Archives for September 2014

How to Make Homemade Whipped Cream

TitleDo you love whipped cream?  No, not the stuff you get from a can!  I’m talking about real old-fashioned whipped cream– fluffy and cloud-like in appearance while full of rich, creamy flavor.  It’s the kind of stuff that can take an ordinary bowl of fruit or a slice of pie and make extraordinary!  With only 3 ingredients and 10 minutes to spare, you can whip up this decadent treat whenever the mood strikes. I promise it will change the way you look at desserts!

The secret to making whipped cream lies in the cream’s milkfat.  As you begin to whisk, air is deposited into the liquid and turns the cream frothy. While some volume is created, if you stopped at this point the air would eventually dissipate and your bowl would return back to its original liquid state.  However if you continue to fold air into the cream, something amazing happens!  The fat molecules, being jumbled around by the whisk, will actually join together, suspending the air.  The air, now stabilized in the pockets of fat, causes the cream to double in size and creates that soft, fluffy effect we all know and love!

Cream 1Not just any milk will do.  In order for all this to happen, you need to make sure that you use a cream with a minimum milkfat content of 30%.  Heavy Cream, with a milkfat content of 36%, and Whipping Cream, with a milkfat content between 30-35%, can both be found at your local supermarket.  Don’t bother with any other types of milk!  Fat-free and low-fat whipped creams do not exist naturally.

What else do you need?  Sugar and vanilla extract are added to the heavy cream to give it a full-bodied and sweet flavor.  You will also need a metal whisk and a stainless-steel bowl to prepare.  It doesn’t matter if you use a metal whisk, electric hand-beater or a stand mixer, the results remains the same.

The colder the cream, the lighter and fluffier your topping will be.  Always keep your cream in the refrigerator until you are ready to start making.  The process of whisking the cream can generate a bit of internal heat, so in order to counteract this effect, place your metal bowl and beaters in the freezer for 10-15 minutes before using.  The extra chill from the bowl and whisks will help to stabilize the cream while whipping for a light and airy result.

Whipped cream takes shape in stages and it is important that you do not over-whip your cream. Below is a visual guide to help you identify the stages for a perfect bowl of whipped cream. Start by adding the heavy cream and vanilla extract to your chilled bowl.  Begin beating on low.  You will notice small trails starting to form in the cream that slowly disappear. This is the Soft Peak stage.

Cream softAt this point, add the sugar. You may notice some of the milkfat separating and starting to float on the surface of the cream.  This is normal as the pockets of air begin to get trapped.  If using an electric mixer, you can now turn the speed up to medium.

Cream 3Next up is the Medium Peak stage.  Here you will notice clear trails forming where the whisk has been.  While the cream is starting to take on volume it is not yet completely stable.  Peaks will begin to stand up but you will notice the tips slowly softening back into themselves.

Cream 4You must pay extra attention to the cream once you reach the Medium Peak stage.  The cream will quickly turn into the Stiff Peak stage, where the trails run deep through the cream and the peaks of the cream hold their shape and do not fall down.

Cream 5Once you see the first stiff peaks starting to form, stop!  Over-beating whipped cream will cause the fat molecules to break apart and you will be on your way to making butter (the first sign of this is when the cream starts to look grainy). Butter is made then fat molecules break apart again and separate from the liquid, so always err on the side of caution when you first start making whipped cream.  Less is usually more!

Cream 6Homemade whipped cream tastes best right after it is made.  You can make up a batch a couple of hours ahead of time, but since it takes less than 10 minutes to make, I recommend whipping it up right before serving.  Make sure to keep any unused whipped cream refrigerated and if you notice the peaks starting to fall, use a hand whisk to add some air and refresh.

How to Make Homemade Whipped Cream

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 10 minutes

Yield: 8-10 serving


  • 1 cup Heavy Cream
  • 1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
  • 2 Tablespoons sugar


  1. Chill the whisks and stainless steel bowl in freezer for 10-15 minutes before starting.
  2. Add cold heavy cream and vanilla extract to the bowl. Whisk on low until cream starts to form soft trails in the cream (soft peak stage).
  3. Add sugar and continue to whisk on medium speed until cream doubles in size and clear trails have formed in cream (stiff peak stage).


Prosciutto and Melon

TitleItalians are known to take their food and wine very seriously!  Not only do they treasure fine ingredients, but there is an art to preparing their foods that is steeped in tradition and pride.  One such delicacy is Prosciutto (pronounced pro-SHOOT-oh), a salt-cured ham that is typically served in paper thin slices. Salty and sweet with an underlying buttery flavor, the meat practically melts in your mouth.  If you are new to prosciutto, this simple and traditional recipe for Prosciutto and Melon has been served in Italy for centuries, and is the perfect place to start!

But before we get to the recipe, let’s start with little bit of history.  When buying prosciutto, there are two types of available: “crudo”, which in Italian means raw, and “cotto” which is cooked.  The crudo is by far the most popular version and is made using the same salting technique that Cato the Elder wrote 100 B.C.!  The meat is taken from the hind legs of a pig and dry-cured immediately.  It is never frozen or smoked and contains no added sugar, preservatives or spices.  It is simply ham and salt.

Snack 1

There are 10 designated regions throughout Italy where prosciutto is produced, each with it’s own rules, regulations and flavors.  Much like a wine sommelier can taste different flavor notes identifying the regions where grapes are grown, Italians believe the flavor of the meat can be affected by how the pig is raised, what it eats, how it is slaughter and even by the air it breathes!

Most Americans are familiar with Proscuitto di Parma, named after the Parma region where it is produced.  Here, they start with pigs that have been raised on a specific diet of cereal grains and whey protein created from local Parmigiano-Romano cheeses.  The pigs must be a minimum of 9 months old and 340 pounds at the time of slaughter.  The ham is then cured for a minimum of 13 months before it is ready to be sold.  Curing causes the meat to lose half its weight due to the salt.  However, the longer the meat cures, the more concentrated the flavors and the softer the meat.

prosciutto 5Where to Buy:  You can purchase prosciutto at most specialty butchers and even some larger grocery store chains, like Wegman’s and Whole Foods.  I suggest looking for one that has been cured for at least 24 months whenever possible.  Don’t let the price per pound scare you!  A little bit of prosciutto goes a long way, so there is no need to buy huge package.

prosciutto 3

Preparing: In traditional Italian cuisine, a slice of prosciutto is served wrapped around long wedge of melon and then cut with a knife and fork.  However, I like to keep things simple (and bite-sized).  Start by simply cutting the melon into large cubes.  Take one slice of prosciutto and, depending on its size, tear into 4-5 pieces.  Pile one piece of meat on top of the melon and hold in place with a toothpick.  Repeat until all the prosciutto is gone.  These bite-sized treats are great to pass around on a platter at a party or as snack to munch on in the afternoon.

Prosciutto 2Bon appétit!

Prosciutto and Melon

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Total Time: 15 minutes


  • 1 medium sized Cantaloupe
  • 4 ounces of Prosciutto
  • Toothpicks


  1. Slice cantaloupe in half and remove seeds.
  2. Continue cutting into cubes, removing outer skin in the process.
  3. Tear each slice of prosciutto into 4 or 5 pieces, depending on size.
  4. Pile meat on top of melon cubes and hold in place with a toothpick.
  5. Repeat (this will produce 20-30 bite sized pieces, depending how big the melon is cut).


Cotton Candy and Peach Napoleons

Cotton candy title

Have you ever heard of Cotton Candy grapes?  If not, I strongly suggest you keep an eye out for them the next time you are at the grocery store.  Up until this past Saturday I hadn’t heard of them either, but, now that I have tried them, it is going to be hard to imagine life without them.  While they look like your typical green grape on the outside, one bite and your taste buds will be convinced that you are at a carnival eating hot-pink sugar swirled onto a stick.

Cotton Candy grapes are the brainchild of horticulturist David Cain, of Bakersfield, California. He and his team at International Fruit Genetics came up with this natural hybrid by experimenting with different types of grape species.  Their goal was simple: bring flavor back to grapes.  Using simple, old-fashioned science with no chemicals or genetic modifications the results are incredible.  The flavor is pure and sweet with none of the tartness you typically associate with grapes.

After taste-testing in the store, I had to buy a bag.  But what to do with them?  It was hard not to sit in the car and finish them all on the way home.  Since I love how roasting grapes brings our a whole new layer of flavor and sweetness I thought it would be fun to add them to a dessert.  Mixed with roasted peaches, whipped cream and puff pastry shells, these Cotton Candy and Peach Napoleons will melt in your mouth and have you coming back for more!

Cotton candy fruitTo roast the fruit, wash and core 2 large peaches.  You want to pieces that are about 1/2″ thick and then cut in half.  You will also need 2 cups of washed Cotton Candy grapes.   Preheat oven to 400°F and place fruit in large oven-safe dish.  Sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar and roast for 30 minutes, turning once.  Set fruit aside to cool completely while you prepare the puff pastry shells.

cotton candy pastry

Take a prepared puff pastry sheet and follow manufacturers instructions to thaw.  Once thawed, lay a single layer of parchment paper on a baking sheet and lightly dust with flour.  Unfold the pastry sheet and cut into 3 inch squares.  Gently prick the pastry with a fork, then spread a thin layer of butter on top.  Sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar.  Bake for 15 minutes at 400°F.  Remove from oven and let cool completely on a wire rack.

cotton candy layer 1

Once cooled, use a sharp knife to slice each pastry into 3 layers.  Be careful while doing this.  The pastry is flaky and will fall apart.  Place the bottom layer on a desert plate and create a base for the fruit by spreading a thick layer of freshly-whipped cream.  Lay the peaches down first, then fill in all the open holes with grapes.  Make sure that your fruit is cooled down completely so it does not melt the whipped cream.

cotton candy middlePlace the middle layer of pastry on top of the fruit and repeat the same steps as above.  You want to make sure that all the spaces are filled with fruit.

cotton candy serveCover with the top layer of pastry and cut in half.  You are now ready serve and enjoy!