By now the blogosphere has a pretty firm handle on the different methods of creating a vegan whipped cream. Isa, genius that she is, does something involving soaked cashews, wonderful source of vegetable fat that they are. And, honestly, for all I know, her Rad Whip could beat the lunchmoney out of my version. I would bet that it could. What I have on my side is sheer simplicity.
The usual advice about coconut whipped cream is to buy the full fat cans as far in advance as you can--a few days minimum, a few weeks best practice. While this is excellent advice, I can't always swing it. A few weeks ago, I decided to finally use up all the frozen cherries I had pitted the previous summer. I ended up baking them all into cherry crisp (NB, huge mistake. never make crisp when you should be making pie). When I asked C whether he was going to want ice cream on his dessert, he said, in his most high pitched and targeted-to-persuade-me voice, "Coconut whipped creeeeaaam?" Who can say no to that? But I hadn't planned ahead, so amidst a storm of admonishments and warnings, I added coconut milk to my grocery list. At the store, I carefully selected a can and took care not to shake it, which is all pretty silly really. I've worked at a grocery store and have seen first hand the abuse to which canned goods can be subjected. At home, I put the can in the freezer for a few hours, then opened it up and got to it. On a second occasion, just a few days ago, I did the same thing. I don't really know whether the freezing period is necessary, but once you try to make coconut whipped cream from insufficiently separated coconut milk, you will take whatever steps your complete lack of planning and foresight will allow. It's entirely possible that I just got ridiculously lucky. Twice.
I did use these two opportunities to hone my manipulation of agar to maximum effect. The effect is pretty awesome, I've gotta say. I think, in hindsight, that my previous efforts were simply cowardly. I was afraid of gelatinous coconut cream. Panna cotta is one thing. F'ed up whip is another. Perhaps I was emboldened by the total flop of my aforementioned cherry crisp. I used waaay too much cornstarch and the result was...well...gelatinous. In a bad way. I ate the cherries out of it anyway, because I'm fat like that.
Anyway, to make the perfect, creamy, pillowy coconut whipped cream, at least the way I do it, you need only a handful of ingredients and about five minutes, plus chilling time. And I'm not figuring in the amount of time you might have allowed to stick your last minute coconut milk purchase in the freezer as described above. But you also don't have to beat it three times, and it only has one setting period.
Coconut Whipped Cream, version 2.0
1 can full fat coconut milk (this is not the time to buy "Lite")
1/4 c organic powdered sugar
1/4 c water
1 t (heaping) agar powder (not flakes)
Open the can of coconut milk and scoop the separated fat out into a large mixing bowl. Leave the more translucent milk in the bottom of the can and put it back in the fridge. With any luck, someone in your house will add it to smoothies or protein shakes. Otherwise, you will think wistfully of it from time to time and then eventually throw it out and feel bad. Life is full of shame. Coconut milk will not save you from it. Using an electric mixer with a whisk attachment (ok, you can do without the whisk attachment if you are unfortunate enough not to have one, but do not try to do this by hand unless you are the human equivalent of the Jetson's maid), whip the coconut until it is fluffyish (1-2 minutes). You will be beating air into the coconut so that it increases subtly in volume. Don't slouch. Add sugar and beat again. Now comes the science-y part. Squeeze the lemon into a small, microwave safe dish. Add the water, and microwave just until boiling. (Yes, microwave haters, you could undoubtedly do this on the stove. Maybe you have appropriately tiny pots and Barbie-sized saucepans that are admirably suited to the task.) Sprinkle the agar over the water and stir until dissolved. Add this mixture to the coconut and beat well. Adjust sweetness (sugar) and sourness (lemon) as desired.
Cover and chill for at least an hour. Perfect.
If you really like the people you live with, like I do, serve big dollops of it over fresh strawberries and chocolate-chip lemon scones, like I did.