Thursday, November 12, 2015

Philadelphia Freedom

The funny thing about cooking is that sometimes something can take days to prepare and lose out in its diners' memories to something obscenely easy.  It's these things--sauces, toppings, bread, crust, condiments--that can be the cook's victory lap. They are almost embarrassingly easy.  Yet still guaranteed to enchant.  So why doesn't everyone make their own whipped cream, bread, salad dressings?  Well, there is the very real challenge of One More Thing.  The fewer things you have to do on the day of any event, the better.  Hosting, divorced from preparing food, is a challenge on its own; and having more items on the list makes it even harder. 
The sun, appearing to be the moon, trying to cut through the fog.


A November palette
Pumpkin pie is non-negotiable for many of us.  It seems a lot of people genuinely dislike it.  I wonder if that's because their spices are from the previous millennium? Pumpkin pie is not a boring, flavorless dessert.  I see how it could be though.  Think of pumpkin like a forest floor.  That is the extent of its role in its namesake pie.  What a pumpkin pie really celebrates is a bloom of aromatic, warm spices.   
I have a fascinating client who taught me all about blooming spices.  On her first appointment with me, she was headed home for a six month visit to India. I, obviously, had a million questions.  When I was growing up, my mother had a terrible time leaving us.  I really only had one babysitter.  A family friend who happened to be Gandhi's great niece. As you might guess, her ability to keep the peace was remarkable.  Sometimes, maybe only once, we would go to P's house instead of P coming to ours.  I grew up in a tone on tone on tone house--which I curiously replicate now--and P's house was full of vivid color, aromas, and art.  So my infatuation with India started early. Anyway, when my client and I met that first time, she answered my questions with great delight.  I was most interested in gold and spices.  I guess evil white man habits die hard.  I love gold, and have noticed that Indian people often have the most beautiful gold jewelry.  She told me that Indian gold is usually pure 22 karat, and rarely plated, so it's more saturated in color and absorbs light; which gives ethereal illume.  I also wanted to know all about spice kitchens, storing spices, buying spices--all of it.  It was then that she taught me the importance of blooming your spices in oil.  The hot oil will make the spices dance and come to life. 
It all has to do with coated molecules and stuff but I didn't even earn an "F' in Chemistry, I earned an "I".  So you can ask Christopher Kimball to clear the science up for you. 
I follow the Libby's back of the can pumpkin pie recipe, except I: 1) use duck eggs 2) double the spices and 3) bloom the spices in 1/2 stick (melted) butter 4) add 1T whiskey to the filling (helps evaporate moisture more quickly + amplifies flavor).

In typical fashion, I've diverted from what I meant to talk about.  Whipped cream.  Whipped cream is so simple that you can ruin your day with no effort at all.  Most commonly this is done by leaving the mixer whipping and walking away.  Don't walk away from whipping cream.  Whipped cream is traditionally made right before it's needed.  Whipping cream traps air, which creates fluff.  Whipped cream will eventually unwhip itself.  So that's why it's important that it be made quickly before it's needed.  You can make it before dinner, but you will have already lost volume.  The struggles with making it right after dinner are many.  The noise, the drunk and forgetful cook (it becomes butter when overwhipped), the counterspace rapidly filling with the dishes from dinner, and the heat.  A house full of people will heat up.  A kitchen full of people that's been cooking things in oven and on flame for days will really heat up.  My kitchen faces west.  By evening, it's warm.  Bad conditions for cream whipping.  Even with a frozen bowl and ultra-cold cream, it often can't be entirely convinced to whip and puff in my kitchen.  Not to mention, I really would have preferred to cross it off the list hours ago. 
Cream cheese.  Cream cheese is your ticket to whipped cream freedom (whipped creadom).  It still doesn't hold up forever, but certainly about twelve hours.  This allows me to make the whipped cream first thing on Thanksgiving morning, and cross it right off the list.  Homemade whipped cream is one of those victory laps we all might as well take.  Why pass up ending the meal with adoration? That was easier and less embarrassing than watching the cashier judge you while she scans ten bottles of reddi-whip?




Stabilized Spiced Whipped Cream
2 cups heavy whipping cream, very cold
1/2 bar (4 oz) cream cheese, room temperature
3 Tablespoons granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
dash salt


Using wire whip attachment on mixer or whisk, cream sugar and cream cheese with spices and salt.  Add whipping cream and vanilla extract and whip until voluminous.  About 1 minute on a stand mixer. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate.  You may wish to add more sugar, I prefer a whipped cream that is not too sweet. 

35 comments:

  1. Cream cheese to stabilize the whipping cream...how have I lived my whole life never knowing this? Amazing. And you are not the only one fascinated with India, I have long felt that way. I even chat up the call-center people to talk about their local areas and what they recommend seeing. Someday I will go to India and put all their tips to use!

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    1. Thank you! It makes something easy like whipped cream an absolute no-brainer. I doubt I'll ever visit, so I will love to hear all about yours!

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  2. This cream sounds amazing! Will have to try the recipe. It's for serving with the pumpkin pie, right? What else do you have it with?
    Have been making whipped cream since I was a kid - one of my kitchen jobs when a child. Now I particularly make it to top a pavlova (husband has become very health conscious and refuses to eat cream normally), so only whip it just before ready to serve. The trick (if you don't use cream cheese) is to buy double the quantity you really need, just in case. When it's for a pav topping I never add sugar, just a little good quality vanilla. There's so much sugar in a pavlova that a slightly tart cream is a better combination with ripe strawberries and fresh passionfruit pulp (from the fruit - not a tin). Oz and NZ housewives love serving pavlova for dessert because you can make the base early in the day and just let it cool on a stand. Then top it with cream and fresh fruit and it's a luscious dessert.

    I taught our cook to make them when we lived in Colombo. Sri Lankans had never tried it before and raved! When people were ringing to RSVP for our next dinner, every single one asked "And will there be pavlova for dessert?" The word had got around. So we served. By about our sixth dinner party I told the cook not to make it as I didn't want to be thought of as a hostess who always served the same thing. When dessert was about to sally forth - the faces lit up in anticipation and then fell like a souffle exposed to an arctic wind. Such disappointment! So from then on I just told the cook always to make pavlova whenever. But to make other desserts as well, which he normally did.
    Have you ever heard of wattalapam? I think perhaps it's more a Sri Lankan dessert than an Indian one. Have never made it myself, it contains jaggery and other essential ingredients which are difficult to get here. Really quite spicy. I loved it and our cook made a superb wattalapam. Sighing, I miss it!
    Love your beautiful pics - they're works of art! You're so talented Stephen Andrew! Pammie xxx

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    1. No, I've not heard of wattalapam! But I like the word. Can you believe I've never actually tried pavlova either?! It's one of those things that has been on my list forever and yet I've never made! How funny about your disappointed guests! Clearly you had a signature! I know that feeling as one of the first things I mastered was key lime pie. And so I made KLP for a lot of people and brought it a lot of places. People will still ask if there's KLP for dessert and seem a little sad when the answer is no! Thank you so much, Pammie! Always love your comments with such fascinating history!

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  3. Stabilized whipped cream! Wonders never cease. It will grace my Poached Pears this Thanksgiving. We are guests and I've found PP to be the desert that takes a journey beyond 45 minutes in stride.

    Your photos perfectly capture the end of Autumn. Beautiful.

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    1. Thank you so much! Oh yes they hold up so well and still always impress people! This whipped cream will travel well, too! Just as long as it can stay cold. If a cooler is too cumbersome, I might get it into Tupperware and then pack it in a lunchbox with a cool pack.

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  4. I love pumpkin pie ... but only for breakfast the next day! My grandfather used to say, "It's an old New England custom to eat pie for breakfast." For the last two years, I've been using a Cook's Illustrated recipe that's infinitely superior to my previous one, and it also instructs the cook to "bloom" the spices. I can't wait to try your whipped cream. For too many years, I've whipped cream in a gravy-spattered, overheated, crowded kitchen; the struggle is real! Thank you for sharing your recipe. (I am loving your Thanksgiving writing; can you please do Christmas too??!)

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    1. I've heard that! I love that idea. I'm still jealous of your Massachusetts Thanksgivings! What could be better? Thank you so much. I think I will probably write about Christmas too. I'm just as, if not more, obsessed with Christmas. I'm making fondue for Christmas this year! I've never made it before.

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  5. And that's why I delegate dessert to someone much better than I. I'll pass on your wonderful recipe!! By the time I finish getting the place all festive and meal cooked I'm over it. I'll just sit over here with a glass of wine, thank you. Cheers!!

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    1. I like the way you think, Kathleen! Thank you so much!

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  6. like everyone else i will be trying your whipped cream which sounds sooooo good. you really are a great writer stephen andrew. i actually don't want this season to end because it obviously has given you lots to write about. i've been somewhat dreading this holiday but you have begun to turn me around and i'm thankful to you for that. :) xoxo

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    1. Thank you so much, Janet! I don't blame you. It's the holiday of meat and butter, at least culturally. But I'm so glad to know that you're having fun with it by outsourcing most of the non-vegan cooking. This whipped cream is so good. I think your guests will love it! Can't wait to see how your Thanksgiving is set up.

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  7. Love that you had an early start learning about spices. I love Indian food and we often go to Vij's Indian restaurant in Vancouver. I own both his cookbooks and the complex flavours of the dishes are because of those spices that are sweated in ghee. Google him he is a treat to watch. Vikram Vij.
    Oh I love your trick about whipped cream. I will try it next time I entertain. How wonderful not to have the kitchen aid beating after dinner between courses. I never add sugar but that cream cheese tip is going to be wonderful. Thank you.

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    1. Oh I will look into him! I rarely cook Indian because I've had so little exposure to it. Thank you! Please let me know how the whipped cream works for you!

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    1. It's easy to do! especially with so many other things going on!

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  9. I don't know if I have ever tried whipped cream with cheese even unwittingly. I love whipped cream and buy the ready made french ones and they are nice though I know not a substitute even if it does have vanilla bean. Over here though - people like clotted cream with pies or creme fraiche. But of course that's just what I come across and know people have different routines. I tried a cake in Korea and they had a lovely whipped sour cream and must say I really enjoyed the tang of that. But I will try this next time I make some whipped cream especially as it is hot chocolate season now.

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    1. It's very good, it gives the whipped cream a little more backbone and substantial mouthfeel. I love whipped sour cream! Absolutely love it. My palette always leans acidic. Passed over True Cost on Netflix last night and felt you telling me I shouldn't turn a blind eye. But I still did.

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  10. Shut the door! I have never HEARD of this but I am going to try it now!!! I will probably do both...I keep my deep stainless bowl and whipping "beater" in the freezer until I need them and that always helps. Thanks for the tip on this, Stephen. It sounds like something I would LOVE!

    I have never "bloomed" my spices but I like the idea! xo Diana

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    1. Please let me know how it goes! It's a huge timesaver and so nice to not have to do right after dinner!

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  11. Well isn't that a nice little tip? Thanks for sharing it! I will definitely give it a try. What I will not give another try is pumpkin pie, which is gross even with duck eggs and bloomed spices. It's a texture problem. A severe texture problem. Out of curiousity ... where does one procure duck eggs?

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    1. Thank you! Oh I understand. I have food texture issues too. I do not eat beans ever. And I think hummus is perhaps the most vile thing on the planet. Well, duck eggs are quite difficult to track down. I'm having a lot of trouble sourcing them this year! I might have to slum it with chicken eggs. If you go back to my November posts last year, there is a post called Wild Duck Chase that is about my love for duck eggs!

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  12. Any chance you will provide us with your KLP recipe? Please? Janie

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    1. Hello, Janie! Of course! I probably won't make another one until spring, so likely won't post it until then. But if you're thinking you'd like to make one soon, let me know and I'll just post it in the comments here. It's so easy. The filling is 1c lime juice (I don't bother w key lime) 2 cans condensed milk 2 eggs (preferably duck) and a little lime zest.

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  13. I'm assuming the stabilized whipped cream doesn't require the pumpkin pie spice? I dislike (hate!) anything pumpkin. Maybe it's the texture. Same goes for the dreaded sweet potato casserole with marshmallows on top...
    That being said, I still love Ocean Spray cranberry sauce from the can, complete with the ridges. It's the best on a turkey sandwich the next day, with lots of mayo!

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    1. Oh this is so tragic for me to hear of all you guys who hate pumpkin! How can this be?! But I understand. I do hate hate hate beans and cannot be convinced otherwise. Well usually PP spice has no pumpkin in it. I included it because it has cloves and I hate to grind cloves. But double check because ever since Starbucks added actual pumpkin to the pumpkin spice latte, some PP spice blends now have dried pumpkin. Which is nasty! Regardless, customize it with your favorite spices by all means! I've also folded cranberry relish into plain whipped cream which is delicious. Or honey or maple syrup or bourbon. Anything! I've never tried the marshmallow casserole thing! I hate marshmallows. Can you believe I've also never had out of the can cranberry sauce?

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    2. PS-I had been in a feud with Ina for years (she never knew) but I decided to give it up. Well, god damn it, the feud is back on. Love that you tried so hard to do something so nice. And I'm mad it didn't work!

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  14. Growing up on the farm, we had our own milk with a good 3" of cream on top of every quart in the refrigerator. True, it wasn't homogenized or pasteurized, but it made the most fantastic whipped cream ever. (And butter, too.) Now when I buy store-bought whipping cream I'm always disappointed in it. I will definitely try the cream cheese addition to the wimpy boxed cream. Thank you, Stephen!

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    1. Oh Karen I can't imagine how hard it would be to go from having fabulous, fresh, real cream to the stuff at the grocery store! Have you read the book "Growing a Farmer" by Kurt Timmermeister? He writes in great detail about his love for his Jersey cow and making real crème fraîche. It made me want a Jersey cow so badly! I've been on the hunt for someone who has Jerseys where I can buy milk and cream but haven't found anyone yet.

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  15. 1. I need to learn how to bloom spices
    2. I need this whipped cream recipe in my life
    3. I need to figure out how I am even pulling off some kind of makeshift Thanksgiving this year
    4. You make my heart happy

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    1. Thank you! How are things going?! Will Thanksgiving be in TN or NJ? Depending on your schedule you could make stuff this weekend and freeze it! All Thanksgiving fare freezes well except mashed potatoes.

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    2. Ugh...house still has not sold, there is not one house (in my price range) here that I would plunk my money down on that I would not be "settling" for and my husband and daughter are still in NJ. I have to work Thanksgiving night and Friday so that makes going home impossible and they could come out here but we have the two dogs at home who are already distressed that the family is apart. I cannot imagine subjecting them to kenneling.
      I am actually pretending that Thanksgiving is not really happening right now. :(
      Self defense mechanism.

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    3. Oh I don't blame you a bit. Thanksgiving can be any day you choose! So it's on delay this year. I've always said I'd love a Thanksgiving in September anyway. So much more fresh produce! Maybe I'll come down and help :) the market is so bad for buyers right now, I'm not surprised you're having trouble. Just remember that the holidays always push people to divorce so there will be a big fresh crop of houses for sale come February! And the farmers almanac says there will be a lot of snowstorms, so you can brave the weather as you're accustomed to in NJ. It's a serious leg up on the Tennesseans. Sending you my best wishes! Your Thanksgiving will come together in its own time.

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  16. I love pumpkin pie and must try the whipped cream idea, will make it this week, husband will be so happy. I do Indian cooking (although it stinks the house so much, do it less than I used to) and always bloom spices in butter, my mother in law taught me that many years ago.

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    1. Thank you! Please let me know if you make it and how it goes!!

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