Friday, 27 November 2009

Further Adventures in Cheese - Mascarpone

This month my fellow cheese making pal Heather (Girlichef) and I tackled mascarpone. An Italian cream cheese, it is light and pillowy, creamy and delicious. It is also easy to make at home. Who knew?
I don't know about your neighbourhood, but here mascarpone is about $11 for a small container.. if you can find it. Knowing I can make it at home for a fraction of the price is comforting to say the least. This cheese has been the most satisfying to me so far. It turned out very well and the cost savings are significant. All you need is time.

This is the recipe that I started with from The Home Creamery by Kathy Farrell-Kingsley but I had had experience playing around with leftover high fat milk, trying to make simple cheese out of it, and knew that it wasn't so simple as the recipe states. My changes are below.

4 cups (2 pints) heavy cream
1 Tbs. white wine vinegar

1. Pour the cream into the top of a large double boiler and slowly heat to 190 degrees F, stirring occasionally. Check the temperature with a thermometer.

2. Stir in the vinegar, and continue to stir until the cream begins to curdle. Remove the pan from the water, cover and let stand about 15 minutes or until the curds begin to firm.

3. Pour or ladle the curds into a butter muslin-lined strainer set over a large bowl. Let the curds cool completely, then cover and refrigerate for 24 hours to continue draining and to firm.

4. Discard the liquid and transfer the mascarpone to an airtight container. Refrigerate for up to 3 days. Stir well before using.

New, adapted version:
I knew by reading the above recipe that I would need something extra. I didn't want to risk the cheese not turning out, cream is rather expensive here too. At $7 a litre, I didn't want to have to try it twice.
My friend Deeba has been making her own simple cheeses out of necessity and ingenuity, in India, for some time now. She has a wonderful post on home cheese making here.
Her method made sense to me. Leave it overnight to thicken before straining.

Here is what I did:
I put the litre of 35% cream in the small slow cooker on high, covered, with a probe thermometer set to alarm at 180F. Then I added 2 tbsp lemon juice, stirred, turned off the heat and let it sit, covered. After a little while, about 20 minutes or so, I transferred the cream to a plastic container and refrigerated it overnight.
The next day I set a strainer over an 8 cup glass measuring cup and lined it with a clean cloth. I scooped in all of my cream that had thickened beautifully overnight. I folded the cloth over, covered the whole thing in cling film and put it back in the fridge to drain. I checked it in the morning, it was coming along nicely but needed more time as it was still quite soft. I place a couple of small plates over the cloth covered cheese as a weight to help it drain. After a further 24 hours I had perfect mascarpone cheese.
Yes it takes time, but it is unattended. You can use that time to practice romantic Italian phrases, pirouetting, or yogic flying. The choice is yours. I just prefer to nap.
There was very little waste with this method, I got about 3 cups of cheese.
Want to make cheese with us? We are happy to have friends to play with!

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P.S.!
Calling all Canadian bakers!
The Pillsbury Canadian Baking Challenge is in the voting stage. Head on over to vote for any entry that interests you the most, or get some great baking ideas.
And, as a fun prize for giving a shout-out, Pillsbury would like to send one of my lucky Canadian reader a Doughboy dolly and tote! See the picture on the sidebar.
Just leave me a comment about what province you live in, what you would make with the mascarpone cheese and, for a second entry, what is the Doughboy's name??
(as in the baking challenge itself, the contest is open to all of Canada excl. Quebec)
Winner will be announced Sunday, please make sure I have some way of contacting you.