Tag Archives: Mascarpone cheese

Mascarpone Fatto in Casa (Homemade Mascarpone Cheese)

2 May

I bet that you have tried tiramisù at least once in an Italian restaurant, that creamy Italian dessert made with a magic ingredient: mascarpone cheese. Today I will share a little secret with you: how to make mascarpone at home! Making cheese can certainly seem difficult, but preparing mascarpone is very easy -it only requires ten minutes of your time and just two ingredients: cream and freshly-squeezed lemon juice. What you really need is patience for the cooling time in the refrigerator, that’s it. The smooth texture and the mouthwatering taste of fresh homemade mascarpone can’t be compared to one you buy, and I doubt you will ever buy it again. In Italy we use mascarpone for both savory recipes (for example, datteri ripieni con mascarpone e noci), as well as pies and sweet recipes (panettone con crema al mascarpone, pandoro alla crema di limoncello). Mascarpone originated in my region of Lombardy, probably in the 16th or early 17th century. Nowadays it is recognized as a prodotto agroalimentare tradizionale (tradtional food product).

MASCARPONE FATTO IN CASA (HOMEMADE MASCARPONE CHEESE)
Preparation time: 9 hrs                       Yield: 300 g (1 ½ cups, or 11 oz)

Mascarpone

 

INGREDIENTS
500 ml (2 cups) cream (not ultra-pasteurized)
7.5 ml (½ tablespoon) freshly-squeezed lemon juice

DIRECTIONS
1. In a medium saucepan, heat cream on a medium low flame, stirring constantly with a whisk until it reaches the temperature of 85°C (185°F)
2. Very slowly add the lemon juice stir and continue to cook until the cream thickens to coat the back of a spoon (about 8-10 min). Remove from the heat and let it cool at room temperature for about 35 min.
3. Line a colander with a cheese cloth and place it on top of a bowl. Pour in the cream, scraping the pan with a spatula, and let it cool completely
4. Cover with plastic wrap and let it rest in the fridge for at least 7-8 hours. If I have to use mascarpone for my tiramisù, I usually check it after 7 hrs because I prefer it very creamy. The texture of tiramisù is smooth. The more you live it the fridge the more dense it becomes
5. Transfer mascarpone to an airtight container. It can be stored in the fridge for about 3-4 days. Mascarpone is good fresh.
Note: The refrigeration temperature and time are critical. It should be 4°C (39°F), and the longer you leave it in the fridge the thicker it becomes. The mascarpone consistency is like the Philadelphia cheese. The quantity of lemon juice is usually 7.5 ml (½ tablespoon) per 500 ml (2 cups) of cream, but the quantity of citric acid in each lemon can vary a little bit. If the cream does not start to thicken after 5-7 min. of cooking, you can add a few more drops of lemon juice. Paola

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Pandoro con Crema di Limoncello (Pandoro with Limoncello Cream)

22 Dec

This year Passion and Cooking will celebrate Christmas with Pandoro, the “golden cake”! Pandoro and panettone are the most popular sweets during the winter holidays. While panettone is a native of Milan, pandoro is from Verona. It is traditionally shaped like a frustum with an 8 pointed-star section and is served dusted with powdered sugar (my kids like to be the ones to put on the sugar). The dough is very soft and the taste is delicate and refined. Pandoro can be traced back to the 18th century to the rich Venetian aristocracy. Although some people recognize the similarity with the French brioche or with the ” Pan di Vienna”, pandoro seems to have been first produced on October 14, 1894, when Mr. Melegatti obtained the patent for a procedure to be applied in producing pandoro industrially. From this moment on, and considering the similarity with the Nadalin (a typical sweet from Verona), Verona is now universally recognized as the home of the original pandoro.The preparation technique is quite complex, so I suggest buying a good pandoro and enjoying it with a delicious homemade cream. I love the combination of citrus and soft sweets such as panettone and pandoro, so I propose this fresh and aromatic Limoncello cream, made with the legendary Limoncello of Sorrento, milk, cream, sugar and mascarpone cheese, the king of cream cheese!  In a few minutes you will have a delicious and rich cream to garnish your slice of pandoro. A helpful tip is to gently heat the cake for about 15-20 min. (for example on a steam radiator) and to sprinkle with powdered sugar to get the snow effect before serving. Wishing you all a delicious Christmas!

PANDORO WITH CREAM LIMONCELLO
Preparation time: 10 minutes            Servings:  10

Pandoro con crema

INGREDIENTS
500 g  (about 1 pound) fresh mascarpone
80 ml (1/3 cup) Limoncello liquor
40 ml  (1/8 cup + 2 tsp) milk
40 ml fresh  (1/8 cup + 2 tsp) cream
50 g (1/4 cup) granulated sugar
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest

DIRECTIONS
1. In a medium saucepan heat milk, cream and sugar for 1-2 minutes until sugar dissolves. Cool completely, add Limocello and lemon zest. Set aside the Limoncello cream .

2. In a medium bowl with an electric mixer whip the mascarpone, incorporate approximately 100-120 ml of Limoncello cream, adding one spoon at the times. Whisk for a few seconds until the mixture is creamy. -Paola

Datteri Ripieni con Mascarpone e Noci (Stuffed Dates with Mascarpone Cheese and Nuts)

6 Apr

This is a simple, simply delectable recipe that you can make as a tasty appetizer to serve in a special occasion.  This is certainly a Mediterranean-inspired dish, a succulent combination of flavors, creamy and caramely, that you can easily get addicted to. The date tree originated around the Nile and Euphrates rivers of ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia.  Now, however, the date palm grows in warm climates on all continents.  Wonderfully delicious, dates are one the most popular fruits, packing lots of fibers, vitamins, antioxidants and minerals; they are an excellent source of iron.  I love dates: by themselves, stuffed or in sweets.

DATTERI RIPIENI CON MASCARPONE E NOCI (STUFFED DATES WITH MASCARPONE CHEESE AND NUTS)
Preparation time: 10 minutes                                       Servings: 4

Datteri con mascarpone2_small

INGREDIENTS
10 large dates
150 g (about 6 oz) fresh mascarpone cheese, at room temperature
1 tablespoon whisky or bourbon
10 pecan or walnut halves

DIRECTIONS
1. Make a slit in the center of each date.  Remove the pit
2. In a medium bowl combine mascarpone and whisky
3. Fill center of each date generously with the mascarpone cheese mixture and place a pecan halve over the filling.

Note: I think that Middle Eastern dates are the best, and I prefer large dark dates to the smaller, pale-brown ones that are commonly found.  You can store dates in a cool place, in an air-tight container, where they keep well for several months.  You can substitute the mascarpone cheese and whisky with either sweet Gorgonzola or brie, for a non-alcoholic version that is just as tasty.  -Paola

Colomba con Crema al Limoncello (Easter Cake with Limoncello Cream)

28 Mar

If you have ever celebrated Easter in Italy, you may have tasted our Colomba di Pasqua (Easter Dove). This is an Italian dessert only available at Easter, something in between a cake and a sweet bread loaf. The particularity of this cake is that it is shaped like a dove, the symbol of peace and rebirth. In the Catholic tradition it also symbolizes the Holy Spirit. The cake is very soft and the ingredients are simple, flour, eggs, natural yeast, butter, sugar and candied orange. The dough is shaped into a dove, glazed with a shiny coat of sugar syrup, coarse sugar and sprinkled with almonds before baking. This is the traditional recipe, but nowadays many variations are available, such as glazed with chocolate or filled with creams, and without candied fruit. Colomba traces its origins to the middle of the sixth century. According to a legend, King Alboin conquered Pavia the day before Easter, and a dove-shaped cake was offered to him as a sign of peace. A more realistic story, though, is that at the beginning of the twentieth century the Milanese company Motta started producing an Easter version of Panettone (Christmas cake). You can enjoy it with sparkling sweet wine such as Moscato d’Asti or sweet Passito wine from Sicily. Just like Panettone, it can be served plain or with mascarpone cheese cream flavored with different fruity liqueurs. One of my favorites to use is Limoncello, a delicious after dinner digestivo, frequently served in Italy and Italian restaurants, you might have tasted this delicious liqueur (served chilled) made from Sorrento lemon zest. This liqueur has a very fresh lemon citrus flavor that blends extremely well with the creamy taste of mascarpone and the sweetness of Colomba. Enjoy it and Happy Easter!  Buona Pasqua!

COLOMBA CON CREMA AL LIMONCELLO (EASTER CAKE WITH LIMONCELLO CREAM)
Preparation time: 10 minutes

Colomba smallINGREDIENTS
Mascarpone cheese cream
250 g (9 oz) fresh mascarpone cheese at room temperature
3 tablespoons powdered sugar
110 ml (1/2 cup) heavy cream
6-7 tablespoons Limoncello

DIRECTIONS
1. In a small bowl mix the cream and Limoncello
2. Place the mascarpone and sugar in a medium mixing bowl. Use electric mixer to whisk for 1 minute or until sugar dissolves. Then add the cream-liqueur mix. You can serve the mascarpone either on top of the Colomba slice or aside.

Note: Colomba is a simple cake but the preparation is laborious because the raising time occurs in different stages and the temperature of the room is critical. There are so many good brands available on the market, and many pastry shops produce their own Colomba Artigianale or Artisan Colomba. -Paola

Terrina di Gorgonzola, Fichi, Noci e Marsala (Gorgonzola Cheese, Figs, Nuts and Marsala Wine Terrine)

27 Jan

Gorgonzola terrine is an elegant recipe that you can serve at a buffet or as an appetizer, either with crackers or Italian ciabatta bread, and accompanied by nice glass of fruity white wine or an aged Port wine.  This delight is also suitable as a cheese course in an important dinner.  The pungent and distinct Gorgonzola flavor blends well with the sweetness and tenderness of the figs and the crunchy flavor of the nuts.  This is a rich recipe, but there also a healthy side to it, of course!!!!.  In fact figs are rich in fiber, vitamins and minerals while walnuts, in addition to vitamins and minerals, also pack high amounts of protein and omega-3 fatty acids, which as we know is beneficial to keeping your heart healthy and your cholesterol low.  (At least this is something to balance out the gorgonzola!)  With Italy’s reputation as the country of love and passion, it’s no wonder that a popular legend ascribes the origin of Gorgonzola cheese to a love story.  One evening a young boy working as an apprentice in a dairy factory neglected his job, because he was “distracted” by a visit from his girlfriend and forgot to tend to his daily task.  The next morning he found the milk curds covered by mold!  He tried to cover his negligence mixing the curd from the day before with a new batch.  He didn’t get rid of the mold, but the result was a new cheese never produced before and that now enjoys a solid and devoted following.  This is, of course, only a legend to lend a little extra passion to this delicious cheese, which is made by adding a species of mold to fresh curd from whole pasteurized cow’s milk.  It was already being produced in the Middle Ages, and its name comes from the town of origin, Gorgonzola, to the east of Milan.  Nowadays several cities in Lombardy and a few in Piedmont are the main centers of Gorgonzola production.  During these cold winter days I would also suggest enjoying sweet Gorgonzola spread on warm polenta. (for more on polenta, see the Brasato al Barolo con Polenta recipe https://passionandcooking.wordpress.com/2012/11/13/brasato-al-barolo-con-polenta-breased-beef-in-barolo-wine-with-polenta/ ).

TERRINA DI GORGONZOLA, FICHI E NOCI (GORGONZOLA CHEESE, FIGS AND NUTS TERRINE)
Preparation time: 40 minutes + 3-4 hours refrigeration                         Servings: 6-8

Tortina zola small

INGREDIENTS
10-12 dried figs
½ cup dry Marsala wine
400 g (14 ounces) sweet Gorgonzola (dolce) cheese
280 g (10 ounces) goat ricotta cheese
½ cup chopped nuts (walnuts or pecans) + 4-5 nuts to garnish
80 g (3 ounces) mascarpone cheese

DIRECTIONS
1.Finely slice the figs and soak in the Marsala in a small bowl for at least 30 minutes
2.Line the inside of a loaf pan with baking paper, allowing it to extend amply beyond the edge of the pan.  Divide the gorgonzola into 3 equal parts, remove the crust and place a gorgonzola cheese layer (about 1 cm, ½ inch thick) into the pan.  (I use a regular loaf pan as a form, filling only one end of the pan.)  Cover the gorgonzola with half of the figs, then place half of the ricotta cheese on top (about 1 cm, ½ inch thick).  Add half of the nuts on top of the ricotta
3.Repeat the same procedure, and finish with the third Gorgonzola cheese layer
4.Cover the top with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 3 hours
5. Remove the plastic wrap and lift the terrine carefully from the pan holding the baking paper.  Place the terrine on a serving plate and remove the baking paper.  Cover the top and sides with a thin layer of mascarpone and garnish with some nuts
6. Let it rest for 10 minutes at room temperature, then serve in slices. 

Note: You can store the left over terrine (if there is any!!!) in the refrigerator for one day in plastic wrap.  (Fresh ricotta does not keep very well once opened)  Anyway this recipe is tastier when it is eaten the same day it’s prepared.  There are two types of Gorgonzola: sweet Gorgonzola (dolce) and aged Gorgonzola (piccante, or zesty).  The first one has a distinct but mild flavor and a creamy texture, while the second one has a stronger taste and a hard, crumbly consistency.  You can freeze sweet Gorgonzola cheese, wrapped well in plastic wrap, for a few weeks.  -Paola

Panettone con Crema di Mascarpone (Panettone with Mascarpone Cheese Cream)

24 Dec

Panettone is Italy’s cake for the Holidays, a delicious dessert somewhere between a cake and a loaf of sweet bread. It’s this cake’s dome shape that makes it uniquely identifiable. The dough is very soft and the ingredients very simple: flour, eggs, yeast, butter, sugar, candied orange and lime, raisins … but the taste is mouth-watering. Panettone was first made in Milan but now is eaten all over Italy to celebrate Christmas and the New Year. Some legends say that panettone was a creation of love: A 15th-century legend attributes the invention to the nobleman Messer Ughetto degli Atellani, who was in love with the daughter of a poor baker named Toni. He disguised himself as a baker and prepared this sweet bread to conquer the lovely maiden. Instead, another, somewhat less-romantic legend says that during a Christmas lunch at the court of Ludovico il Moro in Milan (15th century), the cook burned the Christmas cake he was supposed to serve. Seeing the cook’s despair, a scullion named Toni proposed to serve the sweet and simple bread loaf that he had prepared that morning. The dessert was enthusiastically received by all the guests present. The cook congratulated Toni and name the cake after him, Pan di Toni, Toni’s Bread. Since then panettone became the Christmas cake par-exellance, and nowadays many variations are available, such as with chocolate, flavored cream or dried berries. Panettone is served with sparkling sweet wine such as Moscato d’Asti and Passito of Sicily. You can enjoyed it with a cream of mascarpone cheese flavored with any one of a variety of liqueurs: fruity ones such as limoncello (lemon liqueur), mandarinetto (mandarin liqueur) and Gran Marnier, or perhaps Amaretto or rum. My favorite is Mandarinetto made of juicy Sicilian mandarins, exceptionally flavorful and refreshing.

PANETTONE CON CREMA DI MASCARPONE (PANETTONE WITH MASCARPONE CREAM CHEESE)
Preparation time: 10 minutes

Crema mascarpone small

INGREDIENTS
Mascarpone cheese cream
225 g (½ pound) fresh mascarpone cheese
55 g (⅓ cup) powdered sugar
3-4 tablespoons Mandarinetto or other liqueur

DIRECTIONS

1. Place the mascarpone and sugar in a medium mixing bowl
2. Use an electric mixer to beat for 1 minute or until sugar dissolves. Stir in the liqueur. Depending on the type of mascarpone cheese, you might have to add 2-3 tablespoon of cream to make the mascarpone cream smoother. You can serve the mascarpone either on top of the Panettone slice or aside, decorating with some mandarin or orange zest.

Note: Panettone should be served warm. In Italy it is customary to set it on the radiator for half an hour or so before serving. Panettone is a simple cake but the preparation is laborious because the raising time occurs in different stages and the temperature of the room is very critical. It is very common and easier to buy the Panottone rather than make it at home, unless you are a pastry chef!!! Unfortunately I am not! There are so many good brands available on the market and each bakery produces its own panettone, called “Panettone Artigianale”, Artisan Panettone. -Paola

Tiramisù

7 Oct

A pick-me-up that really picks you up

Tiramisù, arguably the most popular Italian creamy dessert, combines the flavor of mascarpone cheese, coffee and savoiardi cookies.  The name literally means “pick me up”, metaphorically “make me happy”, and usually the diner’s expression when eating it betrays this emotion.  The “pick me up” may refer to the caffeine in the espresso and the effect of cocoa used in the recipe.  The name may also have another meaning; it is commonly thought that this dessert is stimulating and aphrodisiac!  Tiramisù is not an “exotic dessert” and is not even too difficult to make.  My own tiramisù recipe is a very light  (no raw eggs and no cream), but at the same time it still has a smoothy and creamy  texture. One secret is to use very good, fresh mascarpone (if you can not find fresh mascarpone, I recommend the brandGalbani“) and to prepare the tiramisù one day in advance. If you are reading this recipe, you may have tried traditional tiramisù at least once in an Italian restaurant, but I hope you will find that this tiramisù will be an even more intense sensorsial ecstasy for your palate.

TIRAMISU’
Preparation time: 20 min. + 4 hrs refrigeration time      
 
INGREDIENTS
650 g (1 ½ lbs) fresh Italian mascarpone cheese
90 g (1 cup) powdered sugar
400 ml cold (and strong!) espresso coffee
3-4 tablespoons rum
200 g (7 oz) Ladyfingers (large Italian savoiardi are best, the bigger the better), about 28-30 cookies
cocoa powder

DIRECTIONS
1. Place the mascarpone and sugar in a medium mixing bowl
2. Mix with an electric mixer for 1 minute or until sugar dissolves
3. Add rum and set aside

4. Dip one Ladyfinger at a time, very quickly, into a bowl of coffee, placing them in a single layer to cover the bottom of an 11-cup serving dish (23 cm x 18 cm, approx. 9 in x 7 in)
5. Spread half the cheese mixture evenly over the layer of sponge fingers
6. Repeat to make one more layer with the remaining Ladyfingers dipped in coffee
7. Spread the rest of the cheese mixture on top
8. Cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours (overnight is best for the flavors to mingle fully)
9. Before serving, cover by evenly sifting some cocoa powder on top

Note: The traditional tiramisù recipe calls for raw eggs too, but I prefer not to use them for a couple of reasons: a) to reduce cholesterol; b) raw eggs can cause salmonella.  Also, if the mascarpone is very thick, as some pre-packages cheeses are, you may have to add a few tablespoons of cream to make it a little more workable.  -Paola

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