Mascarpone cheese is a smooth, buttery Italian cheese that has many great applications. It can be used to add richness to a pasta dish, and it can also be used to make a perfect tiramisu. The cheese itself has a very mild flavor, so other ingredients – from savory herbs to sugar and extracts – are added to give it a little bit more complexity when it appears in a recipe. Several years ago, the cream cheese industry came up with the idea to sell flavored cream cheeses in addition to plain cream cheese, giving consumers the option to buy their spreadable cheese in an array of flavors that they could use without having to stir in their own honey/berries/chocolate/etc. to the cheese. Mascarpone cheese doesn’t seem to have followed this trend, so I was surprised to see Trader Joe’s Cocoa Mascarpone in the dairy case on a recent visit. This mascarpone is already flavored with coffee and cocoa powder, which means that buying it puts you one step closer to having tiramisu for dessert.
The mascarpone contains just cheese, sugar, espresso and cocoa powder. It is only slightly sweet, just enough to soften the espresso and cocoa flavors. You get a mellow chocolate flavor, but I didn’t pick up on too much of the coffee and probably wouldn’t have known it was there if it wasn’t printed on the label. It is very tasty on its own and just begs to be used in dessert applications. It would be a very nice way to fill a whoopie pie, for instance, or add a chocolate layer to a homemade tiramisu. That said, the chocolate is so mild that you will need to add even more if you want a rich chocolate flavor (in a chocolate cheesecake, for instance), so while this is a delicious product for chocolate and cheese lovers to stock in their refrigerator, it isn’t going to be a one-stop product for most of your recipes.