Chantilly cream is a tremendously useful variation on standard whipped cream. Not only is it sweeter and more aromatic thanks to the added sugar and vanilla, it holds up much better than ordinary whipped cream. If you imagine an individual bubble in a whipped cream foam, that bubble’s skin is made of water reinforced by a network of proteins and fat molecules (lipids). When heavy cream is first whipped up, those bubbles are reasonably stable. As time passes, however, the water starts to drain away and/or evaporate and the bubbles start to pop. Sugar stabilizes the whip by combining with the water in the cream to form a syrup. Being thicker than water, the syrup is less inclined to drain away. And because sugar is so good at attracting and holding on to moisture, it prevents it from evaporating. The trick is adding the sugar after the foam has begun to form, so the milk proteins have time to uncoil and form their bubble-making network.
Make Chantilly cream by putting a cup of chilled heavy cream in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whip. Add a teaspoon of vanilla extract and begin to whip.
When the mixture begins to form a foam, but is still fairly soupy — a bit shy of the “soft peak” stage — start sprinkling in an ounce of sugar. Powdered (confectioner’s) sugar is best because it dissolves more readily, but regular crystallized sugar will work also.
Whip another 30 seconds or so to soft peaks, or keep going to firm peaks, to a consistency that resembles buttercream. At this stage it can be piped, used to fill meringues or profiteroles, or used as a cake icing.
Chantilly cream can be flavored with all sorts of extracts (citrus are especially nice) as well as liqueurs like Grand Marnier or Cointreau.