Janet's Notebook
Elevate Dessert Time with Deceptively Simple Mascarpone Cheese Recipes

Cinnamon-Mascarpone Baked Pears

They say that once you become aware of something you'll see it plain everywhere. Well, true to form, mascarpone cheese has been cropping up in about every delectable recipe I come across lately!

It turns out that mascarpone is a deceptively versatile - and simple - cooking ingredient. It is, in fact, a triple-cream (yes, TRIPLE-cream) Italian cheese that is so rich it's sometimes used as a substitute for butter or cream cheese.

As delicious as it is, mascarpone is surprisingly new to my fridge and me. I recently shared with you the Blue Ribbon love that the Crew and I have for Dee Stillwell's yummy Tiramisu Layer Cake which incorporates flavored mascarpone in the filling. Well, this cake was a bit of a gateway to cheese enlightenment, as it demonstrated to us just how easy it is to bake with mascarpone... something I never before would have thought to do.

Furthering my awareness was an impeccably baked Cream Cake that I had a run-in with at a friend's birthday party just this past weekend. What was meant to be a surprise for him turned out to be a surprise for me as well... as I learned that this brilliantly moist, ganache-covered sheet cake was made with mascarpone! "That's the secret ingredient to ALL my favorite cake recipes," said Sara, the cook. Well, I about jumped out of my chair and headed for my oven mitts. I couldn't wait to see what you all thought about this delicious ingredient trend.

Betsy Reader of Rockford, IL offers up her homage to fromage with a ultra-light recipe for sweet Cinnamon-Mascarpone Baked Pears. Lighter than their cousin, the baked apple, these baked pears are topped with a silky dollop of cinnamon-laced mascarpone. The heat of the pears slowly melts the creamy cheese until each bite has just the right amount of each flavor. This recipe is a wonderful way to introduce the richness of mascarpone to your table.

Also capitalizing on the decadent richness of mascarpone is Kelly Gonnely's brunchtastic recipe for Honey Blueberry Stuffed French Toast. "I created this recipe using the flavors of blueberry and honey," explains Kelly. "The mascarpone cheese adds great texture to the inside of each slice." Indeed, this recipe goes far beyond classic French Toast. Each slice offers up a dynamic flavor burst; fresh berries, sweet honey and mascarpone work together to create the perfect "surprise" filling. This is truly a dish that will not soon be forgotten by your guests.

So, now that your curiosity has been piqued (and hopefully your taste-buds have been too), you're probably wondering where to find this miracle cheese. Well, I'm happy to report that folks across the country have been telling me that their larger local markets have begun carrying it in the refrigerator case. It can usually be found in small tubs near the ricotta and other soft cheeses. However, for those who have less access to large grocery stores, Blue Ribbon gal Malinda Coletta of North Providence, RI has a solution... make mascarpone right at home! All you need is a fair amount of half-and-half and some lemon juice! Use a double boiler to heat, drain the curd and refrigerate! Malinda suggests using it as a dip for dried figs and apricots, in tiramisu or in homemade cannoli. Mmmmm.... inexpensive and easy. Sold!

Whether melted over baked pears or mixed in cake batter, learning about this wonderful ingredient has been a job divine. Weigh in and let me know what you've been doing with this decadent delight!

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Vicki Bauer - Feb 18, 2012
Dee Stillwell - Feb 18, 2012
LIFE LESSONS ARE BEST LEARNED ON UR OWN i THINK..OTHERWISE WE NEVER KNOW WHAT WE ARE CAPABLE OF. WOOPS sorry about the caps. Most of us are flying in the Ft Lauderdale..a few are from FL and will be driving. This is the first nationwide one organized so where it goes from here..who knows..but the next one will be planned by someone else I think.
Gotta get off here and go to the pool..and exercise off these calories..hahhaha
Vicki Bauer - Feb 17, 2012
Dee, my husband and I don't have formal college educations ... no degrees ... we just worked at UGA (Univ. of Georgia); me, 23 years and Ivan, more than 10 (I think). That's why I believe the SHK might be the best teacher. You know when you are young your mom can try to teach you what she learned through experience, but we don't really learn until we've had our own experiences. It's so sad we humans just aren't smart that way.

Your FL trip sounds like so much fun. How often are these gathering done? Does someone just have to pick up the reigns and get it organized (like you did) or is it kind of regular? I have been a member of JAP for a few years, but only to look for a recipe. Never spent much time really getting to know faces and the cooking styles of the contributors.

Yes, Georgia is just above FL. I'm mid-state, near Atlanta. Georgia is a huge state and FL is a LONG state. For me to drive from Athens to central FL takes 8-9 hours. to Ft. Lauderdale is 10.5-11 hrs. I tell everyone there were no homing pigeons in my ancestory and that explains my very poor sense of direction. It would probably take me 20 hours to get there!
Dee Stillwell - Feb 17, 2012
LOL...I'm sorry u can't make the trip..i wasn't sure how far u were from there since GA is pretty close to FL, isn't it? We are all sharing rooms to keep costs lower. It's going to be so much fun and great to meet all my new sisters. I do have onee, but have never gotten along with her..so i love and cherish my friends both real life and online...and many online nes have bcome real life ones. U should add some of us west coasters to ur recipe collections also..some of us are red necks at heart too..hahaha
Thanx for knowing what i'm talking about on the SHK..i don't have a college education but life teaches u alot..and owning a bakery does to. I have made all my own money since i was 12 yrs old..and learned alot along the way. I started taking cake decorating lessone right after I got married in 71 and had an in home baking biz for 20+ yrs b4 buying a bakery. Sold that in 99 and am loving my less stress life..if i need money, i do a cake or cupcakes.. or whatever.
I got a kick out of ur pix..yep..a true Leo u are. hahaha
Vicki Bauer - Feb 17, 2012
Dee, I finally spotted the link at the bottom of your note. DUH! Figured out what JAP was after I opened the link. duhX2! Anyway, I don't feel I'm ready for that weekend financially (cruised the Aegean for 2 weeks last Sept. and bought a new bedroom suite last week!).

Did you choose FL because so many of the wonderful cooks are from the southern states? I just can't help noticing most of the recipes I save are from TN, AL, VA, TX, MS, LA, S/NC. Only a few from the midwest and west.

I love your comment about the school of hard knocks. My husband and I got our masters degrees at SHK. I had a job on campus in the department of redundancy department. ;-) Yes, both Ivan and I have made some pretty stupid decisions together because we can't say "no" to each other. Actually, I try to say no but he has a strong personality too! We've been married since 1965 -- 47 years in Aug.!

So, be sure to post pictures of the gathering of Sisters. Nothin' in the world like the sisters we adopt along the way. Wish I'd had one growing up but God brought us a little brother who I disliked most of the time until we were adults. ;-)
Dee Stillwell - Feb 16, 2012
LMAO..I like dessert signs..yummm..I used to own my own bakery, so desserts and I love each other..maybe a lil too much..lol
Leos to the end..I have always said I'm a Leo all the way to my toes...every Leo i have met i get along with great..love them firey personalities..hahaha..U should come to Florida with us next month and celebrate ur bday early..i was thinking about making the JAP girls this cake while there...here's the link if u wanna check it out...I'll be watching for u in FB Vicki.

March 23-26, 2012 JAP Meet Up Info & Chat
Vicki Bauer - Feb 16, 2012
Dee, I'll be 68 on July 29. Maybe Tiramisu should be the "dessert sign" for Leos.

I'll be "friending" you soon so please don't forget. --vicki bauer
Dee Stillwell - Feb 15, 2012
BTW, I turned 60 last July 24th..when is ur birthday?
Dee Stillwell - Feb 15, 2012
Vikki, that is the highest of compliments..specially after u have had the best tiramisu. I am so flattered that u want to have my cake as the guest of honor at ur birthday. It is so good and scrumptious. I have videos on my FB page of me making it..it is in 8 diff vids and needs to be edited..but is there if u want to see it...just friend me.
Vicki Bauer - Feb 15, 2012
Tiramisu has been the most sought-after dessert among me and my friends since we had our first piece many years ago at The Last Resort in Athens, Georgia. When it became unavailable because the baker moved, we were like hunting dogs on point! Where were we going to find our "fix"? Soon we discovered we had been introduced to THE BEST first and could never settle for less! My darling daughter even went to the trouble of making the ladyfingers from scratch! (We both take pride in not taking shortcuts on special dishes for special occasions.) The dessert was wonderful but didn't quite reach that pinnacle of highest achievement.

Janet, thank you for mentioning Dee Stillwell's recipe in your 7/26/2011 article on mascarpone! I read it through and have decided my birthday cake request this year will be Dee's Tiramisu Cake. I'll post a picture of it in July. Of course my darling daughter will be the baker. ;-)
Dee Stillwell - Sep 18, 2011
thanx Kathleen..I saw Pat's request and was just getting ready to link the recipe when I saw ur recomendation..Pat, this recipe will make ur friend sooo happy..it's awesome! Tiramisu Layer Cake
Kathleen Hagood - Sep 18, 2011
Pat, Dee Stillwell's Tiramisu Layer Cake would be good for your friend.
pat thom - Sep 18, 2011
Love it, but I'm looking for an easy recipe using coffee, espresso or mocha. My friend's bday is tomorrow and I REALLY WANT TO MAKE THIS CAKE, SHE LOVES COFFEE! any ideas greatly appreciated.
thanks, Patcat
Kathleen Hagood - Sep 17, 2011
That last one should have said Jeneen. I am getting careless in my old age.
Kathleen Hagood - Sep 17, 2011
Be sure to take a picture of the cake so that you can post a picture too. I sooooo wish I could be one of your taste testers! LOL