If you’ve eaten Italian food then you’ve probably tasted Mascarpone cheese. This creamy, soft cheese is used in both sweet and savory dishes. It can be used in both ravioli and calzones, but it’s best known as the main ingredient in Tiramisu, or blended with ricotta cheese to make cannoli filling.
In my previous post on making Paneer cheese, I called it the world’s easiest cheese, but I think I have to correct myself. Mascarpone is even easier–the process and ingredients are similar, but it’s quicker and doesn’t need to be pressed. You can make Mascarpone cheese in about 10 minutes with only two simple ingredients.
Making Mascarpone 101
Mascarpone is traditionally made by heating milk and/or cream and coagulating with an acid. The process is similar to making Paneer cheese, but gives you a result much richer in fat.
Alternatively, you can make Mascarpone cheese by ripening it naturally with a bacteria culture (or starter). The process takes an additional 12 hours or so, and requires ingredients that you probably won’t have on hand, so we’re going to stick to the traditional method.
What Type Of Milk Or Cream? And How About Pasteurization?
Traditional Mascarpone is usually best with a 20-25% butterfat mixture. For reference, here is the cream content in typical dairy products:
|Heavy Whipping Cream||36-40%|
|Light Whipping Cream||30-36%|
|Half and Half||10-18%|
So you could use a light cream, or a 1:1 mixture of whole milk and heavy cream. This isn’t absolutely mandatory, you could use whipping cream by itself, but the texture may turn out a bit different. It’s so easy to make you may just want to try several versions to see which you like best.
Whatever variety of cream you choose, try to get dairy that has not been ultra-pasteurized. You might also see it labeled HHST (High Heat Short Time) Pasteurized; try to stay away from this as well. Both of these processes involve heating the milk or cream above 190°F, which gives it a longer shelf life but unfortunately damages the protein structures and destroys the enzymes, making cheese production difficult.
What Kind Of Acid Is Needed?
Several different types of acids can be used to make Mascarpone cheese, and it’s worth experimenting with each to find out what you like best.
When making a soft cheese, you would usually use vinegar, citric acid, tartaric acid, or citrus (lemon, lime or orange) juice. For Mascarpone, I’ve gotten the best results with tartaric acid and lemon juice, although the lemon juice could give your cheese a slight lemony flavor. Depending on how you plan to use it, that might not be bad.
How To Make Mascarpone Cheese
- 2 cups light cream (or whatever mixture you choose)
- 1/8 t tartaric acid OR 1 T lemon juice
In a double boiler, heat the cream to 185°F. If you don’t have a double boiler, you can float a pan inside another pot of water. I simply put a heavy Pyrex measuring cup in a pot of water.
When the cream has reached 185°F, add the tartaric acid or lemon juice and stir for about 5 minutes. The mixture will slowly thicken to the consistency of cream soup, and you should see tiny bits of curd on the spoon when you remove it.
Remove the cream from heat and allow it to cool to room temperature for about 30 minutes. It still won’t be very thick–about the consistency of melted ice cream at this point–but be patient!
Line a colander with a double layer of butter muslin or another suitable draining cloth–I just used a tea towel. You don’t want to use plain cheesecloth for this unless you use 3 or 4 layers–the mixture is still pretty runny at this point and will flow right through a single layer. Place a small bowl under the the colander, pour the mascarpone mixture in, and refrigerate everything overnight to strain out the whey.
The next day the mascarpone should peel right away from your cloth. Place it in a covered container and refrigerate for up to 2 weeks. If you’d like a sweeter cheese, just mix in a little confectioner’s sugar.
At this point you have lots of ways of using this cheese:
- In tiramisu, cannolis or cheesecake
- As an ice cream or dessert topping
- Mixed with fresh fruit (any maybe just a splash of brandy)
- Added to dishes in place of sour cream for added richness
You can also use it to replace the sweetened condensed milk or corn syrup (Martha Stewart’s recipe, yuck!) that’s typically found in fudge; it gives it a nice creamy texture.
How To Make Mascarpone Fudge
- 2 bags (1.5 pounds) semisweet chocolate chips
- 1 c Mascarpone
- 1/4 c peanut butter
- 1/4 c walnuts
Butter an 8-inch glass baking dish. I added a piece of parchment paper on the bottom just to be sure the fudge would come out smoothly.
Melt the chocolate in a double boiler. Since we’ll be doing some mixing, I didn’t use the Pyrex cup this time, but just floated a metal mixing bowl in a pan of water.
Add the Mascarpone to the melted chocolate and blend thoroughly.
Add the walnuts (optional) and mix thoroughly.
Drizzle the peanut butter on top and mix very gently. You’re not trying to completely combine it; you want it to be swirled through the fudge.
Spread into your prepared pan and chill for a few hours. Cut and serve!
If you make Mascarpone cheese at home, I think you’ll find that it looks and tastes just as good as what you can buy in the store, for a fraction of the price. Do you have a favorite recipe that uses Mascarpone?