I love mascarpone, but apparently mascarpone doesn’t love me. It does not at all like my attempts to make it do what I want it to do. It’s all very well if I eat choose to eat it on its own, spread on a muffin or paired with some berries. But I often see wonderful creations with mascarpone, creamy concoctions atop cakes and tarts and I so very much want to make them. They look so light and fluffy and after all, mascarpone is so similar to cream cheese, it should be easy to whip into whatever shape I want it take. Oh the hubris of thinking you know how mascarpone will behave!
I have made a handful of desserts with mascarpone and exactly 50% of the time, the mascarpone has done exactly what I wanted it to do. The other 50%, it has become a curdled, clumpy mess. The first time it happened, I was trying to make a low carb mascarpone frosting for a Flourless Chocolate Torte. I thought it might be the result of using sweeteners other than sugar that made it separate out. When I searched online, it seems it had happened to other people but it wasn’t an overly common occurrence and there weren’t any very good suggestions to fix it. Then the next time I took a chance on a creamy mascarpone filling for Tiramisu Chocolate Cups, it didn’t happen at all and I chalked it up to a fluke.
This time, I was using my own Homemade Mascarpone and I was so excited to try it in some yummy recipes. I had a wonderful idea for these coffee flavoured cookie cups, filled with creamy mascarpone and sprinkled with cocoa powder. Tiramisu you can pick up and eat with your fingers, how great is that? Except the minute I tried to mix my mascarpone, it separated out into whey and curds. It was virtuously instantaneous; I had barely touched the mascarpone before it separated. I hadn’t even added any sweetener yet, it was just the mascarpone on its own, behaving as badly as a spoiled child. I was nearly in tears, seeing all of my lovely homemade mascarpone, seemingly going to waste.
I despaired of finding anything to help, but this time the internet divulged some information that was considerably more helpful. Someone on some message board somewhere in cyberspace pointed out that mascarpone has a tendency to become un-emulsified (i.e. the fat and liquids separated) and I needed to add an emulsifier to bring them back together. This person suggested flour but then that would rather defeat the purpose of making a gluten-free dessert. So I turned to a trusty and useful gluten-free ingredient, guar gum, and sprinkled a bit in, then started mixing the mascarpone back together. And lo and behold, it actually worked! The mascarpone even stayed together and willingly let me add some cream and sugar-free coffee liqueur to it without rebelling. My relief was palpable, I didn’t have to toss out my gorgeous cookie cups or my lovely homemade mascarpone and I ended up with a dessert I could actually serve to people!
The moral of the story: mascarpone isn’t as easy going as cream cheese and it will flout you if you presume to think so. But even if it rebels, don’t despair. You can save your lovely dessert with a little ingenuity and an emulsifier.