I initially learned about mascarpone
(don’t pronounce it “marscapone” unless you want a fork in your eyes) while watching episodes of the Food Network’s Chopped. Keep in mind, this was back in high school, when I had just began to like baking and cooking, so seeing mascarpone, I had no clue what it even was. But after streaming and then binge-watching several episodes of Chopped, and seeing a variety of chefs use the ingredient in the dessert round, I started to realize, despite it being a cheese, it must have a mild flavor profile. It’s not one of those assertive, salty cheeses that you’d see on a sandwich or on a deli counter. I remember buying a package of mascarpone cheese from my local WholeFoods, and one bite, and I immediately understood why the chefs on Chopped always used this, and why it was such a good dessert ingredient. Imagine a light whipped cream with a nutty, sweet, tangy finish as it just melts on your tongue. That was my first of many positive experiences with mascarpone cheese.
While watching an episode of Masterchef, I distinctly remember a contestant, Stacy, making her own ricotta cheese using a combination of cream and vinegar. After seeing her do that, I tried making my own ricotta cheese at home, using the same ingredients. You simply heat the two together, and almost like magic, the milk solidifies and clumps together as a curd, leaving behind a clear liquid called whey. The curd is basically the cheese, once you strain it out and dry it. It was after that experience that I realized, making cheese is fun and in certain cases, it’s really easy!
So for mascarpone cheese, it’s a bit more complicated than ricotta. Like with ricotta, you start with heavy cream, and in this case, lemon juice, although vinegar works as well. The main difference between ricotta and mascarpone is the texture. Ricotta is a grainer, lumpier cheese, while mascarpone is completely smooth, like a thick cream. For my variation, I chose to use meyer lemon juice, as it’s less sour, and it’ll give the mascarpone a more fragrant finish, although using just 2 tablespoons of regular lemon juice will work as well.
Makes 8 ounces of mascarpone cheese:
1 cup heavy cream
1 small meyer lemon’s worth of juice
Rubber spatula for stirring
In a pot, slowly heat the heavy cream up to 200 degrees F. Take off heat, and add in the lemon juice. Continue stirring on heat, making sure to adjust the stove so that the cream does not exceed 200 degrees F, for about 5 minutes, or until the cream is thick enough to coat your stirring utensil. If you do not have a thermometer, then
sucks to be you you can figure out how warm the cream is by the amount of steam coming out of the pot. You want the cream to be releasing steam, but you do not want it to form a skin or begin boiling. Pour into a bowl, and allow it to chill in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours. Your final product will be smooth, creamy, and thick enough to scoop with a spoon, and will taste of fresh milk with just a hint of lemon in the background.