If you have ever enjoyed the classic Italian dessert tiramisu or a high-end cheesecake, you have likely partaken in the unique delicacy that is Mascarpone cheese.
Despite fetching exorbitant prices at the grocery store, this smooth, creamy spread is not difficult to make at home.
Let us fill you in about what it is and how to easily whip some up yourself.
What is Mascarpone Cheese?
Since the middle ages, Italians living in the Lombardy Province have transformed cow dairy cream into this sweet, silky cheese.
Mascarpone is a fresh, triple-cream cheese, meaning that it is not aged and has a butterfat content above 75% per dry matter.
This gives it a supremely buttery taste and a velvety texture, making it a flawless base for ice cream, frosting, and sauces.
How is Mascarpone Cheese Made?
Traditionally, this medieval Italian delight was made from freshly skimmed cream thickened with a gentle heating step, then fermented with lactic acid cultures until the cream curdled to a spreadable texture.
Modern Mascarpone is now more often made from a mixture of pasteurized cream and milk and thickened by the direct addition of acid instead of the addition of microorganisms.
Mascarpone vs. Cream Cheese
While cream cheese is derived from whole milk, Mascarpone starts as heavy cream. This means that the fat content of Mascarpone is much higher, giving it a richer taste and a softer texture.
Cream cheese is also fermented longer so that it comes across as more acidic. Compared to cream cheese, Mascarpone is sweeter, less tart, fattier, and less rubbery.
Different Kinds of Mascarpone Cheese
When you see the word “Mascarpone,” assume it refers to Mascarpone cheese -- the rich spread made from fresh, acid-thickened cream.
Occasionally, grocers sell a prepared mixture known as “Mascarpone cream” consisting of Mascarpone cheese, sugar, milk, and (usually) eggs whipped together.
This is the fluffy base used to make tiramisu. You may find Mascarpone cream on top of coffees and cakes or as a dessert filling.
Mascarpone Cheese Substitutes
What Does Mascarpone Cheese Taste Like?
Mascarpone is gently sweet and acidic, with very little tang. It can be slightly nutty, and boasts a fresh buttery profile. Its mild flavor allows it to transition between sweet and savory recipes.
Mascarpone Cheese Pairings
The mild, sweet, lactic notes of Mascarpone pair wonderfully with sweet fruits, honey, and jam. If you choose to go the savory route, some chefs swear by a dollop of Mascarpone with a drizzle of truffle oil.
Best Mascarpone Cheese Brands
For desserts, try Epiu brand Mascarpone. This brand is reputed to taste sweeter than others, so it's ideal for frosting, tiramisu, or cheesecake.
Where to Buy Mascarpone Cheese
Because it is often considered a specialty item, Mascarpone may not be available in all stores. Look for it in supermarkets in large cities or at boutique grocers; alternatively, you may choose to make your own (see below).
How Long Does Mascarpone Cheese Last?
Whether you purchase it or make it at home, Mascarpone lasts no more than 3-5 days in the fridge. If you choose to freeze it, make sure to label the container, as it should only stay in the freezer for a maximum of two months.
Freezing Mascarpone will cause it to separate, but you can return it to a smooth consistency by whipping it once it thaws.
How to Make Mascarpone Cheese
Homemade Mascarpone is a fairly straightforward endeavor for a beginner cheesemaker, requiring very few ingredients and little equipment.
In short, it involves heating cream to a gentle boil (around 185°F), adding an acid (tartaric acid or lemon juice), then allowing the cream to thicken and sometimes gently draining it.
The experts at cheesemaking.com offer a very thorough Mascarpone recipe that include both bacterial and direct-acidified options, as well as an explanation of what to expect from several different varieties of milk and cream.
Mascarpone Cheese Recipe
Whether you find Mascarpone in your local supermarket or whip up a batch at home, now you know how to take advantage of this Italian luxury.
We hope you enjoyed this comprehensive article on Mascarpone cheese. Let us know if you have any suggestions, questions or comments, or recipes.