So it’s May—can you believe it’s May? I don’t know about you guys, but May is always an extremely busy month for us: my niece’s birthday, my cousin’s birthday, my best friend’s birthday, my uncle’s birthday, my mom’s birthday. Not only that, but the weather is finally getting nicer and people want to start throwing barbecues. Also, of course, there’s Mother’s Day.
And one thing these events almost always have in common? There’s some dish somewhere that usually requires whipped cream, whether it’s under, on, or in (what’s Mother’s Day without French toast with whipped cream on top?). Let’s face it, most dessert-y things just taste better with a dollop of sweet, pillowy, freshly-whipped cream on top, like fresh summer fruit. And I’m not talking about the stuff out of the can or the tub.
This is the real stuff and it’s (almost) as easy as squeezing that little lever on the top of a can.
Whipped Cream: The Basics
Whipping cream is a pretty simple process. All it requires is putting cream into a bowl and beating the daylights out of it until you get whipped cream. There are a few finer points to remember before you can get there, however:
When You’re at the Store
When You’re Prepping the Cream
Keep the cream in the fridge right up until you’re ready to whip it. Cold cream is much easier to whip. It also doesn’t hurt if the bowl is cold as well, especially if it’s a warm day.
Before You Whip the Cream
There are three ways to whip cream: with a hand mixer, with a stand mixer, or by hand with a whisk. The first two are easy, the third is still easy but requires a strong arm.
While You’re Whipping the Cream
You may want to beat the cream quickly to get whipped cream faster but it’s better to keep the speed at medium to medium-high. You can over-whip the cream and end up with a wet, grainy mix of broken cream, or, if you overmix far too far, you could even end up with butter!
Because it only takes 15 minutes (at the most) and whipped cream without a stabilizer won’t stay whipped for that long, wait until the last minute to make that magic happen.
Whipped Cream: The Science
Chemically, whipped cream is a foam—a suspension of gas bubbles in a liquid. Cream is the fat-enriched part of cow’s milk that rises to the top of fresh milk. The fat in the cream takes the form of particles that are suspended in the water-based liquid.
Several things happen when you whip cream:
- Air is forced into the cream, forming air bubbles that quickly pop
- The protective membranes around the fat particles begin to break down
- The fat particles don’t like water and so they either find another fat molecule to hold on to or they find the relative protection of tiny air pockets
These steps build the semi-stable structure of fat-molecules-suspended-in-air-pockets that is whipped cream!
This is why only liquid with a high fat content can be used to make whipped cream and/or butter. Whipping cream has a fat content of 30-35% milk fat and heavy whipping cream has a fat content of around 36%.
1 cup of whipping cream or heavy whipping cream (makes about 2 cups, serves 8-10 people)
1 tsp. of vanilla
¼ cup powdered sugar (optional and to taste)
A whisk, hand mixer, or stand mixer
1. Put the cold cream, vanilla, and powdered sugar (if adding) into a mixing bowl or bowl of a stand mixer.
2. Start off on a slow speed if using a hand or stand mixer. This will keep the cream and powdered sugar (if using) from splashing everywhere. After a minute or two, increase to medium speed. If whipping by hand, just keep beating.
The cream can be served now, or..
Watch very carefully, however. If you beat the cream too far past this point, the fat particles and the liquid will separate, turning the whipped cream grainy and looking not-so-good. Or you can keep going until you hit butter!
So, you probably know whipped cream doesn’t stay whipped for long. There’s an easy solution: stabilizing. This is especially important if you’re putting the whipped cream on a cake or cupcakes and need it to look nice for awhile.
Use 1 teaspoon of unflavored gelatin for every cup of cream. Pour the gelatin and 4 teaspoons of water into a small pot and leave it alone until the gelatin has thickened. Next, put the pot over medium heat and stir, stir, stir until all the gelatin has dissolved. Take it off the heat and let it cool from hot to warm (don’t let it cool so long that it sets completely).
So when do you add the gelatin? After the “soft peak” stage. Add it while the beaters are running at medium low, if using a mixer. Once you add the gelatin, you can turn the speed back up to medium and keep whipping until you have whipped cream. Easy!
‘Till next time!