In the U.S., cooks often take for granted that whipped cream is sweet. American dishes that use whipped cream are most often desserts for which the whipped cream must be sweetened. In other parts of the world, Europe especially, many dishes call for the unsweetened variety. From whipped herbed soup toppings to homemade creme fraiche, unsweetened whipped cream has a number of uses to broaden your store of recipe ideas.
Whipping the Cream
Sweet and unsweetened cream begin the same way. Whipping cream is beat until stiff peaks form. Some recipes call for sugar to be added during the whipping process to flavor the cream, otherwise it is left as is, ready for use in savory or sweet dishes as unsweetened cream.
For Savory Use
Unsweetened cream is added to sauces or soups and is used as a topping or garnish for meat dishes and casseroles. Unsweetened cream can also be flavored with herbs to complement creamy soups like the traditional tomato soup or potato soup. It is often combined with buttermilk (a teaspoon of buttermilk for every cup of cream) to make creme fraiche, a popular French topping and a tangy, creamy addition to a baked fish or canape.
For Sweet Uses
Unsweetened whipped cream can be used to help dull the excess sweetness of some dessert recipes, while adding a richness to others without compromising the flavor. A savory creme fraiche made with unsweetened cream is an ideal topping or dipping sauce for raw, sweet berries and melons. Unsweetened cream is sometimes brightened with herbs like mint when added to sweet treats. Hot fudge brownie cake and decadent chocolate mousse are a couple desserts that are delightfully paired with unsweetened cream.
A Note on Chantilly Cream
Sometimes Chantilly cream is seen as a direct substitute for unsweetened cream, but it's not that simple. Chantilly cream is whipped unsweetened cream that is combined with vanilla or brandy extracts. It is used most often as a dessert topping, but can be a filling for creme puffs or roasted peaches. Chantilly cream does start as unsweetened cream infused with extracts, but many chefs ultimately end up adding sugar.