May 3, 2009
Cream to beat
By Chris Tan
Q I have a cheesecake recipe which requires whipping cream for up to seven minutes until stiff. Once, I over-beat it and water appeared in the cream. When I continued beating, the water slowly disappeared (it took 20 minutes). The cream became stiff again, but it was more yellowish than usual.
Ernestine Huang Yuan Sim
A That recipe sounds dodgy. The time cream takes to reach stiffness varies a lot depending on its butterfat content, the ambient temperature and what you're using to whip it.
Whipping cream introduces air bubbles that, as they multiply, squeeze butterfat globules together. Take this process too far, and the globules gang up in heavy hordes, the bubbles will pop and voila, you get butter - your 'yellowish' result. If you want softly or stiffly whipped cream, keep the cream cold and keep a close eye on it as you whisk. Stop beating before you think it's done to check how thick it is. It will continue thickening for a few seconds after you stop whisking.
If you'd like to try making your own butter from cream, simply start by whipping 500ml of very cold cream in a deep mixing bowl.
If your kitchen is warm, immerse the mixing bowl in a larger bowl with some ice in it. Keep beating steadily with a balloon whisk or hand mixer.
The cream will thicken, stiffen, become lumpy and eventually separate into small, pale yellow curds and thin white buttermilk. Drain off the buttermilk as it appears and keep beating the curds.
When they start to stick together, switch to a wooden spoon and work them into a single mass of butter. When no more liquid is being exuded, the butter is ready. The higher the butterfat content of the original cream, the more butter you'll end up with.
The photo above depicts (from left): stiffly whipped cream; over-whipped cream on the verge of separating; butter curds amid pools of whey; and the agglomerated butter with the whey drained off.
Freshly made unsalted butter should be patted dry with paper towels, tightly swathed in two layers of plastic wrap and then a layer of foil, and stored refrigerated.
Use it within two days for the best flavour. It's wonderful all by itself on toast or crumpets, or baked into butter-showcasing items like shortbread or butter cake.
It has a slightly higher water content than store-bought butter, so use about 10 per cent more than the recipe calls for by weight.
Q I have come across many recipes which call for unsalted butter but then require you to add a pinch of salt later. Is there a difference? Can't I just use salted butter?
A Yes, there is a difference.
If you make your own unsalted butter from cream, as described above, you'll see what a delightful, dairy-sweet flavour it has when it is spanking fresh - much more appropriate than salted butter for desserts, pastries and dishes with delicate ingredients.
Also, adding salt separately allows you to more precisely control the salt content and taste of the whole recipe.