You know I love me a good DIY project. This one was especially satisfying because mascarpone, the creamy Italian soft cheese, is such a high end product. It can be hard to find, and it’s expensive when you do. You probably know it as a critical ingredient in TIRAMISU, and I l love to sneak it into RISOTTOS to give them a rich finish. Mascarpone is called a ‘cheese’ in the technical sense, but it is very close in flavor and texture to a British clotted cream, so it’s perfect on scones and biscuits, too. To qualify as a great DIY project a recipe has to be relatively easy to pull off, and the finished product has to be a spot on version of the original. This homemade mascarpone ticks both boxes deliciously.
You will need a couple of pieces of equipment — a clip on thermometer for the pan, and a piece of cheesecloth for draining the cheese. You are going to be bringing heavy cream up to a boil, and then adding lemon juice to coagulate and thicken it. There won’t be any actual curds, because heavy cream doesn’t curdle like milk does. You’ll drain it to remove any whey, and then you are left with an incredibly rich cheese.
All cheese making recipes specify using heavy cream that has not been ultra-pasteurized as the starting point. It’s one of those truisms that gets passed from recipe to recipe. Ultra-pasteurizing just means that the milk is flash heated to a higher point than regular pasteurization. Almost all heavy cream is ultra-pasteurized nowadays, because it results in a longer shelf life, so finding anything else can be a challenge. I actually made my first batch with regular heavy cream because I am an impatient sort, and it turned out almost identical to the next batch I made with the non-ultra-pasteurized cream I found at Whole Foods. The only difference I could tell was that the ultra-pasteurized cream resulted in a lightly softer end product. So make what you will of that. Common wisdom says to use non ultra-pasteurized cream.
- 2 cups heavy cream (non-ultra-pasteurized is preferable)
- 1-2 Tbsp fresh squeezed lemon juice
- Pour the cream into a small heavy bottomed pot and heat on medium until it reaches 190 degrees on a candy thermometer. Heat the cream gently so it doesn't scorch.
- Add the lemon juice, and keep the cream at 190 for another 5 minutes, stirring gently. I found it easiest to keep moving the pot on and off the flame to maintain the temperature. The cream will thicken and coat the back of the spoon.
- Let the cream cool to room temperature, which will take about half an hour.
- Line a mesh strainer with several layers of cheesecloth, and set that over a bowl to catch the dripping whey. Pour the cream into the cheesecloth. Cover loosely with plastic and refrigerate for 8 hours.
- Remove the cheese from the cheesecloth and keep in a tightly closed container in the refrigerator until ready to use.
- Plan to use the cheese within a week or so.