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If you love dairy, you’ll love the almost-sweet and almost-nutty flavor of mascarpone. Known as Italian cream cheese, mascarpone has a high butterfat content, which contributes to its rich, buttery flavor.
To make mascarpone, manufacturers add tartaric or citric acid to full-fat cream. The curds separate from the thin whey and are then cooked until smooth and creamy.
We include a recipe for home-made mascarpone below. Note: while it takes only 10 minutes at the stove, it takes chilling overnight in the refrigerator, then straining out the whey afterward, before you can use it.
Many ask what the difference is between mascarpone and cream cheese. While they look similar and can be used similarly in cooking, there are differences in texture and flavor.
American cream cheese is firmer than mascarpone, with a lighter flavor. This is due to the difference in butterfat.
Cream cheese has about 55% butterfat and mascarpone, 75% butterfat.
Home-Made Mascarpone Recipe
Yield: 1 cup
- 2 cups of heavy cream
- 2 tablespoons of lemon juice
- Bring the heavy cream to a low simmer in a small saucepan. Whisk to avoid scorching.
- Remove from the heat. Add 1 tablespoon lemon juice to the hot cream.
- Switch to a spoon if you’ve been whisking, and stir. A whisk will break up the curds you’re cooking out of the cream.
- The cream will begin to form curds and thicken. Add the remaining lemon juice to the pan; stir.
- Let the cream cool down. Transfer all of it to a closed container and chill it overnight.
- You’ll find curds and thin whey in the morning. Line a strainer with a cheesecloth or a clean, dry kitchen towel.
- Pour the cream into the lined strainer. Gently squeeze out any whey.
- Let the mascarpone drip, covered, for ½ hour, then spoon it into a container with a tight lid and store in the refrigerator. Use it up soon.
How to use mascarpone in cooking
Any time you want an extra-rich, creamy taste and feel in your cooking, you can add the mascarpone. This is true for sweet and savory foods.
You’ll need to adjust the mascarpone’s sweetness or savory taste, according to the dish you’re cooking.
For instance, top strawberries or other fruit with mascarpone instead of whipped cream.
Whisk some mascarpone into pesto for a creamy pasta dressing.
Cheesecake can be made with mascarpone, but it will be somewhat heavier than what you’re used to. Substitute it for cream cheese in unbaked cheesecakes.
Combine mascarpone with whipped cream, sweetener, and other flavorings such as vanilla or lemon zest, for fabulous cake or cupcake frosting.
Mascarpone Whipped Cream
Yield: 2-4 cups
When you whisk the mascarpone with whipped cream, you get a stable cream that makes cake toppings and other desserts dreamy. These recipes assume you’re working with an electric mixer.
The following amount will top 12-18 cupcakes.
- 8 oz. cold mascarpone
- 1 1/4 cup heavy whipping cream
- ½ cup powdered sugar
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
The following amount will fill and cover a 3-layer cake.
- 16 oz. cold mascarpone
- 2 ½ cup heavy whipping cream
- 1 ¼ cup powdered sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Chill the mixing bowl and whisk attachment in the freezer for 5 to 10 minutes.
- Beat the mascarpone on medium-low speed. Pour the heavy cream in gradually. The mascarpone will liquify.
- Raise the mixing speed to high. Beat the mixture until soft peaks form.
- Add the powdered sugar and vanilla extract, beating at a slow speed until the sugar has incorporated.
- Raise the speed to high again and beat until stiff peaks form.
- Tightly covered, an opened container of mascarpone will last 5 days in the refrigerator. Never leave it out on the counter, but keep it in the fridge until needed.
- Mascarpone is a delicate product and can go bad quickly. If you’ve frosted cake with mascarpone but don’t intend to serve until later, chill the cake.
- You can freeze mascarpone, but don’t be shocked if it separates when it’s thawed. Whip it again to restore its smooth texture.
How do you pronounce mascarpone? Like this: mahs-kar-PON-eh.
Mascarpone is available in most grocery stores, but it’s expensive. If you’d like to save money, or can’t find mascarpone in your area, you can substitute other dairy products for it.
Using cream cheese
Mix the following ingredients until smooth:
- 12 oz. cream cheese, room temperature
- ½ cup heavy whipping cream
- ¼ cup sour cream
The key here is the whipping cream, which tones done the cream cheese’s tanginess and lends the desired smooth texture.
Can you swap ricotta cheese for mascarpone?
Ricotta can’t be made to substitute for mascarpone. Compared to mascarpone, with its rich, smooth texture and a slight nuttiness, ricotta is lumpy and so mild as to be almost sweet.
How about crème fraîche?
Crème fraîche is thinner, lighter, and more acidic than mascarpone. It has a much lower fat content – 30%, compared to 60 to 75% fat content in mascarpone.
Still, with the aid of sugar, you can use crème fraîche as a mascarpone substitute.
Mix 8 oz. crème fraîche with ¼ cup of granulated sugar until the sugar has dissolved and the texture is rich and smooth.
Beat ricotta and Neufchatel cheese together for a spreadable cheese similar to mascarpone.
What can I substitute for mascarpone?
Blend ½ cup of sour cream and ½ cup cream cheese. Use this mixture instead of mascarpone.
Mascarpone nutrition facts
Calories 127 (532 kJ)
Sodium 16 mg 1%
Total Carbohydrate 0.6 g 0%
Dietary Fiber 0 g 0%
Protein 2 g
To reduce the amount of fat in a recipe calling for mascarpone, you can swap other dairy products for part of the mascarpone. Low-fat Greek yogurt has the desired creamy texture and far less fat than mascarpone.
Experiment mixing low-fat Greek yogurt into the mascarpone, to achieve a creamy, mild consistency with reduced-fat.
Don’t ignore low-fat cottage cheese. You won’t get mascarpone’s custardy texture with it, but in dishes where that doesn’t matter, use it instead.
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Quick Tiramisu Recipe
Servings: 6 servings
- 1 cup heavy whipping cream
- 1 cup mascarpone cheese at room temperature
- 1/3 cup sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 tablespoon Amaretto liqueur or brandy
- 2 cups espresso or very strong instant coffee at room temperature
- 1 package ladyfingers
- Cocoa powder for dusting the top
- In a large bowl, beat whipping cream, sugar, and vanilla until soft peaks form.
- Add the mascarpone cheese and liquor or brandy. Continue whipping until the mixture makes stiff peaks.
- Dip ladyfingers in coffee, very briefly. Too long in the coffee and the ladyfingers will crumble.
- May an even layer of moist ladyfingers in an 8×8 pan. Spread half the whipped cream mixture over the ladyfingers.
- Cover the cream with a second layer of moistened ladyfingers. Spread the remaining whipped cream mixture over this.
- Sieve cocoa powder over the whipped cream topping. Chill 24 hours before serving.
Yield: Serves 4
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 1 ½ cups instant polenta
- ¾ cup mascarpone or cream cheese
- ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
- Bring 4 1/2 cups of salted water to a boil in a heavy-bottomed saucepan.
- Whisk the polenta to the boiling water in a slow, fine stream. Stir constantly to avoid lumps.
- Reduce the heat to low. Cover the polenta and cook it for another 5 minutes.
- Remove from heat and keep covered for 5 more minutes. Stir in the cheeses.
- Cover until ready to serve.