Bacteria-based, fat-free whipped cream stands soft or firm
There’s nothing like a dollop of whipped cream to top off a dessert, but it always comes with a side order of guilt thanks to the high fat content. Now, researchers at the University of Copenhagen’s Department of Food Science have found that the saturated fat can be substituted with bacteria, to make whipped cream at two common consistencies.
If you’ve ever tried to whip cream, you’ll know that timing is everything to get the right consistency. A few minutes of whipping gives it a smooth, light texture with peaks that fall over as soon as you lift the whisk out, which is perfect for fillings. Whip for a bit longer though and the cream becomes firmer, with peaks that stand upright and make great decorative shapes for cakes.
Dairy-based whipped cream gets this ability from its saturated fat content, which can be as high as 38%. The fat globules clump together during the whipping process, which gives the cream the stability to stand firm without letting liquid drain out. Existing non-dairy alternatives still require high amounts of fat from other sources.
For the new study, the Copenhagen team investigated a new way to make whipped cream without most of the fat. The key ingredient is bacteria – specifically, two strains of lactic acid bacteria, which are common in nature and currently used in the food industry as preservatives and cultures for yogurt.
“"Here we only use four ingredients – water, bacteria, a bit of milk protein and a single thickener,” said Jens Risbo, lead author of the study. “With these few ingredients, we’ve managed to make a fat-free product that can be whipped, peaks up and retains the liquid.”
One strain of the bacteria is hydrophilic, meaning it attracts water, and this forms a weak network that results in a softer foam. The other bacterial species is hydrophobic, repelling water, and it’s this one that forms stronger networks for stiffer foams. The team says there are a few potential advantages to this bacteria-based cream.
“We usually associate bacteria with something to keep away from food,” said Risbo. “But here, we base a beloved food product on good bacteria found in nature. This has never been seen before. This is advantageous, both because it is a renewable resource grown in a tank, and because it creates a healthier, less energy dense, fat-free product.”
That said, the product is still just a proof-of-concept. The team says that this research helped demonstrate that the right consistencies can be achieved using bacteria, and future work will inform how it could become a food fit for human consumption.
The research was published in the journal Food Hydrocolloids.