It has been both interesting and at times exciting to watch the range of lactose free dairy products expand over the years. When I first discovered lactose was an issue for me, I could find UHT milk and cream, but that was about it. Now there is fresh milk in skim, low fat and full cream varieties. Fresh cream is also easy to find, although only reduced fat where I live. Cheddar cheese is available and the most exciting for me, lactose free ice cream! Even with all these great lactose free dairy products, there are still others I miss, particularly soft cheeses.
So, I decided to try an experiment. After doing a bit of research I learned that it is possible to make soft cheese at home with just a few ingredients. Regular soft cheeses are quite high in lactose and can be problematic for those of us who malabsorb this FODMAP. With imaginations of tiramisu and creamy pastas and risotto, I got to work on my first batch of mascarpone.
I read up here, here, and here to figure out what to try. The ingredients are simply cream and lemon juice. I started with two 300ml pots of lactose free cream, but given that it was lower in fat that regular cream I wasn’t sure it would work.
A few particular pieces of equipment are required including a candy thermometer and something to strain the cheese in.
The cream is gently heated to 80-85°C in a bowl set over a pot of simmering water. At this stage I stirred in 1½ tablespoons (30ml) of lemon juice, causing the cream to thicken and start to separate.
After allowing the cream to cool to room temperature I chilled it in the fridge overnight. The cream thickened even more and I could tell this was going to work well.
I lined a fine sieve with cheesecloth which was fold into several layers, and strained my cheese overnight, although I think several hours might be enough. The resulting cheese was a lovely smooth ball, firm enough to hold its own shape but still a soft and spreadable consistency. The taste is quite mild, ready to carry whatever flavours you care to add, such as citrus zest, vanilla, herbs and so on.
Although the process of making the mascarpone happens over a few steps, it required very little effort and just some careful attention during the initial heating of the cream. Another bonus when making your own mascarpone is that it is much cheaper than buying a ready-made tub.
Next time I will show you what I made with my mascarpone…
What would you do with your own batch of mascarpone?