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Tiramisu owes it creamy coffee texture to the velvety smooth milky-white mascarpone cheese. An Italian classic that originates from the Lombardy region of the country, this cheese with its high butterfat content has been used for centuries instead or butter or Parmesan cheese to thicken and enrich risotto. The texture varies greatly from soft like crème fraîche to more stiff, like butter, depending on how it is handled during the cheese making process. If you're making Mascarpone at home, you will need a quart of minimally processed cream and a tablespoon of vinegar or lemon juice which denatures the milk, releasing whey. You also need a cheesecloth, a strainer, a double boiler, and a reliable thermometer. If you do not have a double boiler, you can make one by positioning a metal or heat-proof glass bowl over a saucepan filled with water. The finished product should smell like a mix of cream and milk.
How to select
• Finding mascarpone cheese can be difficult. When you do find it, it can be expensive.
• Many supermarkets carry mascarpone cheese, typically in small tubs in the refrigerated section.
• It is also possible to make this cheese at home.
• Check the expiry date before buying.
• Mascarpone cheese is best known as an important ingredient in tiramisu, a layered dish with finger biscuits called Savoiardi dipped in a strong coffee decoction and mildly sweetened Mascarpone cheese.
• Mascarpone cheese is used alongside stronger flavours like espresso, brandy and chocolates.
• It also appears in zabaglione, a rich Italian custard.
• Mascarpone can also be used to make frostings and to thicken puddings and creams for desserts.
• It is popular as a standalone dessert, served with fresh fruit and sometimes as a light syrup.
• It also makes a tasty alternative for cream cheese in cheesecakes.
How to store
• Homemade Mascarpone cheese won't have preservatives and will need to be consumed within a few days.
• Whether you buy or make mascarpone, be aware that the cheese has a very short shelf life.
• It should ideally be stored in a refrigerator and used within a few days, or it can go bad.
• Regardless of the type of milk used to create it, Mascarpone cheese is a concentrated source of the nutrients found naturally in milk, including calcium.
• Mascarpone cheese also contains a large amount of other essential nutrients such as phosphorous, zinc, riboflavin, vitamin B12 and vitamin A.
• It is a dense source of high quality protein.