Is cream cheese cheese?

In this brief guide, we will answer the query, “Is cream cheese is cheese?” and will discuss how to make cream cheese at home.

Is cream cheese cheese?

Yes, cream cheese is cheese. The FDA defines cream cheese as fresh cheese having a fat level of at least 33 percent and a moisture content of at most 55 percent as having this particular kind of cheese. Everything about it is gentle and supple. Mascarpone cheese is a close cousin in terms of taste and texture. You can’t go wrong with either ingredient!

When it first became popular in the late 1800s, much of it was made in Philadelphia. While it was first invented in the United States, it is now enjoyed worldwide.

In the late nineteenth century, around 1870-1880, post-colonial farmers in the USA started cream cheese production. The origins of this special cheese should be seen in the European Neufchatel cheese, produced in the Northern part of France (Normandy), although in England, cream-based cheese was appreciated by the upper class and English immigrants presumably might have played a role in its introduction in the USA. In 1872 William Lawrence, a dairyman in Chester, in upstate New York, added cream to the recipe of the American (“farmers”) cheese  Neufchatel, an unripened, fresher sibling of the French product, creating a full fat version of this cheese and thus the first American cream cheese, at his factory (1).

What is cream cheese?

Cream cheese is a fresh dairy product with an increasing economic importance in the food industry, with a projected global cheese market size of ~8.3 billion US $ by 2026. A mild cream buttery flavor and slight dairy sour taste, total absence of bitterness, along with a creamy texture, and a consistency that varies from brittle to spreadable and with shiny appearance, characterizes this acid coagulated fresh cheese product (1).

Cheese produced from cow’s milk and cream is known as “cream cheese.” With a slight tanginess, a hint of sweetness, and a silky-smooth texture, it may be used in a wide variety of dishes. Baked goods, cookies, and cakes may all benefit from a sprinkling of powdered sugar.

Standard cream cheese must include at least 33% milkfat and not exceed 55% moisture content, according to the US Food and Drug Administration. Moreover, the allowed raw materials included milk, skim milk, cream, condensed milk or condensed skim milk or non-fat dry milk solids; added hydrocolloids were limited to not more than 0.5% (w/w) (1). Cream cheese is readily available in the refrigerated dairy section of most U.S. supermarkets, and it’s a cheap and convenient option.

How is cream cheese made?

To reduce the pH of milk and cream, lactic acid is applied, which results in curds being formed. As soon as the curds are cooked, they turn into cream cheese with the addition of stabilizers. As its name suggests, cream cheese does not need maturing and may be consumed right away.

To begin, the cheese milk is standardized to a certain fat to protein (casein) level, according to the desired fat level, then the cheese milk is then heat treated. In cream cheese, the acidification-gelation process starts once mesophilic starters are added to the homogenized, heat treated milk, and then under incubation at temperatures about 20-30°C for a time period of between 8-10 and 16-20 h, depending on inoculum level and room temperature. Gelation will result from the conversion of the milk sugar into lactic acid, by the lactic acid bacteria added. Once the gel is formed in the fermentation tank, i.e., the desired pH is reached or controlled by cooling, the gel is broken (cut) and possibly adjusted with sweet milk mix or by mixing batches with different pH. The cooking step (at about 60°C) stops the starter bacteria activity and hence prevents further lowering of the pH, which otherwise would result in cheese with more acid flavor and brittle texture. After this, the cheese mass is mixed and other ingredients are added, including salt and stabilizing agents. The final steps include cooling and packaging (1).

Is It Possible to Make Cream Cheese at home?

It’s far simpler than you may imagine making your cream cheese at home. Simply add salt and an acid (like lemon juice) to milk or cream and you’ll have a delicious dessert. If you want to get merely curds out of the mixture, filter it after it has coagulated. Using a food processor, pulverize the curds until they’re finely ground and creamy.

Chef John’s cream cheese is made from yogurt; therefore, no extra acids are required. Chef John says the end product is “more delicious and tangier than conventional cream cheese.” Chef John.

Is Cream Cheese Freezable?

Yes! If you don’t believe you’ll be able to utilize all of your cream cheese before it goes bad, consider freezing some of it. It’s worth noting, though, that the chemical changes that occur when cheese is frozen and then thawed alter the texture. Frozen cream cheese may be used in baking; however, it’s not recommended for spreading over bagels or icing.

Freezing is an important process applied to cream cheese in cases where robust supply chains are needed, for example, to extend market reach, to provide food service customers with a consistent product, or to decrease waste and improve shelf life by reducing the rate of degradation during refrigerated storage. Hence, freezing is becoming a convenient tool for export or when the product is used as an ingredient for further manufacturing. However, from a physical point of view, freezing can have a negative impact on the cheese matrix: it can cause the rupture of the casein matrix as a consequence of ice crystals formation, with the creation of voids and large serum channels in the structure, the modification of the water status and distribution (e.g., protein dehydration phenomena), and some rheological and sensory changes (2).

Simply place the block of cream cheese in the freezer once it has been unwrapped. To avoid freezer burn, the foil and cardboard packing are used in tandem. Before freezing, store cream cheese that has been opened in an airtight container. Let the cream cheese thaw in the fridge for at least a few hours or overnight if it is frozen.

Substitute for Cream Cheese

What’s that you say? It’s no issue at all. Your best bet is Neufchatel, which is essentially a low-fat cream cheese substitute. Cheesecake, for example, benefits greatly from this technique because of its richness and decadence.

Mascarpone cheese, sour cream, and Greek yogurt may all be replaced at a 1:1 ratio as an additional suitable alternative (if your recipe calls for 1 cup of cream cheese, use 1 cup of your substitute).

Cream cheese: How to Make It Softer?

Allowing cream cheese to come to room temperature on the counter is the best method to soften it. Make sure you have enough time in your schedule for this. A hand mixer or stand mixer may also be used to soften cream cheese for approximately a minute. If you’re in a hurry, you can soften cream cheese in the microwave. Make sure it doesn’t overcook by heating it in 10-second intervals.

How to Keep Cream Cheese Fresh?

Cream cheese is a safe food product owing to its intrinsic characteristics and the different heating steps applied during its manufacturing and final storage conditions. There is no need to open the cream cheese before putting it in the refrigerator. If you’ve already used part of the product, store the remainder in the refrigerator in an airtight container and consume it within 10 days after receipt. To avoid becoming extremely ill, never keep cream cheese at room temperature for longer than three hours. According to the USDA, cream cheese can be stored for 2 weeks in the refrigerator.

Uses of cream cheese

It is common to use cream cheese as a spread on toast and bagels, as a dipping sauce for chips and other snack foods, and in salads. Mixing it with other ingredients, such as yogurt or pepper jelly, may provide delicious spreads.

Cream cheese is a versatile ingredient that may be used in both sweet and savory dishes. It belongs to the same family of dairy products as cream, milk, butter, and yogurt. Using it to create cheesecake and thicken sauces is a great way to utilize it in cuisine. When creating cakes, cookies, or cream cheese icing, you may substitute or combine cream cheese with butter. Crab Rangoon, a popular appetizer in American Chinese restaurants, is made with a filling of crab meat. In certain westernized sushi rolls, it may be used in place of or in addition to butter or olive oil in the mashed potatoes.  

Other FAQs about Cream cheese that you may be interested in.

Is cream cheese cheese?

Can you freeze cream cheese frosting?

Can I freeze cream cheese?

Conclusion

In this brief guide, we answered the query, “Is cream cheese cheese?” and discussed how to make cream cheese at home.

References

  1. Pombo, Alan F. Wolfschoon. Cream cheese: Historical, manufacturing, and physico-chemical aspectsInt Dairy J, 2021, 117, 104948.
  2. Alinovi, M.; Mucchetti, G.; Andersen, U.; Rovers, T.A.M.; Mikkelsen, B.; Wiking, L.; Corredig, M. Applicability of Confocal Raman Microscopy to Observe Microstructural Modifications of Cream Cheeses as Influenced by Freezing. Foods, 2020, 9, 679.