Soft Cheese is a softer variety of cheese that has more water content than hard cheese. It has lower shelf life than hard cheese (most varieties should be used within a few days of purchase). It is usually used as a spread on bread or crackers, and usually not for cooking, though there are some soft cheese recipes that are quite popular.
Soft cheese can be prepared at home in a microwave without any specialized equipment. It has a shelf life of 5 to 7 days. Cream cheese and pizza cheese are soft cheeses that can be prepared at home. Neufchatel cheese is a milky white variety with a smooth texture. Flavored cheese spreads available in the market also fall in the category of soft cheeses, and can be made with Neufchatel or cream cheese.
Soft cheese contains 45 percent water, while semi-hard cheese contains 30 to 45 percent water. Dry hard cheese contains less than 30 percent of moisture content. While soft cheese has a shelf life of 5 to 7 days, hard cheeses can last for up to a year or more, provided they are stored in cool temperatures and protected from drying effect of air.
Soft cheeses, which are easy to make at home, are the most perishable and have a refrigerator life of five to seven days. Hard cheeses may keep up to one year or more in a cool place when they are protected from the drying effects of air.
For preparing soft cheese at home, milk should be pasteurized for safety. It is more economical to use reconstituted dry milk.
Equipment Required for Making Soft Cheese
• Thermometer that reaches temperatures of 40 to 125 degrees F.
• Large double boiler (not required if using a microwave)
• Long-handled spoon.
• Cheesecloth or muslin.
• Forms for cheese pressing. (Articles in the kitchen like a heavy coffee can, or a pan shaped colander paired with a salad plate, can also be used)
• A press to put pressure on the cheese. Cans or glass jars that fit into the coffee can may be used for this.
Popular Soft Cheeses
Boursault: This is a soft ripened triple crème cheese from France
Brie: This cheese from France is mild and rich, with a spreadable consistency. It is used in soft cheese recipes for making cheese spreads for bread and crackers.
Brillat Savarin cheese: Another French triple crème soft cheese which is mild and buttery, with a sour and salty tone to it.
Limburger: This is a soft white cheese having a strong flavor and odor.
Some Popular Soft Cheese Recipes
Soft cheese recipes may be as varied and versatile as the various types of soft cheeses available. Here are some of the many mouth watering soft cheese recipes.
- Philadelphiacake: This is a non baked cake which is made by mixing together soft cheese, yoghurt, crushed digestive biscuits, butter, sugar, lemon jelly, and water. The mixture is put in a tin and refrigerated till it sets.
- Mincemeat, Cheese and Leek Soup: To make this soup, broth is poured over sautéed mincemeat and leek rings, and the mixture allowed to simmer. Mushrooms are then added and the contents further simmered. Finally the soft cheese and seasonings are added, stirring till the cheese melts.
- Cream Cheese Spread: For preparing this cheese spread, cream cheese, butter, parsley, vinegar, garlic, Worcestershire sauce, spices, salt and a small quantity of water are mixed together in a medium bowl. The contents are refrigerated overnight and garnished with thyme or other herbs before serving.
Nutritional Facts about Soft Cheese
Soft cheese is made from concentrated milk (10 parts milk make one part cheese) and has high percentage of protein, calcium and riboflavin.
Soft Cheese Trivia
Storage: Soft homemade cheese is wrapped in plastic wrap and stored in the refrigerator. While normally it will last for 7 to 10 days, it will only last for 3 to 5 days if meat has been added to it for flavor. It can also be stored in the freezer for four to six months. However, freezing may change its form to a more crumbly one.
Microwaves can be used for making soft cheese, especially if the microwave has a temperature control option.