Honeyed Mascarpone Cheese with Fresh Figs and Candied Walnuts
Fresh figs have a very small window of opportunity for seasonality. The Kadota fig is currently in season from September through late October. The bright green and purple coloring of the outer skin of the fig is alluring, but the interior is truly the most beautiful part of the fruit. Exquisite tones of color ranging from a bright fuchsia to the palest of pinks. Flecks of black seeds compliment the center of the fruit. Sweet with a slightly tart tang, the fig is the perfect compliment to many kinds of cheese.
Mascarpone cheese pairs perfectly with figs. The smooth creamy texture of the cheese pairs beautifully with the slight crunch of the fruit. Mascarpone cheese is created from fresh milk that has been allowed to sit in order for the cream to separate from the milk. The cream settles to the top of the milk and is skimmed off. The heavy cream is then pasteurized by heating to 185 degrees and placed into cheesecloth with tartaric acid. Tartaric acid is a derivative of the tamarind plant.
In earlier years, tartaric acid would have been much too costly for the farmers in the Lombardy region. They would produce the acid by skimming the white crystals from the cork or bottom of a bottle of red wine. Today tartaric acid is more readily available and less costly. Once the tartaric acid is added to the cream, the cream mixture is then added to a length of cheesecloth. The entire product is pulled together and is allowed to drain over night. The result is a creamy, tangy cheese that does not need aging.
Mascarpone cheese, although delicious on its own, is often added to desserts and requires the addition of a sweetener. Our honey powder is a very simple way to add sweetness and depth to the cheese. Honey powder is simply honey that has been dehydrated to a powder. A versatile product that can be used a substitute for white sugar in many instances. I personally enjoy using it in place of honey; less mess and it will not change the consistency of the cheese or many other baked goods or desserts. Simply measure the desired amount into the cheese and fold to combine. Drizzle with a small amount of raw honey for presentation if desired.
Finish the plate with a handful (or two) of candied walnuts. Serve this delicious trio at your next wine or dinner party. A simple and elegant appetizer that looks gourmet but is so simple to create!