This recipe is another case of serendipity. While living in Europe Marie and I visited some restaurants that listed clotted cream as a topping for pastries and other desserts. A bit of research helped me learn that the Brits make it in a different way to how we make our whipped cream and with a very different result with less sweetness and much higher butterfat content. They spread it on scones.
We had it served generously on dessert while dining in Gruyere, Switzerland. Yes, that is the medieval town famous for creating Gruyere cheese. It is a nice place to visit. Anyway, their clotted cream was quite good, but it was not like the British Devonshire Clotted Cream.
Clotted cream is much thicker than our whipped cream, so I was wondering how they did that? Was a thickening agent like gelatin used? All I knew was that we are very careful not to over whip heavy cream when we make whipped cream else it will literally turn into butter and thin milky liquid, and that is highly undesirable.
So, the years passed without either of us doing anything to try to make clotted cream. Now the story of recent serendipitous results begins.
Janet’s son Keith bought a very small high speed food processor for me this past Christmas. He called it a "Tornado." It has various size containers and the small one holds one cup of food, but it is very effective.
A few weeks ago I decided I was hungry for a dish of sliced bananas in whipped cream. I used some heavy cream (about ¾ cup) and some sugar (one tbsp.) and vanilla (1/2 tsp.) and I put all of it into the small food processor container at the same time. That is not how we normally make whipped cream when we use an electric mixer … we wait until soft peaks form before adding the sugar and the vanilla. And the whipped cream normally expands to take as much space as it needs. But I only needed a small amount of whipped cream and using a large electric mixer would have been silly so I decided to experiment using all the ingredients at the same time in what I knew would be a very high speed mixing process.
To cut to the chase, I turned the small food processor on and stopped it after 15 seconds just to see what was happening inside. At that point the cream was not whipped so I turned the unit on again, figuring I would check a second time after another minute. Well, before the minute elapsed I heard a higher pitch sound from the food processor that indicated the blades were spinning freely, as in not in contact with any food.
I stopped the food processor and I wondered if I had created butter? No, I did not create butter. I created a form of clotted cream.
The clotted cream was quite stiff compared to our normal whipped cream and it worked wonderfully with the banana slices. It was delicious and with a texture similar to what we had in Europe. And it really held its shape.
How about that? Dumb luck, but now I know how to make a clotted cream. What is most interesting is that my method bears no resemblance whatever to how the Brits do it or how various Internet recipes describe the process.
One might argue that what I have created is not clotted cream at all because the butterfat content of mine is only 40%, not 50% and higher. One might also argue that I whip my product and the Brits do not, and theirs has a slightly scalded milk flavor from their process, so my version of clotted cream is too far removed from the original that it should not be called clotted cream. Well, why not? I have the texture right and the taste absent the scalded milk overtone. You can spread mine on scones or anything else.
Now lets look at the physical aspects of what actually happened when I made it.
If you think about it, the environment inside the running food processor was much more intense than what we would get using our typical electric mixer. The cream rapidly turned from liquid into a thick final totally emulsified state with some air incorporated but with very little room to expand. It never had a chance to go through a slower progression and take on a lot of air. Initially as a lighter material than the unwhipped cream it was pushed away from the spinning blades as fast as it thickened … leaving only the remaining liquid cream to be spun at high speed.
Thus, when the liquid was all converted into the clotted cream the blades began to spin at a noticeably higher speed, for there was nothing left for them to process. They had pushed all the whipped cream up out of the way as it was being formed and quickly ran out of space for more, so it compacted the whipped cream. It occupied all the available volume of the small food processor container. It was packed in tightly. This infers far less aeration. How neat! No butter! Lucky me.
Now you are lucky too, and you can have a lot of fun using my version of clotted cream to create special desserts where the clotted cream can hold a shape very nicely. All it takes is a bit of imagination as to where and how you want to use it and you will pleasantly surprise your guests. You will, however, have to keep in mind that the volume of the food processor container you use will have to be somewhat small relative to the amount of heavy cream you decide to make into clotted cream, and you will have to run it at the highest possible speed.
In my case 6 volume ounces of heavy cream, with a mere tablespoon of sugar and half a teaspoon of vanilla was allowed to expand only to 8 volume ounces of clotted cream. That expansion ratio is obviously small relative to what we get when we make whipped cream by our normal method. Have fun.