the possibilities are endless.

To make your sauce richer, add more butter to taste.

Substitute equal proportions of olive oil for butter if you like; it goes well with Alfredo sauces.

If you prefer, use a lower-fat milk, but remember that this extends your cooking time and yields a less flavorful sauce.

Warning

Uncooked flour ruins sauces by masking any flavor other than that of raw flour. Try tasting your ingredients to ensure thorough cooking before adding more ingredients.

About the Author

Christina Lee

Christina Lee began writing in 2004. Her co-authored essay is included in the edited volume, "Discipline and Punishment in Global Affairs." Lee holds a Bachelor of Arts in English and politics from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, a Master of Arts in global affairs from American University and a Master of Arts in philosophy from Penn State University.