As the saying goes, cream rises to the top, and that is certainly true in baking. Cream’s richness produces tender cakes and pastries with a luscious flavor. In dessert sauces and ice creams, cream acts not only as a liquid but also as a fat, which adds richness and, not surprisingly, creaminess. Cream has a homogenizing effect on dessert sauces, unifying the flavors of all the component ingredients. Whipped cream, often a signature ingredient in desserts such as cream puffs, pumpkin pie and strawberry shortcake, is indispensable for decorating and filling cakes and pastries. Folded into mousses, curds and pastry cream, it lightens and creates a flawlessly smooth and creamy texture.
Cream is the milkfat-enriched layer that rises to the surface of unhomogenized whole milk after standing. To be called cream, a product must contain at least 18 percent milkfat. All cream produced in California is pasteurized.
- “Mit schlag” in a Viennese pastry shop means “with whipped cream.” Paradoxically, a dollop of whipped heavy cream that accompanies a dessert tempers its richness.
- Fluid whipping cream must contain at least 30 percent fat in order to whip properly. The cream, the bowl and the beaters should be well-chilled to promote successful whipping. For full volume and shorter whipping time, add sugar after most whipping is complete.
- Brushing heavy cream onto the surface of pastries or breads produces a rich golden crust.
Light Whipping Cream
Light Whipping Cream contains at least 30 percent but no more than 36 percent milkfat. Cream must contain at least 30 percent milkfat to produce whipped cream.
Heavy Cream or Heavy Whipping Cream
Heavy Cream or Heavy Whipping Cream contains at least 36 percent milkfat.
Half-and-Half is a mixture of whole milk and cream that contains at least 10.5 percent milkfat. Cream is available in half-pint, pint and quart containers.
- Melt butter in whole milk for sauces (2 tablespoons butter to 1 cup milk). Unlike heavy cream, this mixture cannot be whipped.
- For sweet applications, melt vanilla ice cream, using 1 cup melted ice cream for 1 cup heavy cream; reduce sugar in recipe accordingly. This mixture cannot be whipped.
- To make a delicious butterscotch sauce, in a saucepan over low heat, combine equal parts of brown sugar and heavy cream; heat, stirring until sugar dissolves.
- To prepare whipped cream decorations ahead of time, line a sheet pan that will fit into the freezer with aluminum foil. Spoon or pipe small dollops of whipped cream onto the pan and place in freezer for 30 minutes. Remove pan from freezer and cover securely with plastic wrap, then return to freezer. Place frozen dollops on dessert 30 minutes before serving (or, if dessert is hot, right before serving).