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Whipped cream

Whipped cream
The inventor of butter must have been an interesting person. Who else would shake a bunch of cream until the arms would shake no more, just to see what would happen? And who would keep going after the cream had whipped into the delight we put on top of pies and sundaes for dessert?

Whipping cream is cream that contains at least 30% milk fat. Cream that has less than 30% fat will not whip. Heavy cream can contain up to 40% milk fat, and is sometimes used for whipping.

The structure of whipped cream is quite complex. A coating of milk protein. surrounds small globules of milk fat, containing solid and liquid fats. These globules stack into chains and nets around air bubbles. The air bubbles are also formed from the milk proteins, which form a thin membrane around the air pockets.

The three dimensional network of joined fat globules and protein films stabilizes the foam, keeping the whipped cream stiff.

Whipped cream additives
Additives are sometimes added to whipping cream to make it easier to incorporate more air, or to make it more stable, so the foam lasts longer. Chief among the stabilizers are carageenan and emulsifiers such as glycerol monostearate (a monoglyceride) and related compounds called diglycerides.

Carageenan is a gelling agent that forms a complex with the milk proteins, adding bulk and strength. A small amount will make a large difference in the ability to hold air in the foam.

Mono and diglycerides replace some of the proteins in the coating around the fat globules. This lets the globules partially fuse together, to form the chains and networks that make up the three dimensional structure of the foam. There are natually occuring mono and diglycerides in milk and cream, but adding more makes the whipped cream last longer and helps achieve higher volume.

Sweeteners such as sugar and corn syrup are added for taste, but they also participate in the structure of the foam, and in the weight of the final product.

Natural and artificial flavors are also added, usually in the form of vanilla extract or synthetic vanillin or ethyl vanillin.

Propellant in canned whipping cream
In canned whipping cream, the gas nitrous oxide is used as a propellant and whipping agent. Nitrous oxide under pressure dissolves in the fats in the cream, and comes out of solution (like fizzing carbon dioxide in a soda) when the pressure is released. The bubbles of nitrous oxide whip the cream into a foam instantly.

By Simon Quellen Field
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