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Mouthwatering mascarpone

From the December 2015 issue.
Mouthwatering mascarpone

Smooth, creamy and whipped to perfection, mascarpone is a versatile cheese with many different uses.

Hailing from the Lombardy region, mascarpone is a thick, soft cheese with a very high fat content ranging from 60 to 75 percent. It is made from coagulated cream and sometimes considered a cousin of English clotted cream or French crème fraîche. In Italy, it has achieved recognition as a traditional regional food product, or Prodotto agroalimentare tradizionale.

Coagulation occurs by adding an acidic substance – such as lemon juice, vinegar, citric acid or acetic acid – to cream. This causes hydrogen bonds in the proteins to break which allows them to “unwind”. When the proteins are unwound, they have fundamentally changed from their natural state, or “denatured”. Once denatured, the proteins can then recombine to coagulate. The whey is then removed without pressing or aging.

The quality of the milk is critical in any cheese production process to ensure a high quality end product. The milk used to make mascarpone undergoes a number of tests to ensure the correct fat content.

Originating around the Lombardy region, probably in the late 16th or early 17th century, mascarpone is widely believed to have gotten its name from mascarpa, an unrelated milk product made from the whey of stracchino (a young, barely aged cheese), or from mascarpia, a word for ricotta in the local dialect.

Mascarpone is milky-white in color and is easy to spread. It is used in various Lombardian dishes, and is sometimes used to thicken and enrich risottos.

The texture of mascarpone ranges from smooth to creamy to buttery, depending on how it is processed. It is often described as the product that is one churn away from being butter.

Used in both sweet and savoury dishes, mascarpone is added to enhance the flavour of the dish without overpowering its taste. Mascarpone pairs well with mustard and spices, anchovies, or mixed with cocoa or coffee.

Mascarpone is a great addition to many desserts and also serves as a substitute for cream – with much more flavour than regular cream. The popularity of the Italian favourite dessert tiramisu has made it a sought-after ingredient in recent decades.

Mascarpone needs to be consumed within a few days of opening, and must be stored between 1 and 4°C.

Australian importers
Basile Imports, Australia on a Plate and European Foods

Australian producers
Pantalica, La Casa del Formaggio, King Island Dairy and Paesanella

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