Mascarpone (pronunciation here) is an Italian cheese made from cream (fat content higher than 30%) denatured with tartaric acid, citric acid or acetic acid. Whey is then removed without pressing or aging. Its color is milky-white and it is easily spread. The texture and consistency resembles cream cheese but the taste is totally different. It is used in various dishes (e.g.: tiramisu, risotto etc.). Mascarpone tastes like very thick extremely creamy whipping cream. In Italy it's really very cheap and they sell it in almost every grocery store (they have more different brands of it than milk or sour/whipping/sweet cream). For your imagination, one container of this cheese (250g) costs in Italy about 2 dollars (mostly 1.8 to 2). In fact, there it belongs into basic ingredients used in sauces, desserts and many other dishes.
The choice of cream is the most important here and the quality and taste of the final product depends on it. The better cream you use the better mascarpone you get. You have to use whipping (or heavy or heavy whipping) cream - the butterfat content is from 30 to 40% and in fact it doesn't really matter which one you choose. For example in my country there only is sold whipping cream with 31 or 33% fat and I can assure you that my mascarpone always tastes great :) The best would be using organic non-pasteurized whipping cream. However, sometimes it can be hard to find this (it's not sold at all here where I live), so it's OK to use regular whipping cream of the highest quality possible, but avoid using ultra-high pasteurized (UHT) cream - this one may need more cooking time because all those natural organisms and bacterias are dead. I haven't tried using the UHT cream as I prefer the "more natural" pasteurized cream stored in fridge to the UHT one in tetra pak on shell at room temp.
I created this recipe last year because I wanted to make frosting for a cake and I had really bad experiences with our Czech mascarpone by Italat. It's grainy and no matter what I do or make it curdles almost every single time plus it's price is ridiculously high. That made me go, find and make my own and now I can say that this homemade cheese really does compare to the Italian original one. I think that's quite a statement, isn't it? When I say "created" it means I read through many recipes online and tips from those who tried them and put the pieces together. The recipes don't differ too much, in fact they're almost the same so it was easy to put them "together". I've tried it many times during the long year and it has never let me down. Daring enough to try it out? I hope so!
500ml whipping cream (30-40% fat)
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
In a wide pan bring about 3cm of water to a boil. Lower the heat to medium-low so the water is barely simmering. Pour cream into a pot and place the pot into the pan. Heat the cream, checking the temperature often, to 190F (88C), stirring occasionally. Keep stirring at this temperature for about 15 minutes. Now add lemon juice to the heated cream and continue heating, stirring often, until the mixture curdles. "Curdles" means it thickens, no lumps/grains will show up. The mixture will cover the back of your wooden spoon generously and a few clear whey streaks will be visible as you stir. Remove the pot from the heat and allow the mixture to sit and cool slightly for 20 minutes. In the mean time, prepare your sieve. Line a sieve with about four layers of dampened cheesecloth (or a clean, damp cotton/linen dishcloth) and set over a bowl. Pour the mixture into the lined sieve. Do not squeeze the cheese in the cheesecloth or press on its surface, just let it be undisturbed until cooled completely. Cover the sieve tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 12 to 24 hours to allow the cheese to finish draining and become firm. Then remove from sieve, transfer into a bowl and either use immediately or store in the refrigerator in a tightly covered container.
- This recipe yields from 260g to 280g of mascarpone, but it can easily be doubled to make enough cheese for tiramisu or any other dish.
- Do not underestimate the number of layers of cheesecloth! Do not use less than four layers of it, otherwise the silky mixture will flow through the sieve. You only want the whey to flow through it. I usually get about 2-3 tbsp whey not more. Also, whey is almost transparent in color, so if you see a lot of white mixture in the bowl under the sieve, something is wrong and you might have not used enough layers of cheesecloth.
- You can use any type of thermometer: cooking, confectionery, preserving (I use this one) etc.
Mascarpone is one thing I could eat every now and then so it's good I don't have in my fridge every now and then :D considering the amount of fat in it and all those calories. Anyway, everytime I make this luscious creamy cheese I have a hard time not eating it with a large spoon in one sitting - yet I've been strong enough not to do this because usually I need every tiny spoon of it for a dessert or cake. Well, as for the taste: D I V I N E! Creamy dreamy with milky taste, soft and thick at the same time, tender and silky on tongue. No wonder it's a big sinful treat, but once in a while it's okay :)
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