This year, our favorite organic berry-picking patch was overrun by hungry deer, so we couldn’t pick our usual lovely collection. Mama found another patch, though it was much less unkempt. Witness the weeds:
But the berries were warmed by the sun, and they positively burst when I bit into them.
At home, Mama ended up doing all the cleaning, but I helped her by eating a lot of those strawberries so that there were fewer of them for her to clean.
But the real show stopper, the easiest and most delicious part, was the fresh berries with whipped cream we ate for dessert. Mama says anyone with a whisk can whip cream, but not everyone does it correctly. She showed me how to do it right.
First, we kept everything cold, including the bowl and the beaters. Mama said this isn’t strictly necessary, but it’s been pretty hot out lately, so better to be safe—you’ll get a better whip with cold equipment. (She also wanted to save her arms by not whipping it by hand, though she suggests everyone ought to give that a try sometime.)
Mama explained that the only cream that’s going to whip is heavy cream, or whipping cream (either one will work). If you try to whip light cream or half-and-half, you’ll be whipping until I turn 4. This is because of the fat content (the fat is what holds it together). She also explained that plain whipped cream tastes about as bland as… well, plain whipping cream. Bleck.
Jude on Food: Flavor everything!
To remedy this, Mama showed me how to make chantilly cream. If you’re feeling fancy, you can pronounce it “shahn-tee-ee,” but I’m really good at making “L” sounds, so I’m going to stick with that. Chantilly is basically sweetened whipped cream with added vanilla.
You can find all sorts of recipes for basic chantilly cream, but Mama’s advice is to taste it once it’s beginning to whip up. If it needs more vanilla (or other flavoring, such as orange, lemon, or almond), add it. If it could be sweeter, sprinkle in more sugar. As for the type of sweetener you use, regular sugar works fine, but Mama likes to use confectioners’ sugar—that’s the soft powdery kind we sometimes put on crepes. She told me she’s never tried other sweeteners, but she supposes they would work just as well. (If you try one, let us know!)
Two other things Mama noted about making whipped cream: 1) go slowly—if you rush it by turning your mixer on high speed, you’ll not only splatter cream everywhere (as I found out), but you’ll heat up the cream, and it’ll take longer. 2) Don’t overwhip it.
The problem with overwhipping cream isn’t the taste. It’s the texture. Even I don’t want my whipped cream to look like cottage cheese. Ewww, right? You can whip it to soft peaks or stiff peaks, but if you go beyond that, you can’t do much with it…except, maybe stuff it into something.
Because it’s just Mama and me right now (Papa’s out of town), she showed me what would happen if we pushed the cream too far:
Mama let me beat the cream at first (note the splatters), but then took over to finish the job. I took this picture (and about 18 more like it):
Another way to tell when the cream is getting close is to stop beating it and check how it looks on the beater.
From here to ruin is a short path, so beat carefully from now on. If you’re planning to pipe the cream, you’ll want stiffer peaks, as they’ll hold their shape. If you’re looking for just a bit of billowy adornment, as we want for our berries, then stop when they’re soft.
Stiff cream will hold in the fridge, covered, for a day or so. Soft cream should be used pretty soon after it’s made. If it starts to weep, give it a light whipping with a whisk before using.
And what’s not to like about having a little whipped cream on hand?
1 cup cold heavy cream or whipping cream*
1 Tbsp powdered sugar (or, to taste)
1/2 tsp vanilla extract (or, to taste)
Place cream, sugar, and vanilla in a medium bowl and beat at low speed with an electric mixer (or in the bowl of a stand mixer with whip attachment); alternatively, use a whisk. When the cream begins to take shape, you may increase your speed a little bit more, but not more than medium. Move the beaters around the bowl and rotate the bowl to ensure you reach all the edges. Beat until desired stiffness, then serve or store until ready to use.
Note: For an extra-special treat, try whipping crème fraiche. As sour cream’s sophisticated (and more pricey) cousin, it’s tangy and makes for a great complement to lemon curd and supersweet berries.
For a vegan alternative, put a can of full-fat coconut milk in the fridge overnight. Without shaking it, take it out of the fridge, remove the lid, and scoop out the solid white part. (Reserve the watery portion for smoothies.) Whip & flavor the white solids like you would cream.