Fresh, homemade whipped cream is one of the best little tricks you can keep up your sleeve. Homemade whipped cream is so luscious, and strikes the perfect balance of being both rich and light at once. And it’s made of one thing: heavy cream. The “non-dairy whipped topping” of yesteryear is best left there.

You want to whip up a mound of light, perfectly aerated whipped cream, and it seems foolproof. A no-brainer. Yet using a little brain goes a long way to make no-flaw whipped cream every time.

Here’s how to make whipped cream:

  • Use excellent quality heavy whipping cream. Ideally your cream will be organic. Shetler’s dairy up north here is all clean dairy, and they  use a low pasteurization that leaves more of the good bacteria in their dairy products. This cream is thick and rich, BUT it does not whip up the same way the ultra-pasteurized cream, which is typically what you find at the grocery store, does. I find the local cream whips easily, even by hand, but becomes over-whipped before it incorporates much air. I prefer the organic but standard grocery store variety heavy cream for whipping, for both volume and texture.
  • Everything needs to be cold. Chill the bowl and the cream right up until just before whipping; a metal bowl is best because it adds to the chill factor. When you start with chilled tools and ingredients, the cream whips up more readily and with greater volume.
  • We whipped our cream by hand with a big balloon whisk in culinary school, which has its advantages: you have more control with the slower whipping process and less likelihood of over-whipping the cream. But a stand or hand mixer is usually just the ticket, my favorite ticket, for a quick and fluffy job.
  • With the mixer, start on low/slow until the cream starts to thicken; this avoids spraying the cream while it’s still very liquid. As the cream gets heavier and begins to take shape, turn up the speed. Now watch closely so that the cream whips into big fluffy mounds—soft peaks—but doesn’t go too far and turn to chunky. This heavy, over-whipped cream is on its way to becoming butter.
  • If you do take the cream too far beyond whipped, it can be saved by stirring in a tablespoon or so of cold cream to correct and smooth it out.
  • Whipped cream can be made ahead and kept in a glass or plastic container in the refrigerator. It’s best used within a couple of hours, but I’ve seen whipped cream looking great even the next day.
  • Sweeten whipped cream with a tablespoon of granulated sugar per cup of cream, if you like. Powdered sugar is an option but it has to be sifted to avoid lumps. Other sweeteners like honey, maple syrup, or agave syrup work well too—just lighten it with some of the cream stirred into it before adding to the whipping bowl, so that the syrup will incorporate.
  • To flavor the cream, add extract (a teaspoon of vanilla or mint, or a few drops of rose water or orange blossom water) at the start with the sugar before whipping.

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