Cream cheese is one of those popular dairy products with a myriad culinary uses. It has a smooth, creamy texture with a mild, sweet flavor. Easy to spread, cream cheese is used as dips, toppings and spreads. It is a perfect accompaniment for bagels, crackers and breads. It is added to salads and is also used in various other recipes. Cream cheese is the main ingredient in cheesecakes and cream cheese frosting.
What is Cream Cheese
Most of us are familiar with cream cheese, which is loved for its smooth and creamy texture. The history of cream cheese dates back to seventeenth century France. It believed that this type of cheese has also been used in England since the eighteenth century. However, in case of the United States, cream cheese is said to be prepared for the first time, during 1872. The credit for this goes to the American dairyman William Lawrence. Later, the American food processing company called 'Kraft foods' started producing and marketing this product under the brand name 'Philadelphia'.
As per the FDA, cream cheese is defined as a soft white cheese with a minimum of 33% milk fat content and maximum of 55% moisture content. Even the pH range of this cheese has to be between 4.4 to 4.9. Nowadays, you may find cream cheese in many different versions including the low fat and no fat varieties. These include solid blocks that are packed in foils and creamy spreads in containers. The latter versions can be spread easily, even if it is kept inside the refrigerator. This is achieved by whipping in air in the cheese. Cream cheese differs from most of the other cheese types, as it is not matured and is meant for fresh use with a shorter shelf life.
Cream Cheese Ingredients
Being a dairy product, it can be inferred that cream is made of milk. Pasteurized and homogenized cow's milk is primarily used for this purpose. Cheese culture like lactic acid bacteria is added to this milk, for fermentation. This mixture is heated to the right temperature and is further processed to produce cream cheese. This is the basic method of cream cheese preparation. Apart from milk and cheese culture, commercial cream cheese contains various other additives and preservatives. This includes salt and stabilizers, like guar gum, carrageenan gum, xanthan gum and carob gum. Some of the latest versions of cream cheese contain different flavorings like that of fruits, herbs, salmon, etc.
Homemade Cream Cheese
Even though cream cheese is available in the market in various versions, you may prepare this dairy product at home too. All you have to do is to get two liters of pasteurized milk, a cup of plain curd and 200 grams of fresh cream. Boil the milk and let it cool for some time. Add the cream, when the milk is still lukewarm. After a short while, add the beaten curd and leave it covered for around three hours. The next step is to heat the mixture over low heat, till it starts breaking. The right temperature (80 to 85 degree Celsius) is very important for making cream cheese with the right texture. So, wait till the milk breaks completely . Once done, strain the contents using a cheesecloth. Add enough cool water into the cheese to make it cool. Now, fold the edges of the cloth, so as to form a bag with cheese inside. Squeeze out the water (stop squeezing as and when the water turns milky). Now blend the cheese till it becomes smooth and creamy. This is one of the easiest methods for making cream cheese.
Now you have a basic understanding about cream cheese ingredients. If you are interested in using homemade cream cheese, you may try the above said recipe. In case, you run short of cream cheese, you may try its substitutes. These include a well blended mixture of equal amounts of ricotta cheese and plain yogurt. Another cream cheese substitute can be prepared by combining ¼ cup of margarine and eight ounces of low fat cottage cheese. Even though cream cheese is nutritious, moderate use is always recommended.