Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Make It With Milk: Mascarpone

100918_CPE_mascarponeWe've made yogurt, and we've made butter. Don't you think it's time for a treat? The latest in our occasional series on cool stuff you can make with milk is decadent mascarpone.

Fresh, rich mascarpone is best known in tiramisu, but it's beautiful in all sorts of sweet and savory dishes. It's a rich finish for a homemade pasta sauce, a heavenly companion to fresh fruit, a willing partner to stronger cheeses for a delicious spread. You can use it to make our Hands-On Gnocchi or Popeye Sauce ... or eat it straight with a spoon. Or your fingers. We enjoyed it in strawberry-topped crepes, then in strawberry-mascarpone parfaits.

My older son swooned over it; the younger one wouldn't even try it, but he doesn't like whipped cream either. (I hope he'll outgrow the condition.)

This is deliciously simple, perhaps 15 minutes total hands-on time. But it does take time for the magic to work -- up to 24 hours. Tartaric acid may be hard to find, but if you love mascarpone, it's worth tracking down (try online shops, brewing shops, or earthy-crunchy stores). You'll have plenty left over to make this again and again and again.


This yielded just over 9 ounces of mascarpone. Tartaric acid is available at beer- and wine-making supply shops, and online (try the New England Cheesemaking Supply Company). It is not the same as cream of tartar! Also, avoid using ultra-pasteurized milk products here. Pasteurized is fine; ultra won't work well. This is drawn from several recipes floating around the Interwebs, but relies most heavily on Fankhauser's Cheese Page.

1 pint half-and-half
1 pint heavy cream
1/4 teaspoon tartaric acid (see Note)

Combine half-and-half and cream in a pot and heat to 180 to 185 degrees. Dissolve the tartaric acid in a tablespoon of water, then stir into the heated cream mixturey. Keep the cream at 180 to 185 degrees for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. It should start thickening a bit.

Put the cream in the refrigerator in a covered container (I keep it in the pot) and let it cool thoroughly (I leave it about 12 hours).

Line a fine-mesh strainer with clean muslin, cheesecloth, or a coffee filter and set it over a bowl. Pour the thickened cream into the strainer, cover, and let it sit in the refrigerator for at least 12 hours until the mascarpone thickens to the consistency you want. Store the finished mascarpone in a covered container and use soon. Some people say you need to eat it in a day or two; others say a week. Use your judgment.

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