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Saturday, August 06, 2011


Excellent Ingredient of the Week
This week the excellent ingredient of the week is mascarpone, a soft, white, fresh, vegetarian, cream cheese from the Lombardy region of southern Italy. Mascarpone is used in famous Italian desserts, like Tiramisu, and in the preparation of certain dishes and sauces. In fact, it is not cheese at all, but rather the result of a culture being added to the cream skimmed off the milk, used in the production of Parmesan. It is, however, described as a curd cheese, although it is made in much the same way as yogurt.

To make mascarpone cheese, tartaric acid (a natural vegetable acid derived from the seed of the tamarind tree) is needed. After the culture has been added, the cream is gently heated, then allowed to mature and thicken. This whitish- to straw-yellow, creamy, mild fresh cheese is compact, and spreadable. It takes only a few days to ripen and has a fat content of 75 per cent. I found a recipe on Food52 to make it at home! it's similar to the wonderful lemon posset recipe.

2 cups heavy cream
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 large square of cheesecloth, 4 layers thick

In a small saucepan over medium heat, heat cream to boiling. Watch the heat, don’t let the cream boil over. If you've got an instant-read thermometer, you are shooting for a boiling temperature of 190 degrees. Continue boiling for 5 minutes, stirring the bubbles down when necessary. Stir in the lemon juice and cook, stirring, for about 5 more minutes, or until the cream thickens and resembles a loose bechamel sauce. Remove saucepan from heat and let cool, about 15 minutes. The cream will thicken more.

Fit a medium-sized mesh sieve over a medium bowl. Place a large cheesecloth square over sieve. Pour thickened cream over cheesecloth-lined sieve. Fold the ends of the cheesecloth over. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Refrigerate in the sieve for at least 12 hours, or overnight. I prefer a firmer mascarpone, so I like to lay a small dish or two (like a demitasse saucer) over the top to weight it down slightly. Turn mascarpone out into a bowl, cover and refrigerate until ready to use. Mascarpone usually keeps for about 5 to 7 days.