In my day job, which I don’t really talk about here, I spend most of my time looking for connections and patterns. I piece together fragments of information to make a whole, creating order from a tangled mess. It’s a part of the job that I’ve always relished; taking at a string of seemingly random coincidences and discovering how everything links together.
As I’ve got older and more experienced (I hesitate to say wiser), I’ve come to realise that it’s not a bad metaphor for life.
One of the unexpected advantages to this blog is being able to look back and notice patterns in my behaviour that I was otherwise unaware of; you, attentive reader as I’m sure you are, might not be realise it but I can read an entry written a few months ago and suddenly something in my life makes sense.
I’m not sure that I’m explaining this very well. I liken it to finally realising that you’re intolerant to a certain food. For a while, you never connect eating that food with the consequences – they just seem to be two random events – but once you put it all together, everything seems to fall into place.
And let’s not talk about how long it took me to work out why I would start crying at random adverts on TV at the same time every month.
I think part of growing up is understanding and appreciating these little moments of clarity that make you realise more about who you are. It’s these connections that help to shape our lives.
All of which is a slightly roundabout way of introducing you to the wonder of homemade mascarpone.
Mascarpone has always been just a tub in a supermarket to me. I was pretty sure there wasn’t a mascarpone plant or that it didn’t come from a particular type of cow but I didn’t really have any conception of what it really was. Similarly, ricotta, was just another tub. They both were useful in their own ways but they were two completely separate things.
That was until I discovered that making mascarpone at home really isn’t that different to making ricotta. In the case of mascarpone, you heat some heavy cream until it’s just about to boil and then add some acidity in the form of a tablespoon of lemon juice. To make ricotta, you heat milk and buttermilk (which can easily be made at home with whole milk and lemon juice) until it’s just about to boil. Drain the resulting products and you either mascarpone or ricotta, depending on what you started with.
I’m aware that this probably sounds ridiculous to most of you but realising how intertwined milk and cream and butter and cheese are and the connections between them was nothing short of a revelation to me. Suddenly I feel like I understand food a little bit more. Not to mention the fact that, so long as I keep my fridge stocked with milk, cream and lemon juice, I can make either at the drop of a hat. And for someone as lazy as me, anything which means that I can avoid having to go to the supermarket is always going to win my heart.
Making mascarpone at home really could not be easier – a candy thermometer helps but if you are so inclined, you can probably manage without one. Unlike ricotta, which comes together within half an hour, mascarpone takes a bit longer as it needs to drain for a few hours. The actual amount of work, however, is minimal. What you get is a bowl of rich, smooth, silky mascarpone. It’s like kitchen magic.
Source: The Pastry Affair
Yield: About 300g (1 1/2 cups)
- 500ml (2 cups) double/heavy cream (not ultra-pasteurised)
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
Heat the heavy cream in a medium sized pan until it reaches 88C/190F. At this point, the cream should be at a fairly active simmer which sounds like a contradiction but it’s that stage before boiling basically. Gently stir with a wooden spoon while it’s heating if you need to so that that you don’t burn the cream.
Add the lemon juice and continue to cook at 88C/190F for 5 – 10 minutes, stirring all the time. By the end of this time, it should thicken up and look and smell not unlike a bechamel sauce.
Remove the pan from the heat and allow the cream to cool to room temperature; it should thicken up even more as it cools.
Pour the cream into sieve lined with a couple of sheets of cheesecloth (or a jay-cloth if you are so inclined) over a bowl. Refrigerate for 8 – 12 hours to allow the cheese to drain. The longer you leave it to drain, the firmer your cheese will be but don’t be surprised if you only get a very small amount of whey
To store, keep in an air-tight container in the fridge. It should last a week or so.