Via the WildYeastBlog, I came across BakingObsession, which is another wonderful baking blog. The beautiful photos are quite mesmerising, but there were also a couple of extremely interesting entries - homemade mascarpone and homemade ricotta.
Now, having seen Susan's fabulous Tiramisu cake, I've decided to make one myself for Easter. And thus homemade mascarpone will come in very handy, but better do a dress rehearsal beforehand.
I have this strange idea about cream that more fat is better and so I almost always buy double cream, which is 47.5%. The instructions called for whipping cream, which is around 36 - 38%, but I didn't feel it was enough and went with the double cream this time too.
Then heating it gently over a bain marie. I have a pot and a glass bowl that fit very neatly together, with the bottom of the glass bowl being at most 5 cm deep into the water and well away from the bottom of the pot. Perfect for melting chocolate and making Swiss meringue. However, it turned out that it was not sufficient for getting the cream up to 87 degrees C for sterilisation. I managed to reach 78 degrees C and topping up of the water and increasing the hob made no difference, so after 10 minutes at that temperature, I decided it was ready.
And so I added 1 tbsp lemon juice and the cream went thick almost immediately, but I kept it in the boiling water for a few more minutes, stirring all the time, just to be sure.
I set it aside and lined a sieve with four layers of cheese cloth, which I forgot to dampen. I also didn't wait 20 minutes for the cream to cool before transferring it to the cheese cloth, I figured it wasn't up to the heat it was supposed to, so shouldn't need to cool as long. And besides, it had formed a skin on the surface. It looked very nice - lovely pale yellow colour - and tasted very nice, like a very smooth créme fraîche, but not as sour. A couple of hours later, nothing had dripped in the bowl under the sieve, the cheese cloth was soaked and the cream was cold, so I wrapped the whole thing in cling film and put in the fridge.
That was yesterday afternoon. I've had a peek this morning and it looks great, there's about a teaspoon worth of clear liquid at the bottom of the bowl, the mascarpone has firmed up quite nicely and smells of yoghurt and créme fraîche. I should have bought some from the shop, so that I can compare. Either way, I'm quite looking forward to tasting it tonight. I'm not going to skimp on the 24 h resting time.
24 h later: I took it out if the cheese cloth and it was completely rock solid. It still had the beautiful colour and smell, but tasted of butter with slight yoghurt overtones. I had some créme fraîche nearby to compare and well, I can only say that this mascarpone was a complete failure. I'll give it a go as a butter on my toast before I discard it completely. But I'll need to get whipping cream and try again, it must have been the fat content of the cream I used, nothing else.
A few days after that: I've now had this "cheese" on my lovely lingonberry and hazelnut bread for breakfast a few times and it's beginning to grow on me. Texture-wise it's pretty close to Philadelphia cheese and it's matured a bit, but still butter is the dominant flavour and things work OK. However, I'm struggling with the amount I ended up with, particularly since Lundulph won't help out and will get rid of it and try again with whipping cream and also with single cream, to see what I'll end up with. I'll also change the bain marie arrangement to one where the bowl with the cream rests on the bottom of the saucepan/pot with water, hopefully this will reach the higher sterilisation temperature that's recommended in the instructions.