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The Mascarpone of the Red Death

December 9, 2012

Mascarpone

For my birthday this year, my Mom gave me the most fabulous book: Artisan Cheese Making at Home. It’s this absolutely amazing book that takes you through all types of cheeses, starting with the most manageable and leading up to all sorts of cheeses that involve rinds and special ingredients and washes and things. But I already feel like making mascarpone is brave!

Mascarpone

The most difficult part about this recipe is getting the ingredients. I found that most of the heavy cream at the grocery store contained carrageenen. This is a thickener that also serves to prevent the milk and cream from separating: bad news when you’re actually relying on a bit of curdling to get the mascarpone to thicken up! The only brand I was able to find that just contained milk and cream (and no other ingredients) was Avalon.

2 cups pasteurized heavy cream without thickeners
1/3 cup powdered skim milk
1 lemon

You’ll also need a cooking thermometer.

Whisk together cream and powdered milk in a pot. Place on very low heat (adjusting as needed) in order to heat the mixture to 180˚ over 40 minutes. This is both kind of boring and extremely important: slowly heating the milk allows it to “ripen” without overheating destroying the proteins that are needed for curdling. Once you’ve reached the right temperature, turn off the heat.

Juice half the lemon, and slowly pour it into the cream, stirring with a metal spoon (not a whisk – too much stirring will break up the curd formation). You won’t get solid curds with this type of cheese – it will just thicken so that it coats the spoon. Once this happens, juice and add the other half lemon.

Cover the pot, refrigerate overnight. The cheese will be firm to the touch – EXCITING.

The next day, transfer to a colander lined with cheesecloth. Draw up the sides of the cloth and squeeze out the excess moisture. I found that a double-layer of cheesecloth was best to prevent the actual cheese from leaking out the holes.

This is a truly magical experience – I was so impressed by the whole thing every step of the way. It’s amazing to see it actually work! Now what to do with this mascarpone miracle…?

Tomato Mascarpone Bites

These are very simple, show off the mascarpone, and were a huge hit this summer at two different dinner parties!

Tomato Mascarpone Bites
3-4 ripe but still firm heirloom tomatoes (don’t waste your mascarpone on a sad tomato!)
dollops of mascarpone
sliced chives
a few twists of sea salt and black pepper

Espresso Mascarpone Bites

Espresso Mascarpone Cake

These cream and cake recipes are both from Cook’s Illustrated – they test all of their recipes numerous times so you know they’re good! Put together, this is possibly the best dessert I’ve ever had.

Espresso-Mascarpone Cream

1/4 cup whipping cream
1 tsp espresso powder – I used about 1 tsp of coffee powder, and 1/2 tsp ground espresso, since I wanted a bit of graininess
2 tbsp icing sugar
8 ounces (about a cup) mascarpone

Heat cream until warm. Dissolve coffee powder into cream, then add in espresso powder and sugar. Let cool then mix in mascarpone with a spoon, then a whisk. Keep in the fridge until ready to serve.

Chocolate Cake
Adapted from Cook’s Illustrated
1/4 cup plus 2 tbsp cocoa powder
1/2 cup plus 2 tbsp unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp table salt
4 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
6 tbsp butter
2 eggs
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup homemade buttermilk (1/2 cup milk with 1 tsp white vinegar or lemon juice, let sit for 5 mins)
1/4 tsp baking soda

Preheat oven to 350˚. I used a 5″ springform for this.

Combine eggs, sugar and vanilla. Heat chocolate in double boiler (we’re usually rash and just do it on low heat and hope for the best) then whisk into eggs mixture. Add homemade buttermilk and whisk, then add all dry ingredients and mix to combine.

One great tip I once heard for chocolate cake is to use cocoa powder to butter and “flour” the tin – it prevents the patchy white look around the outside of your cake! Isn’t that brilliant? Once you’ve done that to your pan, add the batter and bake for about 25-35 minutes. Cool, top with espresso mascarpone cream and chocolate shavings.

 

Next up, queso blanco!

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