A Simple Italian Cheese
Mascarpone is a perfect cheese for anyone interested in getting into cheese making. You can make it in quite small batches without any crazy equipment or ingredients.
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Originally from northern Italy, this creamy cheese is wonderful in both sweet or savoury dishes. It can be added to most recipes that call for cream cheese or a smooth ricotta. Adding it to pastas in place of whipping cream is also divine! It has an almost sweet buttery taste with a bit of tang at the end. And since it doesn’t use rennet, it is great for vegetarians!
I use a recipe out of this book and have loved it every time. It’s the perfect amount if you are going to be using it in desserts like Tiramisu or mixing it with mousse or berries. My favourite way to enjoy it is under a big pile of fresh strawberries, drizzled with high quality aged balsamic vinegar.
Normally this cheese is made with only two ingredients; Heavy cream, and an acid, like lemon juice or vinegar. The recipe I use (from the wonderful Allison Hooper, Vermont Butter & Cheese Creamery) has just a tiny bit of skim milk powder that just enhances the luscious rich texture.
Make sure, when you’re buying your cream that I doesn’t have any thickening agents in it. Check that the ingredients are only milk and nothing else. If there’s any thickeners it will still work but you will end up with a bit of a grainy texture.
What you’ll need:
- 2 cups pasteurized heavy cream
- 1/3 cup powdered skim milk
- 1 lemon, cut in half
- A heavy 2-quart pot
- A whisk
- A heat proof spatula
- A metal stirring spoon
- A thermometer that can read from as low as 100F
- OPTIONAL: cheese cloth, and a colander
This cheese needs to sit for 8 hours, so either prepare it in the morning before you go about your day, or in the evening to let it rest over night.
Warming the Cream:
First things first, whisk together your skim milk powder and cream in your pot. Turn on your stove over quite low heat. While stirring constantly, gently heat the cream to 180F over a period of 40minutes. The timing here is key. If you heat it too quickly you will curdle the cream, so adjust your stove accordingly if its heating too fast.
Once you’ve reached your target temperature, turn off the heat. I remove my pot from the burner at this point because my pots are very good at maintaining heat. Switch to your metal spoon, and stir in HALF of the lemons juice. Stir it gently and continuously until it coats the back of the spoon and you see small flecks of solid cream.
Stir in the remaining juice. If your pot has a lid, you can cover the pot with it and simply put it straight into the fridge. If you don’t have a pot with a lid, then gently transfer the cheese to a container, cover and put in the fridge. After 8 hours , the cream should be firm to the touch.
If you want your cheese to be thicker, transfer it to a cheese cloth lined colander. Wrap the cheese cloth up around it, and squeeze out the excess moisture. I prefer mine just as it is when it comes out of the fridge, it’s up to your tastes!
Et voila! Delicious and creamy Mascarpone!