Stabilized Whipped Cream

Say what? Yeah! Stabilized whipped cream. Kind of a weird-sounding thing, and yet a very good thing that I think might be part of my political platform, should I ever run for public office. That's how much I believe in stabilized whipped cream. With prime pumpkin pie season and mile-long culinary to-do lists within our reach, there's no better time to talk about it--a whipped cream that can actually be made days ahead of serving, and not only used in dollop form, but for piping and frosting over cakes as well. Glorious!

What really talking about here is cream that's been given an extra bit of body with the addition of a touch of unflavored gelatin. Not so much that you feel like you're eating whipped panna cotta or something, oh no--just enough to add some structure so that the whipped cream won't collapse on you or weep liquid all over the place while it waits to be eaten. The gelatin also adds a silky quality to the whipped cream and gives it some oomph and a great mouthfeel--a little extra something special to something we've all had 1 million times.

Typically, if you're going to serve whipped cream with something, you should really whip it right before serving for best results. And really, that doesn't take all that much time. But sometimes, when you're already preparing 100 things for a big holiday dinner, you'd kind of love to check one more thing off your list to do the day or your event. Stabilized whipped cream is your answer here--it keeps just fine made a day or two ahead and kept covered in the fridge, maybe even longer. It's the Real Cream alternative to the plastic tubs of frozen whipped topping from the supermarket (not that I'm hating on that at all--give me a thing of Cool Whip, a spoon, and a dark closet and I"ll attack. I am a native Midwesterner, remember). You can flavor this cream however you like--a good quality vanilla extract will make it heavenly good, but dashes of other extracts or liquors are terrific here, too.

Beyond the dollop, stabilized whipped cream is genius as a feather-light alternative to buttercream or other frostings. Just the other day I made a single layer chocolate cake that needed a bit of something as a topper, but not a heavy or super buttery something, and stabilized whipped cream was the ticket. Generously swooped and swirled over the surface of the cake, the whole thing kept beautifully and deliciously over the three days we devoured it. Loaded into a piping bag, the cream can be used to top all sorts of cupcakes, cakes, and pies well in advance of serving time. Stabilized whipped cream--look into it. It's great stuff.

Stablized Whipped Cream Makes 2 cups

1 tablespoon plus 2 1/2 teaspoons cold water 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract (or other flavoring) 1/2 teaspoon unflavored gelatin powder 1 cup cold heavy cream 3 tablespoons confectioners' sugar (more or less, to taste)

In a small bowl, whisk together the cold water, vanilla extract and gelatin until smooth. Let sit for 5-10 minutes. Microwave on high until the gelatin is just dissolved, about 5-10 seconds, no longer--the goal is just to melt the gelatin granules, not heat the mixture too much.

Pour the cream into a medium bowl or the bowl of an electric mixer. Add the melted gelatin mixture and confectioners' sugar and whisk to blend. Refrigerate for 10-15 minutes or until the cream begins to thicken just a touch. Whip to firm peaks with handheld beaters or a stand mixer. Use immediately as a frosting or topping, or transfer to an airtight container to refrigerate for up to 3 days. If storing, remove from the refrigerator and whisk briefly to smooth and fluff the cream before using.

MiscellaneousShauna Sever