Mascarpone is a gift from the food gods. It’s slightly sweet, rich and buttery, silky and smooth. I discovered the fabulousness and flexibility of this Italian double or triple cream cheese late in my cooking life and started using it only about five years ago. I’m not a very skilled baker, but with mascarpone, I’m now able to make one cake that always pleases and impresses my guests. I can’t tell you anymore about what goes into it because I’m submitting the recipe to a contest sponsored by the Wisconsin-based Crave Brothers Farmstead Classics Cheese.
There are separate competitions for chefs and home cooks, and three categories: appetizers/side dishes (includes salads), main dishes and desserts. Each will have a first place winner that receives $200. The Grand Prize winner will be awarded an Apple iPad 2. You have until January 13, 2012, to submit your recipe. It’s not essential, but they’re encouraging entrants to include a one-minute (or less) video demo of your recipe for the Crave Brothers website. Send recipes and videos by email to firstname.lastname@example.org or by mail to Crave Brothers, Attn. Alise, W 11555 Torpy Road, Waterloo, WI 53594. photo of Strawberry cheesecake courtesy of Crave Brothers
Of course, they’d like you to use their award-winning mascarpone (but it’s not a requirement). Order it online. Other brands are available at many stores around town. Or you can make it yourself. More like yogurt than a real cheese, mascarpone is a cultured dairy product.
Start with really good local cream, stir in tartaric acid, watch the curds form, and drain. It really is that easy. Leener’s, a do-it-yourself fermented food supply store in Northfield, sells the acid in 2-ounce packets. They also include it in a soft cheese kit that has starter cultures for chevre, crème fraiche and fromage blanc. If you’re into this sort of thing, or know someone who is, the kit makes a nice gift. (So does Crave’s Chocolate Mascarpone Pie basket which contains the ingredients to bake one.)
I’m thinking the holiday season, with its requisite entertaining frenzy, is the ideal time to perfect a winning recipe. But don’t get your hopes up. I want that iPad and am in it to win it with my cake.