Mascarpone (pronounced mahs-car-POH-nay) is a thick, creamy, silky Italian "cheese" with the mild flavor of sweet cream. Why the quotations around the word cheese? Technically, mascarpone isn't cheese. Let's just say it's part of the cheese family.
Mascarpone is made from cream that is gently heated and mixed with tartaric acid, which curdles and thickens the cream. The thickened cream is poured into cheesecloth and after 24 hours or so when most of the whey has drained off, you're left with creamy slightly sweet and slightly tangy mascarpone.
Mascarpone is sold in the dairy section of most grocery stores, or you can make your own mascarpone at home.
For an easy, sweet dessert, mix mascarpone with honey, cinnamon and lemon zest. This honey and mascarpone dip can be served in a variety of ways (besides just eating it with a spoon)
- Cut large strawberries in half and spread the honeyed mascarpone inside each half
- Spread the mascarpone onto cookies or graham crackers
- Spread it onto cupcakes for frosting (serve immediately or keep refrigerated, otherwise the frosting will soften and melt)
- Thin out the mascarpone spread with whole cream, turning it into a sauce. Pour the honey mascarpone sauce over fruit salad or larger slices of fruit such as apricots, peaches and figs.
- Spread honey mascarpone onto French toast, pancakes and waffles instead of butter
- 8 ounces mascarpone
- 2 tablespoons honey (or to taste)
- A pinch of cinnamon (about 1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon)
In a bowl mix together the mascarpone, honey, cinnamon and lemon zest until smooth. For an airy, whipped spread, use an immersion blender.
The dip can be served chilled (firmer texture) or at room temperature (creamier texture).
Recipe Note: If the honey is too thick, it will be hard to whisk it into the mascarpone. If needed, gently heat the honey in the microwave or on the stove until it's runny.
This honey and mascarpone dip will keep for just a few days in the refrigerator.
In general, mascarpone is a fresh product that goes bad quickly, so use any open container of mascarpone within a few days.
What Makes Mascarpone Different?
Mascarpone is similar to other fresh dairy products like creme fraiche and sour cream. So what's the difference?
Mascarpone is made from cream and tartaric acid. It's very rich, with a slightly sweet and sometimes tangy flavor.
Creme fraiche is a French product similar to mascarpone, but often has a tangier flavor. Creme fraiche was traditionally made by letting unpasteurized cream sit out and thicken from natural bacteria cultures. Creme fraiche is now often made by adding bacteria cultures to ferment the cream.
Sour cream has a lower fat content than both mascarpone and creme fraiche. It's made by adding lactic acid culture to thicken the milk. Sour cream is less rich and has a much tangier flavor than both creme fraiche and mascarpone. Often, it includes additives to thicken the sour cream.