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The Petit Suisse – Fresh Yogurt Experiments

Petit Suisse-Copyright©Tartelette 2008 Not quite Petit Suisse…more like yogurt bulgare…a recipe in progress. Read the rest to find out.

One thing that every European expatriate residing in the States will tell you is that dairy products are different. Let’s take France for example since it is my home country: cottage cheese? Ugh…no not that present. Sour cream? Ugh…no again, we have "creme fraiche" which no matter how hard you try to convince me it is "like" sour cream….it ain’t. Yogurts are different too, some are even so creamy we call them "cremes bulgare". Finally you have my two favorites, fromage blanc and petit suisse. You can find fromage blanc and creme fraiche pretty easily nowadays at health food store like Whole Foods but they cost a pretty penny for what they are. I make my own creme fraiche if I really crave it (recipe below), not to mention that the odds were against me trying to take the easy route, the store was out of it, but I have not tried my hand at fromage blanc….yet!

When expats get together they start talking about everything and nothing and you guessed it, food. Dairy in particular and exchanging recipes on how to recreate them sharing  the same recipes but going a little differently about it.

With friends, we finally put our heads together and came up with a base recipe: creme fraiche, milk, buttermilk and heavy cream. This first experiment we did on our journey to crack down the petit suisse code produced some tasty thick dairy, very close to thick yogurt bulgare. Still….not petit suisse. You will find the recipes for this "yaourt bulgare" below. I encourage you to try it out, very good on its own, but you know what two women with a craving do to satisfy it, right? They keep at it. Back to the drawing board.

Not Quite Petit Suisse: Yogurt Bulgare

1/2 cup creme fraiche (to make your own: mix one cup heavy cream with 1/4 cup sour cream and let sit overnight in the oven with the pilot light on, uncovered, refrigerate after that)

2 cups whole milk

2 cups heavy cream (40% fat)

1/4 cup buttermilk

In a thoroughly cleaned bowl, mix all the ingredients together with a wooden spoon and incubate in a yogurt maker (read the manufacturer’s instructions).

If you do not have a yogurt maker, set the mixing bowl in the oven with the pilot light one, uncovered and let set overnight. Divide into containers and refrigerate.

Petit Suisse-Copyright©Tartelette 2008Left: Petit Suisse with Xocomeli Chocolate Pearls (explanation below) and salted butter caramel sauce

Right: Petit Suisse, Strawberries and balsamic reduction

While working on a dessert one day, she found out that the taste was really close to what we remembered by adding heavy cream to fresh cheese. Further reading about the making of petit suisse, we realized that was the right track to follow. We had the taste figured out but what about the texture. We could not find any details on how drained the fresh cheese should be before adding the cream but it would not be problem to add whey back in if need be (whey being the liquid that drains out of curds or dairies, like the one in your big yogurt container right now).

Trying to make a long story short: on Monday last week I went and got my gallon of whole milk and my rennet to make fresh cheese. The fact that I chose vegetarian rennet is purely accidental since that was all that was available at the store the day I went.

Petit Suisse:

1 gallon whole milk

5 drops vegetarian rennet

1 Tb water

1 cup heavy cream

Heat the milk to 112F in a large pot or Dutch oven. Remove from the heat. Mix the rennet into the water and add to the milk. Cover with a clean towel. Place the large pot in the oven with the pilot light on. Leave it alone overnight. You should have large big curd chunks after that time. Line a strainer with cheesecloth over another large bowl to save some whey just in case you drain your curds to much. Let the curds drain for about 40-45 minutes. I tie all four corners of my cheesecloth to the faucet for that part and take away the strainer. It just helps the manoeuvre at first. Pass the cheese through a strainer if you want ultra smooth petit suisse over a bowl and then slowly whisk in the heavy cream. Divide in between containers and let set for a few hours (2-4).

 Thick and creamy at the same time. A spoon would stand straight in it but so creamy it melts in your mouth. After that….I did have a little fun with the toppings for my newly made petit suisses as you can see from the pictures. Will I do another batch? I am as we speak, eheheh…It may not be the exact original and while many consider that children’s food, I consider it one of those wonderful little things in life. Digging into one is like putting your head on a soft pillow, savouring is bite is like the first sip of a cold cold beer on a hot day…heaven!

Petit Suisses-Copyright©Tartelette 2008Plain Petit Suisse and Petit Suisse with Praline Sauce

I was working on a few sweet sauces for recipes in the book and thought I’d try them out with the petit suisse. I am evil to tempt you with them right now and not being able to write them out for you….arghhhh! Really it’s hard but I got to keep them hidden for a little while longer.

What I can talk about is the "Xocomeli" that I grated on top of one petit suisse. They were sent to me by a French blogger friend of mine, Mercotte, one of the French authorities on macarons and product tester extraordinaire. She had the chance to try out two of Valhrona’s newest chocolate releases: Xocopili and Xocomeli created by one of my favorites chefs, Frederic Bau. Xocopili is Venezuelan chocolate with 72% cocoa, with different spices such as curry and chili pepper while the Xocomeli is 57% cocoa with spices such as cinnamon, star anise, cardamom, etc… While I had an item she was looking for (package leaving tomorrow), I was really intrigued by the Xocomeli and once in my possession, very eager to grate on of those little pearls on my petit suisse. It brought a taste subtle taste of chocolate but gave the salted butter caramel sauce to a complete different level of intensity.

For the Cantaloupe Sensation Satine, I revisited this post and changed the mango jelly to cantaloupe and left the petit suisse in its original form (no gelatin necessary since it was thick enough). The diagonal layers are explained in that post.

Petit Suisse-Copyright©Tartelette 2008 Left: it all started with milk
Right: Revisiting the Sensation Satine: Petit Suisse and Cantaloupe, Fresh Berries.

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Meeta K. Wolff July 7, 2008 um 7:55 am

Oh Helene, you have made my day! True I love living in Germany because the dairy products like cheese and yogurts are simply out of the world. But what we do not get here is Fromage Blanc. I remember it from the times I was in France and really would dig into it like a bad addiction!! I have to give this a try and I have the perfect idea for a spectacular dessert! THANK YOU!

Anonymous July 7, 2008 um 7:56 am

In some way, I understand you "expats", but from other point of view. I mean, I love your photos, your recipes, but sometimes it is just impossible to find some ingredients in my country (Spain).

Language can be also a problem, of course, but more or less, I can understad almost everything (though I know it must be difficult to understand me, sorry for that). Ingredients… that’s another story, sometimes they are really difficult to "translate".

Even something as simple as milk cream or cake flour or sour cream. We cannot find that basic things here, we have to "rustle up2 (improvise) and sometimes we wonder if the results would be different using the proper ingredients.

Congrats for your success with this delicious "petit suisse" and thank you for all your beatiful photos and brilliant articles, you are an inspiration for many of us.

Angelica July 7, 2008 um 9:01 am

I feel the same way about Swedish dairy products here in Germany. The countries are so close, but everything is really different–even the plain yoghurt is mild and almost sweet, not at all like back home. And don’t get me started on filmjölk…

anadelicias July 7, 2008 um 9:42 am

Another post about petit suisse!!!

It´s petit suisse time!!!

Definetely, i´m trying to make this when i´ll arrive from my holidays!!


Cannelle Et Vanille July 7, 2008 um 10:06 am

yes, cheers to curd Helen! This was so much fun we must now find another subject to tackle and "break the code". We think so much alike it’s scary… and the photos… gorgeous!!

Parisbreakfasts July 7, 2008 um 10:55 am

You don’t have to be an EX-Pat to love, love,love French dairy products. I have done homages to French yuoart(sp) till the cows come home…
Still it might be easier to get a ticket to Frence…this looks a tad complicated…ahem
Lovely pictures as always.
How to you get the two pics to stay together like that?
Recipe please…

Anonymous July 7, 2008 um 11:43 am

I understand your longings for European dairy products completely. As our second home is in London, I’ve become quite spoiled by the quality available there (and in France, too, of course!). I’ve spent several frustrated weekends attmepting to duplicate clotted cream and once got something that was close, but not really right. 🙁

Your Petit Suisse look just fabulous! I love, love, love the look of all of them!

Ben July 7, 2008 um 12:46 pm

Not only Europeans think that. Mexican dairy products and American dairy products are different. I don’t know why but dairy products here doesn’t seem to be as fresh. What I do miss more is my mom’s homemade yogurt. That was heaven!

Anonymous July 7, 2008 um 1:09 pm

That looks delicious. I’m not sure I’ve even tried Petit Suisse… If you and Aran love it, I must try it!

Anonymous July 7, 2008 um 1:10 pm

I knew your blog links in other blogs franceses.Y suddenly I discovered all of the wonderful cuisine, great recipes and photos that have so expectaculares, all thanks to the Darings Bakers.
I love blogging, I have to favourites and every day what consulting.Me like everything from petit suis today until the cups of Sensation Satinee P. Hermé (Getting these layers?) The only exception is that little English, a little more frances.Pero by what others considered a fan daily

Mary July 7, 2008 um 1:28 pm

I don’t think I’ve ever had petit suisse, but it looks really delicious and creamy. And frankly, your satine really makes me wish I liked cantaloup!

Anonymous July 7, 2008 um 1:30 pm

Helene, I agree, and it seems that expats the world over reminisce about their home country’s food. When I was traveling in Europe, I was astonished at the superior taste of the dairy products. And when I was a kid and lived overseas, what I would have given for some M&M’s and McDonald’s french fries!

Joanna Schmidt July 7, 2008 um 1:41 pm

you have such gorgeous pictures, I am drooling.

Christy July 7, 2008 um 1:49 pm

I’ve never had petit suisse before, or even heard of it until I read about it on Aran’s blog some time ago. Since you two are making it, I’ve no doubts that I’ve got to try my hands on it some time soon…i mean, two of my favourite blogger/pastry chefs created this recipe…it’s not going to get any better than that!! I so envy you being surrounded by French dairy products growing up…you must scorn all the things you find on the American supermarket shelves (only because I know how heavenly French Normandy butter is compared to the stuff we get here in Australia). Beautiful photos and pairings!

PS. I asked Aran as well, but where do you think I should start looking for rennet? I’ve never seen it here before, or maybe just because I haven’t paid any attention.

Bonbon Oiseau July 7, 2008 um 2:34 pm

Huzzahs for you both! The first thing I do when I get to Paris in the Fall and Spring is to stock my friend Coco’s little fridge with my favorite yogurts and petit suisse from the fromagerie at Place Maubert (and macarons from Erik Kayser around the corner!).

What if there was a real French style yogurt and petit suisse here in the U.S. ladies! In pretty little glass jars (I keep my beads in them!) started by two amazingly talented expat expert pâtissiers!?

Oh sorry–I was just dreaming…

LizNoVeggieGirl July 7, 2008 um 2:49 pm

Gorgeous desserts!! Fun experiment too :0)

LizNoVeggieGirl July 7, 2008 um 2:50 pm

This comment has been removed by the author.

Kitt July 7, 2008 um 3:00 pm

Wonderful! And so very tempting. It’s probably good for me that some dairy products are not easy to get here, but also good to know that I can make them with some effort.

Do you have any suggestions for those of us without gas ovens? I am cursed with an electric stove in my new house, so I am lacking a pilot light until I can replace it.

Helene July 7, 2008 um 3:16 pm

Christy: check at local health food stores or if there is a local cheesemaker where you live. Also, there are several ebistes that might deliver where you are.

Kitt: I also have an electric unit (and boy am I glad about that with the economy!). If you have a pilot light on top of your hood or above the burners, you can use that. You can also use a heating pad set on low. Anything that keeps the heat aroud 80F.

Foreign readers: I understand the difficulty to get particular ingredients and I fee the same way since milk tastes different in Europe so does cream…however the experiment worked!

As far as recipes in French, I understand your demand bu right now more than ever I really have no time to add that to my to-do list.

Helene July 7, 2008 um 3:40 pm

One more thing I forgot: about exotic ingredients, trade people! Trade! I have traded number of things with other bloggers, books, salt, spices, extract,….email the blogger in question and suggest a trade! Gosh, I even have a handmade blown glass drinking cup now!! Get out there and make connections!

Anonymous July 7, 2008 um 3:41 pm

Vegetarian rennet? Who, knew?

Julie July 7, 2008 um 3:46 pm

It looks good! I can guess from the ingredients what it tastes like, but … can you just tell me? I get the sense it has the taste and texture of yogurt, and since you called it kid’s food, it’s sweet. It’s not quite supposed to be a tasty thick dairy. Is it like yogurty cheese? It’s hard to make … I’m dying of curiosity–I’m going to Google up a description! =D Thanks for sharing the recipe!

Veron July 7, 2008 um 4:32 pm

I need to try this out, and yes sour cream is not creme fraiche – I like the ones by vermont butter and cheese…ofcourse the home made ones taste just as good. Oh and you have to tempt me with Xocomeli

Clumbsy Cookie July 7, 2008 um 4:34 pm

I love petit suisse, I was reading over Aran as well. It’s beautiful to see people working together to reach a goal! I loved that you paired it with praline sauce, i’m imagining the taste and o boy that must be goooooooood stuff!

Helene July 7, 2008 um 4:39 pm

Julie: it is naturally sweetened by the heavy cram but not sweet since there is no sugar in it. As far as the texture, I wrote that it was thick your spoon could stand straight in it but very creamy at the same time. Creamier than yogurt cheese.

That Girl July 7, 2008 um 5:32 pm

I still need to get my hands on fromage blanc!

Suzana July 7, 2008 um 6:59 pm

Oh wow! I absolutely love fromage blanc! Thanks a million, I will be trying this out very soon. Beautiful photos too – always better and better.

PheMom July 7, 2008 um 7:17 pm

So fun! Two of my favorite bloggers, combining forces to create – who could go wrong!

All the versions look wonderful!

Kelly-Jane July 7, 2008 um 7:24 pm

Oh yum! You have made everything looks so spoonable too:)

Jenny July 7, 2008 um 7:44 pm

Ah so that’s how you make creme frais! I’ve always wondered (and also never found any anywhere) so now will have to find a recipe where I will need some so I can try it.

Alexa Johnson July 7, 2008 um 9:19 pm

Thanks so much for stopping by my blog Tartlette! I’m so glad you did! How have I missed you all these years? I’m a fool for beautiful cooking (especially baking!) blogs. And yours is just gorgeous and yummy. I’ll be back!

Mari July 7, 2008 um 9:22 pm

My boyfriend waxes lyrical about petit suisse, which he used to enjoy on his summer holidays in France visiting his grandparents. He introduced me to it in Belgium, by way of the Carrefour. I was sold.

Mike of Mike's Table July 7, 2008 um 9:26 pm

I’ve never heard of this but it sounds like I need to try it. You always teach me something new and this looks delicious

Anonymous July 7, 2008 um 11:04 pm

The Satine is my next dessert. Thanks, Kevin

cindy* July 7, 2008 um 11:15 pm

everything looks great! congratulations to you both for conquering your quest.

Paula July 7, 2008 um 11:19 pm

I am with you on Petit Suisse. They were my favourite thing about france as a child on holidays there, and continue to be now I’m all grown up and in Paris this summer. Nothing in the UK comes close, so I can well understand your search for an approximation in the US.

La Tartine Gourmande July 7, 2008 um 11:25 pm

Oh you are talking to me by les sentiments ! I am a big fan of petit suisse and HAVE to try this recipe asap! Merci! Comme tu dis, marrant cette coincidence 😉

Rachael Hutchings July 7, 2008 um 11:45 pm

When I moved back to the US from France, I went through a dairy withdrawal, it was awful! I am going to have to try this!

ChichaJo July 8, 2008 um 1:41 am

I agree…I miss the dairy products in Europe, so I can imagine how an ex-pat must feel! Thank you for the tip on "trading packages", that’s something I’ve always wanted to do but was always a bit shy to ask 🙂

glamah16 July 8, 2008 um 2:31 am

I havent has a Petit Suisse since I left France over 20 years ago.Great post. Makes me want to start trying these experiments.

Anonymous July 8, 2008 um 2:48 am

You are absolutely amazing! I don’t know how you do it, but your photographs… writing… recipes… always top notch!

Anonymous July 8, 2008 um 7:18 am

Thank you very much for leaving a comment in my blog. There is no need to add that if you want something "exotic" from Spain, just ask me. 😉

Anonymous July 8, 2008 um 7:21 am

I knew your blog links in other blogs franceses.Y suddenly I discovered all of the wonderful cuisine, great recipes and photos that have so expectaculares, all thanks to the Darings Bakers.
I love blogging, I have to favourites and every day what consulting.Me like everything from petit suis today until the cups of Sensation Satinee P. Hermé (Getting these layers?) The only exception is that little English, a little more frances.Pero by what others considered a fan daily

Anonymous July 8, 2008 um 7:22 am

I knew your blog links in other blogs franceses.Y suddenly I discovered all of the wonderful cuisine, great recipes and photos that have so expectaculares, all thanks to the Darings Bakers.
I love blogging, I have to favourites and every day what consulting.Me like everything from petit suis today until the cups of Sensation Satinee P. Hermé (Getting these layers?) The only exception is that little English, a little more frances.Pero by what others considered a fan daily

Peabody July 8, 2008 um 9:03 am

The one with the cantelope is a beautiful shot.
I’m glad that you are Aran are figuring out your Petit Suisse.

Anonymous July 8, 2008 um 1:11 pm

The photographs are beautiful!

MyKitchenInHalfCups July 8, 2008 um 4:03 pm

Cold cold beer on a hot day . . . .children’s food! I love the things you put together.
So an oven with pilot on would be something like the yoghurt maker for temp and environment. You are awesome.

Anonymous July 8, 2008 um 4:23 pm


This looks amazing! I always love new fermented dairy products.
I adore your little glass yogurt/petit suisse containers. I wondered where you got them — I’d love to get some myself! I culture my own yogurt, and I think that culturing it in the little glass containers would make a really nice presentation (much nicer than the plastic tubs I’ve been using so far)


Helene July 8, 2008 um 5:55 pm

Boaz: the lady who said me the spicy chocolate little balls put them in those glass jars so I used those.

florence July 8, 2008 um 7:15 pm

hi tartelette! you are crazy talented!!! everytime i come to your blog i can’t help but smile & feel so happy. everything you make is so incredibly beautiful!!! i had emailed you a while back re: selling/shipping your macarons but i’m sure you are too busy for that now! congrats congrats on the book!!!

Anonymous July 8, 2008 um 7:41 pm

In Israel you can buy fromage blanc everywhere and at 1/2, 3,
5, and 9% fat. It’s a staple. People spread it on a slice of bread and eat it for breakfast or supper and it makes wonderfull low fat cheese cakes.

Mrs.French July 8, 2008 um 10:01 pm

Oh my how I want to try this….I feel as if I have been missing out! Your photos are amazing!

LyB July 9, 2008 um 1:02 am

There is so much information in this post! So many gorgeous, gorgeous pics! My favorite is the one with the balsamic strawberries, wow! I appreciate that you use exotic ingredients, it’s so much fun to see what you come up with, I love it!

jasmine July 9, 2008 um 2:15 am

Every once in a while I can find something in the shops that I’ve only read about in my UK cookbooks…as soon as I become addicted they can no longer get it.


Anonymous July 9, 2008 um 10:15 am

Great job! Good to know it works with vegetarian rennet too.

Paul July 9, 2008 um 2:07 pm

I just happened to stumble upon your blog today, and I’m so glad I did. I spent a summer in France two years ago and have been missing the dairy ever since. Was overjoyed to learn a while back that it is possible to approximate crème fraîche at home; I’m quite eager to give these a try. Thank you for sharing them!

Y July 10, 2008 um 7:34 am

Great stuff. I love that you guys managed to nut it out over the internet. Ah the wonders of the modern world! 😀 Oh and that new Valrhona product is very very interesting! I hope it makes it to our shores soon.

Patricia Scarpin July 10, 2008 um 1:18 pm

I remember drinking milk in both Paris and Berlin and it was a lot thicker then them milk I have here in Brazil.
Helen, you always make me wanna try different things!

Jaime July 12, 2008 um 1:06 am

mmmm…i had never had creme fraiche before until making the TWD recipe for the peppermint cream puff… and i got to make my own! i love the presentation (as always!)

Anonymous July 12, 2008 um 6:11 am

Ce post est sublime! Il faut que je l’imprime et que je le relise. Tu me donne tres envie d’experimenter avec les petits suisse maintenant!

Tu est vraiment la Reine de la blogosphere! 🙂

creampuff July 13, 2008 um 5:24 pm

Can you make me French?

No … okay … then I’ll just have to try these recipes.

It’s a bit easier for us to find "European-style" dairy products here in Toronto because there’s a demand for it but as you mentioned, they are EXPENSIVE!

I’m always tempted to try making dairy items at home but I’m always scared that I’ll poison people.

Perhaps Mr. Tartelettey could come and be a taste tester for me.

Just kidding.

Actually. Not really kidding.

Inne July 13, 2008 um 7:43 pm

Oooh, I remember Petit Suisse – how they slide out of the little tub, and then you peel the paper off…

Luckily I’m not that far from mainland Europe, but I will definitely keep your recipe on stand-by!

Vero April 15, 2010 um 12:21 pm

Hi! 2 questions from another French living in the US…
first thanks for the creme fraiche recipe, so simple and does look like creme fraiche (haven't tried it yet). I can tell you that after 10 years in the Us this is going to save my life 🙂

1- is it possible to make light creme fraiche? using light cream?
2- I want to try and make the Fromage Blanc Bulgare, but I'm not sure about the way to do it: should I warm up the mix like when I do yogurt? Or put the mix in my yogurt maker cold?

Helene April 15, 2010 um 12:52 pm

I have never made it with light cream so I can't vouch for the results but if you do try it, let me know how it goes.
For your other question: I am not sure what you mean by "the mix" – and same answer, I have not experimented enough to know what steps would give you the fromage bulgare consistency that you are looking for. Hope you get to experiment and let us know the results.

Vero April 15, 2010 um 3:03 pm

Hi! Thanks for the reply!
What I meant was, to make yogurt I warm up milk, then let it cool to a certain temperature and add the starter (yogurt) then put that mix into the yogurt maker. I was wondering if you warm up the mix (cream+buttermilk+etc…) before putting it into the yogurt maker like I would do to make yogurt? Or do you put that preparation directly cold into it…
Will tell you if I manage to do something yummy!
Love your blog, the photos are superb!

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