I can’t make cream cheese from raw milk. Or maybe I should say: I’ve made cream cheese a couple different times, both the Swiss and the French methods, and it didn’t work. Since raw milk is non homogenized, the residual milk separates from the cream while it’s rennetizing and then the cream cheese ends up with little flecks of white milk cheese in it. It’s not bad, but it’s not as creamy and smooth as I want it to be.
But then I learned to make mascarpone which is just drained crème fraîche (YouTube video out today!), and the results were similar to cream cheese, but softer and richer, more like a cultured creamy butter.
The first time I made it, I cultured it for about fourteen hours and then strained it for about five, and the cheese more tangy and dry, almost like a crumbly cheese. The second time I made it, I cultured it for no more than twelve hours and drained it for about three. At room temp, the cheese was softer and creamier, though in the fridge it still set up fairly solid. (Of the two versions, this is the one I prefer. All the photos in this post are of the creamier version. If you want to see the drier version, check out the YouTube video.)
I made tiramisu with the mascarpone (recipe coming!), and then I got to thinking about cheesecake. Using mascarpone all by itself as the base for a cheesecake felt a little excessive (though I haven’t actually tried it, so I could be wrong), and most recipes that called for mascarpone always used it in conjunction with cream cheese.
And that’s when it occured to me: what if I mixed quark — that soft German cheese made from skimmed milk — with mascarpone? Would that work as a cream cheese substitute for a cheesecake? So I made a cheesecake, half quark and half mascarpone, and….
It’s still not as rich and velvety as a cheesecake made from store-bought cream cheese, but it’s much lighter and creamier than a cheesecake made from straight quark (which, to be sure, is lovely in its own right) and the closest I’ve gotten to a cream cheese equivalent to date. I just can’t settle on what to call the cheesecake. Quarkapone Cake? Mascaquark Cake? Mascaquarkapone Cake?
Adapted from the instructions from New England Cheesemaking Supply Company
1 quart heavy cream
1 pack crème fraîche starter culture
1/2 – 1 teaspoon non iodized salt
Right before bed: Heat the cream to 86 degrees. Sprinkle the starter culture over the surface and let rest for 2 minutes to rehydrate. Whisk in the culture, cover with a lid, and let sit at room temperature for 12 hours.
In the morning: pour the crème fraîche (because that’s what the cream is now) into a cheesecloth, gather the edges into a bundle, and hang it for 3 hours to drain. (If you want a drier, crumblier cheese, drain for 5-6 hours.)
Transfer the cheese — it will seem more like a thin pudding at this point — into a jar, stir in some salt to taste, optional (though the addition of salt will give the cheese a longer shelf life), and store in the fridge for 1-3 weeks.