Homemade Mascarpone

We're more than halfway through February now and I'm taking stock of my New Year resolutions, partly to keep my mind on other things, and partly because there is nothing I relish more than consulting a well-made list (it's just who I am, okay?!). Said list looks more or less something like this:

-Find a new apartment!!!
-Pick up ballet again? 
-Read more, watch TV less 
-Redesign blog -- new colors, look, name??! 
-Cheese-making! Ricotta, mascarpone, mozzarella...burrata?! ricotta salata? etc etc 

While I'd love to take you through how I plan to achieve all my goals this year (that third one will be tricky, what with the last season of Game of Thrones on its way) I'll spare you and have us just skip to #5, the one about cheese, because formaggio is always the most interesting person in the room, isn't he? As you may recall, my grandfather was a cheese-maker, making and selling countless quantities of cheese -- mainly ricotta and mozzarella -- in the 57 years in which he ran his own business and not so long ago it dawned on me that I, too should give the art of cheese-making a shot. I'm not quite sure why I didn't think of this before -- after all, I love cheese, I love to cook, and I love my nonno, my nonno loved cheese -- but now that the idea is in my head, I'm pleased, inspired, intrigued. Meglio tardi che mai, or better late than never, right?

A little research has confirmed what I already more or less knew -- that the making of most cheeses is a tricky thing, the process requiring things like aging over long periods of time at specific temperatures in specific environments (!!!) Needless to say I'm not quite at this level, not yet anyways, therefore I've been starting small, with my cheese-making training wheels on, so to speak. First up was this first with this ricotta -- unbelievably simple -- and now this mascarpone, which is a tad more complicated, but still sits squarely in the "beginner" category of cheeses. First things first: mascarpone, if you're not familiar, is one of the most luxurious of all cheeses (in the same family tree as burrata, I'd think) with a mild, almost sweet flavor and a decidedly rich texture (this tends to happen when you're a cheese made with purely heavy cream). It is known mainly for its role as the cream layered between the coffee-dipped savoiardi of a tiramisu, but is also quite versatile, delicious paired with fruit, drizzled with honey, sprinkled with chocolate, dolloped onto desserts, served on toasted bread with jam, used in crepes, or spread on crostini. It is sublime when in ice cream, in cheesecake, in tarts, or in frosting, too. 

So! The verdict for this mascarpone, made completely from scratch in my very own kitchen?! It was was everything I'd hoped for and more, silky and rich and creamy all at once with a mild, vaguely lemony flavor, as content dolloped on top of a bowl of berries with honey (pictured here) as it was on toasted bread with raspberry jam. The recipe was undeniably straightforward and completely doable, but still complicated enough to make me feel accomplished, once it was all said and done (maintaining the same temperature for 3 minutes requires some attention and care!) My grandmother teared up when I told her about what I'd made during one of our ever more frequent calls on Skype -- but in her tears I detected more pride than sadness, followed by a promise that I'd make her some mascarpone as soon I was home next, maybe baked in to a pie, or cheesecake, or in a tiramisu, or perhaps just served simply with strawberries and honey, as my nonno would have liked

A couple of notes: You will definitely need a kitchen thermometer for this recipe; they don't cost very much (just a few dollars/euros in my experience) and once you have one, you can make not only mascarpone but also ricotta and sweets like fudge, toffee, marshmallows, etc! In short: if you like to cook, it's a good investment. That's about it!

Looking for other recipes for things that you would normally buy in a store, but can actually totally make at home? Knew it! I've also got: this ricotta, these gnocchi, these taralli, this ice cream, these bagels, this focaccia, these Pop-Tarts, this hot chocolate, this hummus, these popsicles, this challah bread, this hot fudge sauce, these granola bars, these soft pretzels, these castagnole di ricotta, this butterscotch sauce, this crema di caffe', these pumpkin doughnuts, and this pizza bianca.

Recipe from Food52 -- makes 2 cups. 

2 cups (480 mL) heavy cream
1 tablespoon lemon juice 

In a saucepan, slowly bring the heavy cream to a low simmer (the temperature should reach 180° F or 80° C and the goal is to try to keep it around there). Let simmer at 180° F for about 3 minutes then add in the lemon juice. Simmer for another 3 minutes, then remove from heat. Let cool to room temperature, about 30 minutes. Fill a small strainer with several layers of cheesecloth (I use three) and put a small bowl under the strainer. Pour the cooled mascarpone mixture into the cheesecloth and stick the entire bowl in the fridge overnight (mine only strained a few tablespoons of whey, but the mascarpone came out thick and creamy in the morning). 

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