Whipped cream or, as French people say, chantilly is one of those foods I started to appreaciate as an adult. I wasn’t a fun of it when I was a kid: I found it excessively sweet and decadent. Regardless my personal taste, we should admit whipped cream is rather easy to prepare, right? Well, it is...provided that we follow certain rules.
Do you remember my post on colloids? Well, whipped cream is actually a fairly complex system: small air bubbles dispersed into cream (an emulsion itself). In a few words, whipped cream is a foam.
To obtain a chantilly, we must absorb air into fresh cream. Nowadays, this process can be easily performed with a food processor or an electric whisker, which allow the formation of chantilly in no time. Nevertheless, Chantilly can present a few pitfalls. Let’s see how to proceed and avoid the most common mistakes.
The cream for your chantilly must contain about 33-36% of fats or it won’t whip. I have seen a friend trying to whip a 10% fat cream (the type you usually add in your coffee), in the hopeless attempt to obtain a “low-fat” chantilly :). Why the amount of fat is so important? During the whipping process, fats align around the air bubbles stabilizing the foam. Actually, the casein and whey proteins contained in the cream are also responsible for the stability by bridging the fats with the water. Anyway, a cream low in fats does not whip. On the other hand, richer creams as the Devon one (48% in fats!) can be whipped.
Is it true that cream must be cold to be whipped? Yes, it is :) Not only cream must contain enough fats to be whipped, but it has to be refrigerated beforehand. In this way, fats are in a crystalline form and stabilize the foam better. Usually, we just need to leave the cream in the fridge (4-6 ˚C) for a few hours to achieve the right temperature.
From chantilly to butter
We selected the appropriate cream and we brought it to the ideal temperature. We now start to whip it with an electrical whisker or a food processor. When do we have to stop? When the cream is firm and forms curls on the tip of the whisker. If we continue, we might break our chantilly down: the fats start to associate with each other with consequent formation of butter. Pre-cooling the cream limits this phenomenon.
In the next post, I will be more practical and provide you with a yummy, decant recipe ;)
Brokeer et al., The development of structure in whipped cream, Food Microstructure, 1986, 5, 277-285
Hervé This, Pentole e provette, 228, Ed. Gambero Rosso