Lightly whipped, soft peak, stiff peak…what the heck do those terms really mean? If you’ve ever had a whipped cream flop, or if the term soft peak sent you straight to the grocery store for some Cool-Whip, this post is for you.
Some folks can whip their own cream with just a whisk and a bowl. I’m a simple gal, so I really wanted to make that happen. But five years of trying and an arm-splint later, I have yet to see it happen (just kidding about the splint…but it was close). Alas, I much prefer the newfangled method of using an electric mixer.
Start with well-chilled cream and make sure it’s labeled “heavy whipping cream” or similar. I try to avoid the “ultra-pasteurized” kind and just stick with “pasteurized” (the difference is how high/how long the cream was heated to destroy bacteria, both are safe but ultra-pasteurized can stay on the shelf a lot longer). Generally, the freshest cream whips the best, so I usually grab the newest pasteurized heavy cream I can find on the shelf (and run!) I like this brand:
You will need 1 cup of the heavy cream for every 2 cups of finished whipped cream you want.
As I mentioned, the cream needs to be really cold (cold milkfat holds its shape better). If you have time, chill your mixing bowl and beaters too. (If not, no worries…it still works, but the cream is slightly less firm.)
To begin, pour the cream in the mixing bowl and turn your mixer on medium-high. If you have a stand mixer, use the whisk attachment (and then go have a sip of wine since you don’t have to stand there holding it. But don’t have too many sips of wine…)
If you stick a spoon in, you can move it around and form little “hills”, but they vanish pretty quickly. This is lightly whipped cream. This type of cream is used in making some mousses and other light and airy desserts.
Keep going another 30-60 seconds and you’ll begin to see the “ribbon” forming as your beaters leave a trail through the cream. This means soft peak stage is coming soon and is the best place to add any sweeteners and flavorings. If you want a sweetened whipped cream, add 1-2 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar per cup of heavy whipping cream. (I sometimes add a liqueur here too…Kahlua is wonderful for a coffee whipped cream, Grand Marnier for an orange…you decide.)
Keep going another 30 seconds or so to get to the soft peak stage. This means when you lift your beaters out of the bowl, you create small “mountains” or “peaks” which flop over at the top. It looks like this:
Keep going for another minute or so and you’ll reach the hard or stiff peak stage. In this stage, everything starts to look a little clumpy and when you remove your beaters nothing flops over. It looks like this:
Stop beating here. Do you hear me? Put DOWN the mixer. If you go much further, you’ll be making butter. What’s that you say? You don’t believe me? Oh fine, I’ll prove it.
Whipped cream won’t stay whipped for long, so it’s best to prepare it immediately before using. If you have to work ahead, you can refrigerate it for up to 24 hours. Just before serving, whisk the cream briefly by hand to thicken it up. It’s not as billowy as when you first whipped it, but is fine to use.
Happy whipping! (Er, that didn’t really sound right coming from a mom..)