Got a pesky half tub of double cream in the fridge? Turn it into buttery, rich, creamy mascarpone with this simple guide. Food writer and DIY Pantry regular, Malou Herkes, shows you how to make mascarpone super easily with just two ingredients.
Photography: Natalé Towell
What is mascarpone and what can you do with it?
Mascarpone is an Italian cream cheese that you can use in both sweet and savoury recipes. Stir it into risotto or a pasta bake, use it for creamy cheesecake, add it to a gluttonous tiramisu or whip it into icing… whatever you do with mascarpone, its rich, creamy texture makes it a wonderful ingredient for enriching desserts and a glorious bowl of carbs. It also adds creaminess to soups, can be whisked with eggs and fried into an omelette or added to berries and honey for a summertime dessert.
It’s one of those ingredients you can make easily enough at home, especially if you have a tub of double cream you need to use up. Making mascarpone is a simple process of heating cream, adding lemon juice so it thickens and straining it so you’re left with a buttery-rich ingredient.
Cream and lemon juice, that’s it?
Mascarpone is really just two ingredients: double cream and tartaric acid (which occurs naturally in citrus). Traditionally, mascarpone would have been made using the tartaric acid left in the bottom of wine barrels in Italy’s Lombardy region. If you’re making it at home, though, you can just use lemon juice.
Now for the science bit
Unlike cheese, which is made by adding acid to milk, which then separates the curds from the whey, mascarpone is made by adding acid to cream. When you add acid, like lemon juice or vinegar to cream, it doesn’t separate. Rather, you’ll see your cream suddenly thicken and bubble. Why does it do this?
The fat in cream outweighs the casein proteins 10 to 1 (in milk they are about equal) and so stops the proteins from forming tight curds. So instead of curdling as milk would, the mixture thickens.
At this point you want to strain it so the whey drips out and you’re left with a buttery, rich, creamy mascarpone. It’s really very simple.
A note on cream
Single cream won’t work here as it doesn’t contain enough fat. Use the best quality double cream to make the best-tasting mascarpone. I used golden, organic cream from Berkeley Farm‘s small herd of cows in Wiltshire, which makes for creamier, richer mascarpone.
How to make mascarpone: a step-by-step guide
You will need: double cream, lemon juice, a thermometer, a saucepan, a sieve and a piece of muslin or cheesecloth.
Step 1. Pour double cream into a pan, place over a low heat and gently heat to 85ºC – you’ll need to use a thermometer here. Leave to simmer at this temperature for a few minutes, stirring often, making sure it doesn’t come to a boil.
Step 2. Add a squeeze of lemon juice (for about 500ml of cream, use the juice from half a lemon. Add more or less depending how much cream you have) – it’ll thicken and start to bubble at this point. Simmer on the heat for another few minutes, then remove from the heat and leave it to cool to room temperature.
Step 3. Line a sieve with a double layer of cheesecloth or muslin (a clean tea towel could work fine too). Rest the sieve over a bowl. Pour the cooled cream into the lined sieve, then place in the fridge for a few hours or overnight to strain out the whey (there won’t be a lot).
Step 4. Now you have creamy, buttery mascarpone to satisfy all your culinary dreams!