Looking for a weekend food project with an awe-inspiring, tasty outcome? Set aside a couple of hours to craft fresh, homemade mascarpone cheese.
Mascarpone is a soft, creamy, Italian cheese found in many desserts, including Tiramisu. I got to know (and love) it in one of my family’s favorite pasta dishes — which I will share in an upcoming post. You can usually find mascarpone in your grocery store “fine” cheese section. And if you can’t find it, you can substitute for it with reasonable (but not great) results: Try ricotta cheese blended with heavy cream or cream cheese mixed with cream and butter.
But! If you’ve got a couple of hours and can wait overnight to use your product, you can make your own. It’s amazingly easy — and quite delectable!
Last weekend, my husband and I gave homemade mascarpone a try for the first time. I’m not new to cheese-making (having made fresh ricotta a time or two), but I’m not a cheese-making expert (having failed at mozzarella more often than I will admit). My inspiration came from a long-coveted, newly-acquired cookbook: Artisan Cheese Making At Home by Mary Karlin and Ed Anderson.
Read on to see how we made our mascarpone cheese.
- Stainless steel pot, at least 1 quart
- Large spoon
- Cheese/dairy thermometer
- 1 pint heavy cream
- 1/3 cup powdered skim milk
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- Sterilize your equipment by boiling for at least 10 minutes.
- Whisk the powdered skim milk into the heavy cream.
- Heat cream mixture over medium heat, whisking frequently to prevent scorching, until it reaches a temperature of 180°.
- Add lemon juice, stirring slowly with the spoon, as the cheese begins to form curds.
- Take the pot off the heat, cover, and let cool for about an hour.
- Place the pot in the refrigerator for 8 hours or overnight.
- Scoop the cheese into several layers of cheesecloth for about an hour to drain the whey and solidify the cheese.
Our cheese was creamy, a bit sweet, and a bit tart. It had a lovely, buttery yellow color. And it tasted so much better than the mascarpone we buy in the grocery store.
I’ve always thought of cheese-making as a precise science. (It requires thermometers, after all!) But in my research, I found that you can experiment a bit with some cheese-making techniques. Several recipes called for vinegar or cream of tartar instead of lemon juice. Some told me to heat the cream mixture to 190°. One instructed us to drain the cheese in cheesecloth overnight. We plan to try a few of these variations to see how they compare.
If you use fresh cream, your mascarpone will stay fresh in your refrigerator for about 5 days. Try it in pasta, in dessert recipes, or spread simply on a toasted bagel.
Have you made your own mascarpone? What techniques do you use for the best results? And how do you use your fresh cheese? Share your learnings with those of us looking for a new project to try this weekend!
Image Credit: Mary Gerush