Homemade foods are usually better than packaged versions sold in grocery stores. And homemade versions are usually cheaper than their store-bought counterparts. Homemade may take a bit of time and a few supplies, but in my book, the rewards are frequently worth the effort. And so it is with mascarpone.
Featured in luscious Italian desserts, such as tiramisu and cheesecake, as well as frostings, and pasta sauce or filling, mascarpone is difficult to describe. It is cheese without curds, rich without being sugary, and thick but not hard. If you want to imagine its taste, think of the most mouth-watering cream cheese in the world, then imagine it lighter, slightly sweeter, and infinitely tastier.
I got to homemade mascarpone indirectly, through Abby Dodge’s Baketogether Double Chocolate-Strawberry Shortcakes. That recipe calls for mascarpone and as I worked out my version of that challenge (about which I’ll blog shortly), I decided to make my own mascarpone. Now that I know how easy it is to make and how incredible the homemade version tastes, I’m adding mascarpone to my “homemade-is-the-way-to-go” list.
After web research (I do it so you don’t have to), I discovered that some recipes for homemade marscarpone are complicated (using a double boiler and other contraptions I didn’t feel like dealing with) and a number call for tartaric acid or another starter culture that I don’t have. Finally, I came upon a simple version from Melissa, the Alchemist. I loved it because she didn’t use a double boiler or fancy starter – just heavy cream and fresh lemon juice. I made only ½ cup and my experience was different from hers, but we both had successful results.
Homemade Mascarpone Cheese
Serving – ½ cup Cost – $1.99
Ingredients (Double for 1 cup of mascarpone)
- 1 cup heavy cream (with no added ingredients such as carrageenan)
- 1 ½ teaspoons of fresh lemon juice
- Measuring spoons
- Small knife (to cut lemon)
- Small pot
- Food thermometer
- Spatula (possibly also knife to scoop mascarpone out of strainer)
- Small bowl
- Plastic wrap
- Set 4 layers of cheesecloth in the strainer on top of the small bowl and set aside. (I buy my cheesecloth at a hardware or all-purpose store, not a fancy kitchen supply place where such things tend to be much more expensive.)
- Pour the heavy cream into the pot and heat it under a medium light. Watching carefully so that the cream does not get too close to a simmer, stir occasionally for approximately 15 minutes, until the temperature of the cream gets to 190 degrees F (88 degrees C.) Don’t rush the heating because you don’t want the cream to boil or burn the bottom of the pot.
- Then add the lemon juice. Be patient. Don’t rush the heating because you don’t want the cream to boil or for burn the bottom of the pot.
- Continue cooking the cream and lemon juice, stirring constantly for about 5 minutes adn keeping the mixture at approximately the same temperature (190 degrees F – just under a simmer), until the mixture thickens and coats the spoon. Remove the pot from the heat and let it sit for about 20 minutes until the cream mixture cools to about room temperature. I used a heavy pot that held in the heat and I got impatient. To cool it down more quickly, I rubbed an ice cube over the outside of the pot after about 10 minutes, being careful not to get any of the water from the melting ice cube into the thickened cream.
- Pour the cooled cream into the strainer and let it sit for a few minutes. You may see a bit of liquid drain out (I did, Melissa did not) but the cheese will seem very loose – don’t be concerned – it will get thicker as it sits in the refrigerator.
- Cover the strainer on top of the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least a few hours. I left mine in overnight and the cheese was perfect the next morning.