About the Milk and Cream
The traditional Mascarpone is considered to be best with a 20-25% butterfat mixture and this can be made by combining milks and creams from various sources.
The milk portion can not be Ultra Pasteurized because it must provide the proteins for the curd to firm properly for draining. It is best to use a milk pasteurized at traditional temperatures of 162°F. The higher temperature process (but not UP) will work, but just not as well because the final cheese tends to become grainy and the yield less.
If you are using store bought and cold stored milk, we recommend adding calcium chloride for a better yield.
The cream portion can be Ultra Pasteurized if this is all that is available. This is the portion providing the richness and silky texture for this cheese and will be held loosely within the matrix of proteins developed by the milk.
I have found that a 1:1 mixture of whole milk (3.25% fat) and heavy cream (36-40% fat) make a good blend to work with for Mascarpone. One pint of each will yield about 10-13 oz of finished Mascarpone depending on the milk quality and how long it drains.
Of course, if you have your own Jersey cow, the best Mascarpone will be made by allowing the cream to rise overnight and skimming it in the morning.
If you care to make up a different milk/fat ratio this table may help.
|Cream % Content in Dairy Products|
|Heavy Whipping Cream||36-40%|
|Light Whipping Cream||30-36%|
|Light or Coffee Cream||18-30%|
|Half and Half||10.5% (10-18%)|
|Whole Pasteurized milk||3.25%|
A Wonderful Creamy Dessert Cheese
The last recipe we worked on was cream cheese so naturally, Mascarpone was next on our list.
A rich and creamy cheese for making fabulous Tiramisu, topping for the fabulous fresh fruits of summer, or just for the decadence of spreading it on fresh baked breads, muffins, etc. Mascarpone is synonymous with dessert preparation.
This is a classic Italian cheese known well to pastry chefs throughout the world, especially for making the classic dessert, Tiramisu, as well as many other wonderful treats such as mixed with ricotta for filling those wonderful Italian Cannoli. Can you say "cream cheese on steroids."
Mascarpone is so easy to make that many chefs simply make a fresh batch when needed and you can too. With this recipe it's easy to make cheese at home in your kitchen.
Other uses for Mascarpone are:
- Toppings for desserts (the most recent batch went onto a pear tart for dessert last night)
- Mixed with fresh cut fruit and a splash of brandy or rum
- Add as a creamy finish to pasta (but do not cook in the pan as it will separate)
- Added to dishes like Stroganoff instead of sour cream for added richness
- As an addition to Polenta when serving
- Just let your imagination run wild
A Bit of History
Mascarpone is a triple-creme cheese made from fresh cream. Traditionally, this was made from the fresh milk of cows that have grazing pastures filled with fresh herbs and flowers. The freshest milk is still the best for this but a great Mascarpone can also be easily made with cream from the store, as we will show you.
This cheese originated in the Lombardia region of Italy just below the famous Lakes of the north. It is milky-white in color and a thick cream that is easily spread. When fresh, it smells simply of milk and cream, and often is used in place of butter to thicken and enrich risotto.
Variations in Style
The process begins with allowing the cow's milk to stand. Then, after rising naturally to the milk surface, the cream is skimmed off into a metal pan (today you can just use cream from the store).
Traditionally: The cream is collected and heated to 185-190°F in a double boiler to prevent scorching the cream solids. A small amount of tartaric acid is then blended in water and added to the hot cream. This mixture thickens shortly and is then transferred to a draining cloth to allow the whey to drain away.
This is a process quite similar to making Queso Blanco or Panir but much richer in fat. It's quick and easy but the resulting cheese is not quite as smooth as the recipe with a starter culture.
An Alternative Process: The same cream can also be ripened naturally with a bacteria culture. The cream is heated only to 86°F, the culture is added and allowed to ripen for 10-12 hours forming a thick but soft curd.
This process is much like that of making cream cheese but much richer and the Mascarpone is much moister and more spreadable.
This one takes some time for ripening (you can be doing something else or sleeping while this goes on) but the result is much smoother and creamier than the process above.
After the curd forms in either process, it is allowed to drain refrigerated for 12 hours while the whey separates. The amount of time it drains will determine the final dryness and texture of the cheese.