Sunday, 26 February 2012

My Cheese Quest : Mascarpone Cheese

Welcome to the second installment of my cheese quest : Mascarpone Cheese. Now, in my first installment of cheese quest, we discussed about quark cheese. You can find the quark cheese related recipes here and here. Coming back to mascarpone, much easier to make than it might seem, homemade mascarpone is a tastier and less expensive alternative to a store-bought cheese.

Mascarpone is a fresh (i.e. not aged or ripened) soft cows’ milk cheese which originated from Lombardy, Italy. Technically speaking, it is not cheese as it is produced by a culture being added to the cream which has been removed during the production of Parmesan. However it is generally described as a curd cheese. Once the culture has been added, the cream is heated and left to thicken. It has a creamy white colour, a slightly sweet taste making it highly suitable for desserts, and a soft, dense, texture which can be easily spread.

Mascarpone cheese is a rich, fresh cheese that is a relative of both cream cheese and ricotta cheese. Masarpone is prepared in a similar fashion to ricotta, but using cream instead of whole milk. The cheese is lightly salted and usually whipped. It is a soft cheese with a slightly acidic taste and a smooth texture similar to whipped cream.

The high fat content and smooth texture of mascarpone cheese make it suitable as a substitute for cream or butter. Mascarpone is generally used in desserts, the most famous application of this cheese is in Italian dessert tiramisu (ummm definitely making this week). But it can also be used in pasta sauces or to add richness to soups or risitto. The best (for me) is it can be frozen into ice cream, substituting for cream.

Mascarpone Cheese:
Recipe adapted from Deeba

1 liter cream ( I used low fat)
2 tablespoons fresh lime/lemon juice (approximately 1 1/2 lemons)

Heat the cream over a double boiler until it reaches 120 degree Fahrenheit or 49 degree Celsius. Stir in the lime/lemon juice and keep stirring until the temperature reaches 180 degree Fahrenheit or 82 degree Celsius. The cream will start to thicken. Remove from heat, transfer to a clean bowl and cover it with a cling foil. Let it sit at room temperature until it cools down a bit. Refrigerate it over night. The next day it will have thickened further. Pour it in a strainer lined with multiple layers of cheesecloth or clean towel. Refrigerate for about 24 hours  (with the straining apparatus) to let the whey drain. It will firm up beautifully in the fridge, and yet will remain lusciously creamy.

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