Suzi's Blog

Whipped Cream and Irish Coffee

This is a truth, a fact, and not one of my modest exaggerations. Whipped cream can be an essential ingredient of a recipe, absolutely required by the laws of physics and chemistry.

This post is clearly going to be different. It’s serious and scientific.

Now, let’s just take a sideways step here. I know it’s hot during the days now — the 80’s here in New York. But, at night the temperature still drops into the low 50’s at our Catskills house. Even in the desert areas, the nighttime temperature can drop by 40⁰ or more. I can remember a summer in the Mojave Desert when it was 135⁰ at 1PM and down to 80⁰ by 11PM. I’d go for a walk and have to wear a jacket.

Which means, that still on many nights you might want an Irish Coffee. Below, I’ve got the classic recipe for Irish Coffee and an interesting option, Mayan Coffee, using agave nectar and tequila.

Both recipes call for topping the beverage with whipped cream. And that’s where the science comes into play. Your coffee may be hot. Well, it’s sure to be hot. But there is a critical temperature you have to be aware of: at 173⁰ many spirits, like whiskey or tequila, begin to boil. The alcohol will begin to evaporate and you’ll lose flavor.

Hence the whipped cream. Put immediately on top of the drink, it becomes a lid helping to keep alcohol vapors from escaping that hot liquid. The whipping cream is a physical requirement. That the whipping cream tastes so good is just a side benefit.

Honestly.

Classic Irish Coffee

Yield: 1 beverage

Ingredients:

  • 2 teaspoons light brown sugar
  • 3 ounces hot brewed coffee
  • 1 ½ ounces Irish whiskey
  • Dollop of whipped cream for garnish [sweetened or unsweetened]

Preparation:

In a warmed mug or heatproof glass, stir the sugar into the coffee until dissolved. Stir in the whiskey, then garnish the drink with whipped cream.

 

 

Mayan Coffee

Yield: 1 beverage

Ingredients:

  • 2 teaspoons agave nectar
  • 3 ounces hot brewed coffee
  • 1 ½ ounces tequila
  • Dollop of whipped cream for garnish [sweetened or unsweetened]
  • Pinch of cinnamon for garnish

Preparation:

In a warmed mug or heatproof glass, stir the agave nectar into the coffee until incorporated. Stir in the whiskey, then garnish the drink with whipped cream and top off with the cinnamon.

Sources: Food and Wine Cocktails 2012

 

No Ordinary Whipped Cream

 

For your dessert, your ice cream, or your hot chocolate, I think the best way to describe whipping cream is how a car salesman was describing a fire extinguisher to me: he called it a mandatory option. I did not buy from him.

But I surely do agree that whipped cream is an option that almost cannot be denied when it comes to consuming those end of meal goodies, or that mug of hot chocolate on a cold morning.

Now, the basic way people whip cream is to put it in the bowl, turn on the mixer and then, just at the end, add some sugar and vanilla. I think that’s going to account for 90% of the total.

Oh, whipped cream in a can? Please. Really? Once it is manufactured, a substance is no longer food. It can’t be.

Now that my snobbishness is revealed, let’s go back to basics. I know that using a mixer is very easy, and it yields a good whipped cream. I don’t do it often, but a whisk and copper bowl do create a different substance. A better one. Fluffier and yet firmer. It has an elegance that comes from not using electricity.

Okay, you are going to use the mixer. So, do. And then stop. Just stop. No vanilla. No sugar. Have you ever done this? It can be wonderful. For this to work, you need fresh, fresh cream. If it’s packaged and won’t expire for a month and you wait three weeks, it isn’t fresh and this approach will disappoint you. But truly fresh whipped cream has real flavor with a creaminess that will fill your mouth without just coating it. It truly will surprise you.

Now, back to vanilla and sugar? Not so fast. Let’s cover the sugar. If you use granulated sugar, you’ll obtain sweetness but often a grainy texture as well. It’s not gritty actually, assuming you do beat in the sugar for long enough to achieve some absorption into the cream. But, your mouth and tongue will simply sense that there is “something” there.

In contrast, if you use powdered or confectioners’ sugar, you’ll get a very different effect. The whipped cream is now sweet and quite smooth. It’s not “slick” in any sense, so “smooth” is the closest word I can imagine. If you taste test using granulated and powdered sugar side by side, you know’ll the difference in an instant. Is one better than another? I think it depends on your use. I like granulated for hot chocolate and powdered for topping a cake, such as gingerbread.

Now, finally, the vanilla. Yes, you can add away, remembering that you get what you pay for. Great vanilla provides an authentic flavor.

However, consider going beyond vanilla. For a cup of whipping cream, a teaspoon or two of cocoa powder will give you a very different flavor and color.

I love to replace the vanilla with liquors. Here you have a realm of flavors and intensities to pursue. For example, on hot gingerbread I had whipped cream made with two teaspoons of port. There was a subtle exotic flavor to the combination. I find flavors like port and Kahlua more interesting, and less intrusive, than pure hard liquor: say rum or whiskey. Flavor intensity here depends on you: one teaspoon, two, a tablespoon, more…?

There will be frost on your sidewalks or lawns soon. Time for the morning cup of hot chocolate. Time for no ordinary whipped cream.

 

Source: Brian O’Rourke