Tuesday, December 7, 2010

One of the Basics: Homemade Whipped Cream

I never know when I post things if it's just me spouting obvious stuff.  Take homemade whipped cream. Maybe everyone who reads this knows how to make it. Then again, most of the time at church and other social functions, I always see a can of the aerosol whippped cream or a tub of Cool Whip. Never the homemade stuff. This makes me wonder if lots of people either, A) just don't know know how to make homemade whipped cream, and/or B) think it's time consuming and not worth the effort. Let me just tell you here and now, homemade whipped cream isn't only really easy to make, it also costs hardly anything and it is soooo much better than the stuff than comes in a can or tub.

I'll admit now, when I was a kid, I wanted Mom to buy the aerosol kind of whipped cream. I still think it's kind of fun.  And even if it isn't made from scratch, there aren't too many crazy ingredients in the aerosol kind -- usually cream, milk, sugar (or corn syrup).  Depending on the brand you may or may not find the artificial flavors or dextrose. The propellant is usually nitrous oxide. In all, the ingredients are fairly pure. I mean, cream is the first ingredient listed. That said, you do pay more for the can of whipped cream than you would if you made it yourself. 

As for whipped topping (aka Cool Whip), the first ingredients listed are water, hydrogenated vegetable oil, high fructose corn syrup, corn syrup, and then some light cream or skim milk.  With whipped topping, according to an article I read, you're spending around 41 cents per ounce for mostly water and air -- that's twice the cost of homemade whipped cream. Meh.

If you're still hesitant about switching from can or tub, just at least try to make the homemade stuff and compare it to what you're used to. You'll instantly be able to tell that whipped topping doesn't taste a thing like the real stuff and you may not want to go back. And like I said, homemade whipped cream is easy to make and cheaper. Why would you go back?

To make about 2 cups of whipped cream, you'll need:

*1 cup very cold heavy whipping cream
*1 to 2 Tablespoons granulated sugar
*vanilla extract and any other extracts, liquers, or spices (optional)

Not too complicated, right?  It cost me somewhere between 60 and 75 cents to make a single batch of this stuff.

As for the tools to make the whipped cream, you have a few options:

According to Julia Child (yes, I actually consulted my copy of Mastering the Art of French Cooking for you), the best whipped cream is made by hand, with a large balloon whip. I'm sure she's right, but that is a lot of work. If you want to skip the arm workout, she also suggests using a hand-held electric beater. Mrs. Child wasn't too keen on using a stationary mixer, though, because she says they don't produce as light and smooth of a whipped cream. I'm sure she's right and who am I to argue with a master, but I used my KitchenAid mixer with success.  So, really, the choice of tools is at your discretion.

Before you start, it's a great idea to chill your bowl and beaters (or whisk) in the freezer for about 15 minutes or so. Doing this not only makes the cream whip more quickly, but it also increases its volume.

In a deep mixing bowl, beat the cream until soft peaks form.

For those not familar with the term, the soft peak stage means that you can pull the whisk or beater out of the bowl, flip it over, and the peak will fall over on itself. See how the tip of the peak down in the bowl is standing up but the tip is curling over? 

Once you've reached the soft peak stage, sprinkle the sugar over the top of the cream and beat until the soft peaks return.  If you're going to add vanilla extract (which I recommend. Yum!) or any other extracts, liquers, or spices, add them with the sugar. Be careful with this stage -- you need to mix the cream enough that you don't have granules in it, but you don't want to overbeat it either. In my experience it doesn't take too long to get back to the soft peaks.

For optimal and fluffy results, keep it chilled and use within a couple hours. That said, it's still good for a day or two after you make it, it just won't be fluffy like before. But when you put a dollop of day old whipped cream in hot chocolate, who cares, right?

And that's it.  Easy as pie. Mmmmmm....pie....


Nisha said...

I bet it tastes SO much better too!

Tara said...

I am a whipped cream purist and think Cool Whip is either from the Communists or teh Devil himself. Maybe both. So I always whip up REAL stuff!

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