Have you seen the Reddi-Wip commercial that’s been running on television? They’ve timed it to run this time of year when pumpkin pie is being jotted down on the planned menu for many Thanksgiving Day cooks. Every slice of creamy pumpkin pie needs a dollop of topping, right?
In the commercial, a woman is seated at the counter at a diner. When she orders pie, the waitress holds up a can of Reddi-Wip in one hand and a plastic tub of topping in another. “Oil or cream?” she asks.
The viewer knows very well the plastic tub represents the light-as-cotton candy whipped topping that can be found in the freezer case at all supermarkets. And, no matter what brand it is, the frozen topping is usually referred to as Cool Whip.
When Cool Whip was introduced to the public in 1967, my mom went nuts over the whipped cream look-alike. My mother, who grew up eating real food on a farm in Indiana, snubbed the thick liquid cream as she marched right past the cartons of thick white liquid on the shelf in the dairy case and headed straight to the freezer, tossing a couple of plastic tubs of frozen whipped topping into her grocery cart. Maybe it was the convenience that appealed to her — no bowl or beaters to wash, just pop open the plastic top and scoop out the whipped water, sweeteners and oils. I’m sure she did not know it was made of oil. I’m sure she never would have used it as the topping on her pies or the dip for fresh strawberries. I’m positive.
In 2007, Patrick Di Justo wrote a piece about Cool Whip for Wired magazine. He basically deconstructed the fluffy whipped mixture made mostly of water and, like any whipped topping, lots of air. Hydrogenated oils give the whipped topping a creamy mouth feel. Corn syrup and high fructose corn syrup make the mixture sweet. A few other ingredients that are familiar to chemists but not necessarily understood by the average consumer help extend the frozen dessert topping’s shelf life, add sweetness and creamy texture.
It’s really hard for me to call this frozen dessert topping real food. I tell people this as I pour heavy whipping cream into a chilled bowl and beat it up with an electric hand mixer equipped with chilled metal beaters during cooking demonstrations. I immediately read reactions of disbelief on some of the faces in the crowd.
The first ingredients listed on a can of Reddi-Wip are cream, water, sugar and corn syrup. But, as the television commercial makes clear, there are no hydrogenated oils in the can.
So, before I share any recipes for pumpkin desserts this year, I’m sharing an easy recipe for whipped topping that is made with real food. It’s as perfect with pumpkin pie as peanut butter is with jelly.
Whipping cream is beaten with a small amount of buttermilk and a dash of sugar. Buttermilk gives just a whisper of tang that is unexpected to the taste buds. I got the idea for adding buttermilk to whipping cream when it was served with some pancakes and fresh berries at a restaurant in Chicago where I recently had brunch.
So, my suggestion this pumpkin-pie season is to ask your diners, “Cream or cream with buttermilk?”
- 1 cup heavy whipping cream
- 1/2 cup buttermilk
- 1 to 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
Put all ingredients into a 4-cup glass measure. Whip until fluffy and thick.