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Mascarpone

What would be more suited for this month
than this wonderful creamy dessert cheese?


This cheese is synonymous with dessert preparation. Yum!
A rich and creamy cheese for making that fabulous Tiramisu, topping for the fabulous fresh fruits of summer, or just for the decadence of spreading it on fresh baked breads, muffins, etc.
This is so easy to make that many chefs simply make this fresh when there is a call for it and you can too, right at home in your own kitchen.

Last months recipe was cream cheese so where do we go from there?
Only one place to go and that is Mascarpone. 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's.

Can you say "cream cheese on steroids?!"

This month we will show you how easy this is to make at home in your kitchen. But please do not ask us for the low fat version.

We will provide you with several options to make this right there in your kitchen.

Other uses for this wonderful cheese 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 185-190F 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 the Panir of India but much richer in fat.
    This is quick and easy but the resulting cheese is not quite as smooth as that using the culture method below.
  • An Alternative Process: The same cream can also be ripened naturally with a bacteria culture. The cream is heated only to 86F, 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.


A Recipe for Making Mascarpone

Before you begin:

For 10-14 ounces of Mascarpone you will need:

Everything needs to be clean and sanitized.

About the milk and cream choices:

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 162F.  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 then the use of calcium chloride is recommended.
  • 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 ozs 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%
    Single Cream 
    20%
    Half and Half
    10.5% (10-18%)
    Sour Cream
    18-20%
    Whole Pasteurized milk
    3.25%

Lets make Mascarpone

All of the following batches of Mascarpone were done with high temp pasteurized milk (170F+) and Ultra Pasteurized cream because these are most available to our customer base.

If you do have the option to use a lower temperature pasteurized milk or a fresh cream, by all means do. There will be a difference, but you will be happy with either process, we are sure.

Here are the options:

Option #1
Heating to 185F and adding Tartaric Acid (No Live Culture)

The Easiest !

This process will use tartaric acid to coagulate the milk/cream.
We will begin with a mix of 1 pint whole milk (3.25% fat) plus 1 pint of heavy cream (36-40% fat).

  1. Begin by setting up your Bain Marie or double boiler by filling a 2 quart pot with 2-3 inches of water then place a metal bowl large enough to hold the 1quart of milk/cream over the top of this pot.
  2. Pour the milk/cream mix into the bowl and add 1/8 tsp of calcium chloride to help set a firm curd since this is a pasteurized and cold stored milk (not needed if using a fresh cream ).
  3. Begin heating the water and slowly raising the milk temperature to 185-190F. You will notice the foaming begins about 175F.
  4. Allow the hot cream to sit at this temperature for 5 minutes. Then add 1/4 tsp tartaric acid mixed in 2-3 tbl. cool water to the cream. Stir very gently and you will soon note the curd beginning to flocculate. This will not be a firm curd as in other cheeses but many small curd bits that will soon look like a thin cream of wheat consistency.
  5. Allow this to cool for about 20-30 minutes.
  6. During this cool down time, prepare a colander for draining by lining it with the butter muslin or other suitable draining cloth. These both should be sanitized beforehand. This can be placed over another pot to collect the whey. About 1 pint of whey will be released.
  7. The curd can now be ladled into the draining cloth. When all of the curd has been transferred, simply fold the layers over the top of the draining curd and place in a cool area or in the fridge and drain for 1-2 hours for a traditional mascarpone texture. Drain for up to 12 hours in a refrigerator for a whipped cream cheese texture.
  8. The finished Mascarpone should now be stored in a covered dish or plastic container then refrigerated. It should be used within 7-10 days due to its fresh nature and high moisture.
    Note: The mascarpone will become much thicker once chilled and will become more spreadable when brought back to room temperature. It can also be blended with confectioners sugar or honey for a sweeter cheese.

The Bain Marie setup for heating the cream
and the final curd forms after adding the acid.

The curd is removed from the heat of the hot water and allowed to cool before being ladled to the cloth lined colander

The curd now looks like cream of wheat but will drain to a very nice spreadable Mascarpone


Option #2
Using our Creme Fraiche (Live culture)

For more flavor!

This process will use a living culture to convert lactose to lactic acid thus causing the milk/cream mixture to coagulate.
We will begin with a mix of 1 pint whole milk (3.25% fat) plus 1 pint of heavy cream (36-40% fat). The overall fat content of this will be 20-25%

  1. In a sanitized 1.5-2 quart pot add the milk/cream combo above then add 1/8 tsp of calcium chloride to help set a firm curd since this is a pasteurized and cold stored milk (not needed if using a fresh cream ).
    Then heat slowly to 86F. This can be done directly on the stove while stirring slowly.
  2. When the cream is at the above target temperature, remove from heat and open the packet of Creme Fraiche culture. Sprinkle this culture over the cream surface to rehydrate. After 1 minute stir this well into the milk. Note: This culture does contain a small bit of rennet in it to help form the curd.
  3. You can now cover this pot and move it to a quiet place at room temperature (68-74F).
    Allow this to sit for 10-12 hours (less time for warmer temp). Do not disturb the pot while setting. It is fine for the milk/cream temperature to drop to room temperature during this period.
  4. When the curd has firmed, you will see a definite thickening of the milk and perhaps some clear drops or pools of whey on the surface.
    At this point the milk should be very thick and forming a more traditional but VERY soft curd. This curd will not hold a clean knife cut but can be ladled into the draining cloth at this point as in the recipe in Option #1.
  5. Complete the process with steps #6-8 in Option #1 above.

The cream with culture sits quietly for 10-12 hours to form its soft curd

This curd is then ladled to the cloth lined colander and covered to drain whey for several hours until the final desired Mascarpone moisture is reached (this is somewhat subjective to what you want).

The final cheese afterseveral hours of whey draining and in its storage container headed for a wonderful dessert topping.


Using Ultra Pasteurized Half & Half

(This Half & Half works great with the Creme Fraiche Culture #2 not the Tartaric Acid recipe #1)

We knew we had to try this just to see what the difference was.

Proceeding as in Option #1 above we found it formed a much more granular curd and when drained, a much chalkier and grainy consistency with no creamy and spreadable consistency.

When we tried to spread this cheese, it was more crumbly than spreadable.

These photos clearly show the grainy nature of using all Ultra Pasteurized milk/cream for making Mascarpone.

I would say this batch is unacceptable as Mascarpone or much else.
The problem here is that the higher temperatures cause other proteins to become destabilized and this causes the curd to form in a granular manner.

Life is just too short to eat bad cheese!


Making Mascarpone from raw unpasteurized cream

The best option if you have access to fresh cream!

If you are lucky enough to have access to your own or a local source of raw milk, especially high fat jersey milk, you can allow the cream to rise naturally overnight at refrigeration temperatures and skim this the next morning for a very nice cream to make Mascrpone. The lower fat milk can then be used in our Parma style or Alpine recipes with great results.

If you do find that you have this unmodified cream you will be making an extraordinary Mascarpone. In this case you can use the method provided in Option #2 above.

You may find however that you need to add 20-40% less culture than recomended due to the natural raw milk already providing its own bacteria. This will be determined by the milk and its freshness.



My preferences were :

  1. Fresh unpasteurized cream. This was the best of all the trials here.
  2. Whole Milk + UPcream + culture. This was the best using store bought milk and cream.
  3. Whole Milk + UPcream + tartaric was quite good but less complexity and smaller yield..
  4. UP Half/Half + tartaric felt that this was unacceptable due to dry coarse cheese
 

Trouble Shooting

Here are a few tips to help you adjust your process to make the perfect Mascarpone for you.

  • If too dry, then cream or milk can be added back in.
  • If too we,t drain longer.
  • If too acid add less tartaric acid or drain earlier and chill ASAP.  Also, adding confectionery sugar can sweeten the final cheese.
  • If too sweet, longer ripening or more tartaric acid can be added.

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The Cheese Queen is in Food and Wine and Barbara Kingsolver's
book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle!

Thanks for joining our cheese making family, keep those stories & photos coming. We love to hear from you!

In Peace,
Ricki, the cheese queen

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