July 17, 2009

Home Creamery: Mascarpone

Strawberry and Ranier Cherry Parfait

Mascarpone, the queen of dessert cheeses. At least it is when it's freshly made. The mascarpone available in most stores is a little rubbery and a bit too citrusy. The real thing has a texture like whipped cream about to turn to butter and an ethereal, ever-so-slightly tart flavor.

Cream of Tartar vs Tartaric AcidTo make mascarpone you'll need tartaric acid. In spite of what you might have read, cream of tartar is not tartaric acid; rather, it's a derivative of tartaric acid. You cannot subsitute one for the other with any hope of success. In the picture to the right, the powdery cream of tartar is on the left, and the crystaline tartaric acid is on the right.

Mascarpone 1You'll also need a double boiler setup of some sort, or you could just use two pans like I did. A thermometer is mandatory. You'll need to line a stainless steel colander with a double layer of butter muslin to finish the cheese. Set the colander into a bowl to catch the whey.

Heat one quart/liter of half-and-half or cream to 185°F/85°C. Then add ¼ teaspoon/1.25mL tartaric acid and stir until the dairy thickens. It should be thick enough to be reminiscent of cream of wheat or farina, and the spoon or whisk you're stirring with should leave tracks behind. It takes a good five minutes or so to coagulate, so have some patience.

Mascarpone 2When the dairy is thickened, pour it into the muslin-lined colander and let it drain for about an hour at room temperature. Carefully spoon the cheese into a container, cover, and refrigerate overnight; in a dessert emergency, you can use it once it's chilled a couple of hours. It will keep in the refrigerator up to two weeks, not that you'll have any around that long.

Mascarpone has many uses: cannoli, tiramisu, cheesecake, or it can be served plain. I used it to make the dessert pictured above, which has quartered strawberries in mint simple syrup on the bottom, mascarpone, and Rainier cherries on top. The dollop on top that looks like whipped cream? More mascarpone. Delicious.


  1. I adore tiramisu and have never attempted making my own cheese. This looks intriguing. Where do you get tartaric acid?

  2. You can get tartaric acid at Amazon by clicking that link, or go to New England Cheesemaking Company. You can also get a starter packet at New England Cheesemaking Company that includes a culture. I haven't tried that yet.

  3. I have never tried to make anything like this before. I'm sure it tastes unbelieveably better than store bought. Wonderful!

  4. Hi Gareth!

    Thank you so much for finding and friending us on foodbuzz. We are Fred and Sarah Zorn of the Main Ingredient, a new podcast for food geeks that follows the journey of one notable edible from inception to ingestion! We love your page (that marscapone recipe is terrific) and we hope you'll check us out by visiting http://themainingredient.podbean.com
    We'd be happy to link to your page on our site, and would love if you'd do the same!


    Fred and Sarah

  5. Hi Gareth! I'm Chloe.It's very nice to find out your blog,cuz I always want to make my own cheese at home.But I just maked cream cheese before,I want to make more cheese like mascarpone or Mozarella but I can't find Tartaric Acid here.I'm living in Vietnam.I just know that tartaric acid are in lemon,grape or sour fruit but I don't know can I use it as tartaric acid or not. :-( Have you ever buy tartaric acid throught the link to amazon in your entry?Is that okay to order?or can I replace it by another ingredient?

    Thanks Gareth,for your recipe


  6. Tartaric acid comes from tamarind, citric acid comes from lemons. You can buy tartaric acid from Amazon, but I don't know if they ship to Vietnam. I don't know of any substitute for tartaric acid.

  7. Gareth - thank you for sharing this blog post, and your advice, of course...I look forward to exploring your blog more...
    Cheers, Stuart...

  8. Hi Gareth,
    What a useful post for those of us living in places that can't readily access marscapone cheese. I'll be sure to file this on my list of want to try recipes!

    First I'll have to find me some tartaric acid.....that's not gonna be easy. Here in the Caribbean we do have an abundance of tamarind, maybe I can do some research on how to extract the tartaric acid as the use of the tamarind itself might impart some of it's flavour....

  9. Thanks! Mascarpone can also be made using a crème fraîche culture, so you might try using that or even buttermilk with half and half or cream, letting it ferment for maybe 12 hours, then drain with butter muslin. Can't guarantee it'll work, because I haven't tried it, but it might be worth a try.

  10. Am going to look for tartaric acid now. Have made mascarpone twice with lime juice, & the result looks quite like what you describe it to be.I made a mocha mascarpone filling for a choc genoise (http://www.passionateaboutbaking.com/2009/07/chocolate-genoise-cake-with-mocha.html) using it.
    I would like to experiment with tartaric acid too. Thank you for your post!

  11. You're quite welcome. I hope you find tartaric acid so you can taste the difference.