Cream Cheese, also called soft cheese by some, is a white colored soft cheese with creamy texture. More difficult to process than other varieties of cheese and differently matured than other soft cheeses like Brie or Neufchatel, this cheese is used in the preparation of a number of cream cheese recipes. It bears a strong resemblance to Mascarpone and Boursin in flavor, texture and manufacturing process; and is used as a spread, as a sauce, as a butter substitute and also in the preparation of icing. Commonly used for making desserts the cream cheese is also used in certain mashed potato preparations and crab Rangoon.
History of Cream Cheese
Cream cheese can be believed to have been first mentioned in the French cuisine as early as 1654 and some cream cheese recipes also originated during the period. Later, it was found to be mentioned in the English cuisines of Lincolnshire and south western England in 1754. According to Kraft Food records, the first American cream cheese was produced by dairy person William Lawrence in 1872 in New York. In 1880 the cheese was branded as Philadelphia as the city by that name was well reputed as a place of superior quality foods. Used as a substitute for Petit Suisse, a French cheese, the cream cheese came to be known by the generic name Philadelphia by some.
Preparation of Cream Cheeses
Preparation of Cream cheese is a tough process which necessitates observance of accuracy in maintaining the processes involved. Essentially, the cheese is produced by fermenting pasteurized and homogenized milk with lactic acid bacteria, which is introduced at 23 degrees centigrade, and allowing it to act on the milk only for a certain amount of time which is to be maintained accurately. This allows coagulation of the milk to form the cheese. After this specific period of time, the bacteria needs to be killed immediately by heating to 52-63 degrees centigrade, which if not done accurately will result in a quality of the product which is unfit for consumption, specifically hard or amorphous masses. Attaining this accuracy requires great skill making manufacture of this cheese one of the toughest of the cheese making processes. But changes in flavor and texture can be introduced by small variations in the timing for heating done by process experts. Cream cheese is preserved with the addition of guar and carob gum.
Culinary Uses of Cream Cheese
Cream cheese is used in the preparation of a number of sweet and savory dishes. The usage is varied and is described below:
- Cheese Spread- cream cheese is a much favored spread for bagels, various types of breads, crackers, and a number of raw vegetables
- Dressing – for a number of salads
- Sauces- one of the most common cream cheese recipes, this is often used alone, or in combination of butter or yogurt in dips and accompaniment sauces. The yogurt combination is a favorite of many for graham crackers on which it is used as a spread. A number of spreads are made with soft cheese as the base ingredient.
- Ingredient- Soft cheese is used as an ingredient in the production of cakes and cookies in place of butter. It is used as an ingredient in the making of cream cheese icing which can be used in place of its butter cream counterpart. The icing is typically used on the carrot cake. It is also used in the preparation of crab Rangoon, an appetizer from the American-Chinese cuisine.
- Substitute- it can be used as a substitute for cooking mediums like butter and olive oil in the preparation of mashed potatoes. It gives the vegetable dish a creamy and smooth texture.
Popular Cream Cheese Recipes
Cream cheese, with its rich creamy texture and mildly sweet taste, is a flavor enhancer and therefore used in the preparation a wide array of dishes. Here is a list of cream cheese recipes which prescribe the usage of the cheese as the main ingredient:
- Anchovy Appetizers- These tasty appetizers are made by mixing anchovies with cream cheese and chives. The anchovies are then brushed with egg, rolled into a log and refrigerated before baking till deliciously brown and crisp.
- Crab Rangoon- These are golden brown crisp dumplings from the American-Chinese cuisine. Filled with mainly cream cheese mixed with flaky canned or imitation crabmeat and scallions; and flavored with garlic, this triangular or flower-shaped appetizer is prepared by wrapping the cream cheese filling in Chinese wanton and deep-frying it.
- Traditional Cream Cheese Frosting – this is one of the cream cheese recipes for dessert toppings. Based on the cream cheese, the topping is prepared by mixing cream cheese with sugar, salt and vanilla essence, and then blending this mixture with beaten whipped cream. The output turns out to be one of the most delicious, soft and fine textured dessert toppings
- Cream Cheese Dips- these are traditional accompaniment cream cheese recipes, traditionally served during Thanksgiving. Honey Walnut Dip, Pizza dip, Taco dip, garlic and artichoke dip are a few cream cheese based dips that belong to this category. Honey Walnut dip is a baked accompaniment dish served with tortillas, bread and apples. The basic pizza dip made with cream cheese and pizza sauce is served with pretzels, cubed crusty breads and corn chips. Taco dip, made by flavoring cream cheese with taco seasoning is served with frozen tortilla shreds or corn chips. Garlic and Artichoke dip, made by flavoring a mixture of cream cheese and artichoke with garlic, is served with toasted bread and tortilla chips.
Nutritional Worth of Cream Cheese Recipes
Cream cheese is known to be high in calories owing to fats contributing to a major percentage of the calorie count. Therefore it is unsuitable for consumption by people for whom high calorie food is restricted. Weight watchers and people suffering from certain ailments for which high fat food is restricted, may use the fat-free version of cream cheese which is being produced these days.