We’re planning to try making a version of one of our all-time favorite desserts. It’s one that uses mascarpone cheese (many of you have already guessed the dessert), and we could have just stopped in the store and picked up an appropriately-sized package. But, we didn’t, because we had some inkling of how easy it is to make soft fresh cheeses (like mozzarella, paneer, ricotta, and cream cheese), so we just searched out a recipe and went to town.
If you’re wondering when we’ll be making some of those other cheeses, all we can say is, watch this site.
As we said, we searched around and found some instructions from Ricki The Cheese Queen, and from All Day I Dream About Food. Now, we happen to have the Mozzarella Cheese kit from Ricki, but we opted to use the latter recipe, because it seemed to us that it would produce a cheese similar to what we think of as traditionally Italian.
We believe you need to make sure that the heavy cream you buy is not ultra-pasteurized. We buy the organic brand at Trader Joe’s, which states pasteurized and has a short shelf-life; we believe that it’s not ultra-pasteurized. Sure, you could probably use the lemon juice from a bottle, but might as well go with tradition and use the juice from a fresh lemon. As an aside, we’ll be using butter muslin — you can pick some up at any fabric store; just wash it thoroughly before and after use — do not try this with cheesecloth, as the holes are too large, and the cheese will just flow through.
Procedure in detail:
Mise en place. Get everything prepped: line a colander with butter muslin and set it in a bowl, squeeze and strain the lemon juice (the juice from half a lemon should be more than sufficient), and get out a thermometer.
Heat cream. Place the cream in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Insert the thermometer and start stirring. Keep heating and stirring until the cream is between 190-195°F, about 15 minutes. We know that’s the right time because our thermometer has a handy 15-minute auto shutoff which turns off the thermometer when we’re getting close to the right temperature.
Add juice. Stir in the lemon juice. You’ll notice that the cream gets slightly thicker almost immediately. That’s a good sign.
Keep hot. You’ll probably have to adjust your burner up and down as you try to keep the temperature between 190 and 195°F for 5 minutes. Be sure to do this while you’re stirring continuously. Don’t worry if you’re a bit off here and there; after all many, many people have made mascarpone cheese without using a thermometer.
Cool. The cream will have thickened more while you’re cooking it, but now take it off the heat and let it cool for about 20 minutes.
Drain. Pour the thickened cream into the lined colander, place a piece of plastic wrap on the surface (don’t press), and put it in the refrigerator to drain for the next 8 to 12 to 24 hours. The longer it drains, the firmer the final product will be. We went with about 18 hours of draining.
Pack. Scrape the cheese into an airtight container, press the piece of plastic wrap onto the surface (so a skin doesn’t form), and keep refrigerated until use.
Did you ever think that making cheese — especially that rich, delicious mascarpone cheese — would be this easy? Well, it turns out, many, many of the items for which you pay top-dollar at the store, are really simple to scratch out at home. Plus, they often have no preservatives, chemicals, and just plain taste better. Making mascarpone cheese is just one such item. With just 15-20 minutes of work for a super rich, super creamy, mascarpone cheese that tastes great, this is worth five stars.