Mascarpone. Word associations. Triple Creme. Luxurious. Expensive. Italy’s answer to creme fraiche. Thick, luscious and creamy. Slightly sour with a wonderful palate cleansing tang. Celebrations. Cannoli and tiramisu. Lazy holiday brunch. Peaches and cream. Sweet summer berry tarts. Savoury mushroom pastries. A rich finishing note folded through risottos, polenta and pasta sauces.
Here is a little known secret. Despite it’s lusciousness and hefty price tag, mascarpone is incredibly easy and inexpensive to make at home. Waistline aside, there is no reason to only use it for special occasion treats. All that’s required? Two ingredients; cream and lemon juice. A little patience and a good deal of time. Eight to twelve hours to be precise. All important for the cooked acidulated cream to weave its magic in a cloth lined sieve in the fridge. My solution? Sleep on it and allow this all important transformation to take place overnight. Entirely removing the temptation to take incessant sneak peaks and unnecessarily poke or prod your little bundle of curds and whey.
For years I had no idea that those ridiculously expensive little tubs of mascarpone could be made so effortlessly at home. Eighteen months ago I was blown away by the discovery of how easy it is to make fresh ricotta for breakfast . From full cream milk and a little acid, in only 20 minutes from go to whoa. To me this latest revelation is just as breath-taking, although, in truth, the processes are very similar. Best of all I’m sharing it with you to add to your repertoire just in time for the onset of the festive season; a time for friends, extended family get togethers and celebratory food.
Fresh Home Made Mascarpone
Makes approx 1 1/2 cups
500 ml (2 cups) thickened cream
1 tablespoon lemon juice
LINE a large mesh sieve with a few layers of cheesecloth (or brand new chux super-wipes). Suspend over a bowl.
BRING a large saucepan half filled with water to a strong simmer over medium high heat.
MEANWHILE place cream into a large glass jug and microwave on medium for 2 minutes. I like to do this to speed up the initial heating process.
POUR heated cream into a heavy glass bowl. Place bowl over the now simmering pot of water and continue to heat, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon, until cream is near boiling point (85 – 90 C reading on a candy thermometer). If not using a thermometer, the cream is ready when it begins to froth and steam with tiny bubbles just beginning to break on its surface.
REDUCE heat to low and add lemon juice.
STIR continuously until cream becomes very thick and coats the back of a spoon, about 5-10 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool for 20 minutes.
POUR thickened cream into lined sieve. Allow to cool completely, before covering with glad wrap and tying up the ends of the cloth to form a bundle. Transfer the sieve and bowl to the refrigerator.
REFRIGERATE for 8-12 hours to drain and thicken. The longer the cheese is left to drain the firmer the texture. Unlike ricotta, mascarpone should not release too much whey whilst draining; as a rough guide usually only 2-3 tablespoons
SPOON drained mascarpone into a glass jar or air tight container. It will keep, stored in the fridge, for up to 5 days.