Thickening heavy cream is not optional for making items like pasta sauces, pastries and more. But you need to know the right temperatures in which it should be done.
You also need to ensure that the taste and consistency of the heavy cream are intact while you thicken it. Luckily, it’s quite easy to do this. Let’s get started.
What Is Heavy Cream?
Heavy cream is essentially the thick, fatty part you see on fresh milk before it is homogenized. When milk is homogenized, that fat breaks down into the tiniest pieces and stays in the milk.
According to the US FDA, heavy cream has 36-40 percent fat and the rest is liquid. When you buy heavy cream separately from the store, you will see that it has 36 percent fat, but if you consume it in a good restaurant, it will have 40 percent fat.
Heavy cream, which is occasionally referred to as heavy whipping cream, is one of the dairy products with the highest fat content. Whipping cream, which has roughly 30% milk fat content, is the second-most fatty dairy product, for those of you keeping score. If it helps, half-and-half has between 10 and 18 percent milkfat.
Depending on the brand, heavy cream may or may not be present in products like ice cream and spaghetti sauce. Whipping cream is less effective at whipping into form than heavy cream, which is why heavy cream is more often used.
It also has a comparatively longer shelf life and you can freeze and store it to add in recipes later. It’s a pretty useful kitchen essential that chefs love to stash away in the refrigerator.
5 Ways to Thicken It
Thickening heavy cream is an important step in many recipes. It’s not the toughest thing to do, but you need to be a little skillful to get it right, whether you are making a pasta sauce or a pastry. Here are five simple tricks to get the job done.
1. Keep the Cream Chill
The first method that makes it easy to thicken heavy cream is to keep it cold. Don’t take it out till the last minute because warm heavy cream is tough to stabilize and thicken.
If you let it get warm, you will need to spend a lot of time whipping it into shape and still not get the outcome you are hoping for. Keeping it cold ensures that the texture is intact. It’s the simplest thing you can do because you literally have to do nothing. Just let it chill in the refrigerator till you need to use it.
2. Boil the Heavy Cream
When you are ready to use it, take the heavy cream out of the fridge and boil it right away. Now, you must remember to keep whisking the cream so that the flavor does not change. This takes some time and effort but it will also reduce the chances of the cream burning, which makes it all worth it.
So start by heating the cream till it gets to its boiling point. You need to make sure that this happens gradually, so that you have time to keep whisking it. Otherwise, the cream will curdle and your effort will go down the drain. Once it reaches the boiling point, you should keep whisking it till the cream starts getting thick.
When it gets thick enough for your specific purpose, you can bring the heat down a bit. If you let it boil, it will get thicker. You should taste the cream before you get it off the stove to ensure that its flavor has not changed.
If the taste has changed a little bit, there’s no need to worry because that much is fine. You just need to adjust the rest of the recipe to make sure this doesn’t impact the final outcome. If it tastes like burnt cream, well then, you’ve gone too far.
3. Consider Adding Unflavored Gelatin
The third way of thickening heavy cream requires a little bit of effort. But it’s still quite easy and all you need is a little bit of gelatin. And if you pick the unflavored type, you don’t have to worry about tampering with the taste of heavy cream.
You need to figure out the amount of gelatin you need. Check the instructions on the gelatin package to get it right. They often have notes on how to add it to heavy cream. So, it shouldn’t be too hard. Adding gelatin should not make any difference to the texture of the cream either. So, if that’s happening, you got the proportion wrong.
Along with the gelatin, you will need to add some water too. Make sure you incorporate the gelatin slowly and stir it to make sure the consistency doesn’t get affected. If you dump it at once, you will mess up the texture of the cream. Pouring it slowly will also give you the chance to keep assessing it as you go.
And while you’re adding gelatin to the cream, make sure you beat the latter. It will help mix the two ingredients well. And that’s it, the job is done.
4. Mix Some Flour to It
Another easy way of thickening heavy cream is to add flour to it. This is an item that is in many kitchens, which makes it the perfect fit. You can also use cornstarch, but we’ll get to that in a second. Any type of flour will do the trick and here’s how to do it.
Take two equal parts of cold water and flour and mix them well. Make sure the water is cold. Mix it till there are no lumps to retain the texture when you add it to the heavy cream.
Add this mix to the heavy cream in increments of one teaspoon. This will ensure that the texture doesn’t get disturbed because of the new addition. Continue adding as much of the flour mix as you need till the heavy cream is as thick as you want.
Once you are happy with the thickness, taste the mixture to ensure there isn’t too much raw flour taste. And if it does have raw flour taste, heat the cream for a couple of minutes to get rid of it. And that’s it.
Further Reading: Does Flour Go Bad? Everything You Ever Wanted To Ask About The Shelf-Life Of Flour
5. Add Some Cornstarch
The logic for adding cornstarch is exactly the same as the logic for flour. They react the same way when added to heavy cream, they are both easy solutions and the texture or taste doesn’t change at all.
Pick any type of cornstarch and add some cold water to it. Whisk the two till they become one without any lumps. Then add this concoction to the heavy cream in increments of one teaspoon like you did with the raw flour.
Continue to add the mix to the heavy cream till you achieve your target thickness. Do a taste check and if it has more cornstarch taste than is acceptable, simmer the mixture the way you did with flour.
Q: What Am I Doing Wrong?
A: Many people get this wrong because they work on the cream when it is at room temperature. That just won’t work and hence our very first point was to keep it cold.
Whipping it to no end still won’t get you the thickness you want if you are dealing with heavy cream that is greater than 50 degrees Fahrenheit. That’s because, at that point, the fat can’t contain air particles within and as a result, the cream won’t get fluffy.
Q: Are Heavy Cream and Whipping Cream the Same Thing?
A: They are used interchangeably, but they are not the same thing. As mentioned in the introduction, heavy cream has a little more fat than whipping cream. Heavy cream has anywhere from 36 to 40 percent fat, while whipping cream is at about 30 percent.
If you see a product in the store that says heavy or whipping cream, it is safe to assume that it has 36 percent fat. And it’s important to remember that when it comes to deflation, whipping cream gets there sooner than heavy cream.
Read Further: Best Whipped Cream Dispenser Reviews 2022: Top 5+ Recommended
Q: Does Heating Heavy Cream Do the Trick?
A: If you start with cold heavy cream, boiling is a good way to thicken heavy cream. You need to make sure you are in the right window of temperatures to get the outcome you desire.
Further Reading: How to Make Whipped Cream Without Heavy Cream?