Homemade Mascarpone Cheese and Caffè Reale dessert (thanks to Pizza Express)
Mascarpone Cheese is a delicious, rich Italian triple cream cheese. I became hooked on mascarpone when Pizza Express used to offer Caffè Reale on their dessert menu, with miniature marinated figs. Then they took it off the menu (nooo!). A Caffè Reale is very easy to rustle up when you have the miniature figs and, with homemade mascarpone cheese, it is absolutely delicious.
How to make Mascarpone Cheese
Mascarpone is made by simply adding acid to double cream so that it coagulates. You end up with a very thick, rich and delicious cheese which is similar, in some ways, to clotted cream. This is a quick and easy process. If you start making your cheese now, you would be ready to serve it in 1-2 hours from now, including the time it needs to be chilled in the fridge.
We use Citric Acid, because we usually have some around for homebrewing recipes and for making Elderflower Cordial. You can also use tartaric acid, lemon juice or even vinegar. We make it with citric acid because we know the recipe works that way.
If you make your cheese with a different acid, particularly a liquid, and it is runnier than you would like, you will need to drain your mascarpone through cheesecloth for a few hours when it cools. This will separate the whey from the cheese, in the same way as you drain homemade yogurt to make Greek style yogurt.
Whenever we use citric acid, the cheese is so thick that we don't need to strain it.
Can't you just buy Mascarpone Cheese?
Absolutely, you can buy Mascarpone widely now. However, depending on where you buy it, it often works out cheaper to make it yourself. This is particularly the case with branded Mascarpone. Making your own means you can make exactly what you need, with no waste.
When to use Mascarpone Cheese
Mascarpone is often used in rich Italian desserts such as tiramisu and cannoli. As well as being fabulous in puddings, we like to stir mascarpone into rich, homemade tomato sauce with fresh basil, for a simple pasta dish.
Do I need special equipment?
No. You simply need a saucepan and a thermometer, so you know when your cream reaches 85°C (185°F). We use a Weber iGrill mini thermometer in the photograph, because Andy won it in a bbq competition and I couldn't find my milk thermometer that day. But any thermometer that it suitable for testing hot liquid will do.
Homemade Mascarpone Cheese
This is enough for 4 Caffè Reale desserts, with left overs to stir into a pasta sauce another day. If you need less, simply halve the recipe.
1 litre of double cream
1/2 tsp citric acid
2 tablespoons of water
1. Mix the citric acid into 2 tablespoons of water.
2. Pour the double cream into the saucepan.
3. Heat the cream up slowly until your thermometer reaches 85°C (185°F).
4. Add the citric acid and water mix.
5. Stir or whisk constantly for 5 minutes on the heat, keeping the mixture at 85°C (185°F).
6. After 5 minutes stirring or whisking, the mascarpone should be thick. Remove the pan from the heat and leave the cheese to cool.
7. Once cool, put the cheese in the fridge to set further.
8. If you don't plan to use your mascarpone the same day, keep in an airtight container in the fridge and use within 4 days.
And then you can make your very own Caffè Reale!
Homemade Caffè Reale Recipe (courtesy of Pizza Express)
We used to love this pudding at Pizza Express. They served it as a dolcetti mini dessert with a cup of coffee.
When we realised the mini figs by The Bay Tree Food Company were the same figs, that meant we could have this delicious pudding at home whenever we wanted. And we could even make the mascarpone. And it didn't have to be a mini dessert either. Fatal or what?
Fresh Mascarpone Cheese
A jar of The Bay Tree Mini Figs
Put a tablespoon of mini figs on a small plate or in a small bowl. Add a dollop of mascarpone cheese. Drizzle some of the marinade over the top of the cheese, and top with a mini fig.
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