Cream cheese is made from mainly two ingredients, which are cream and unskimmed cow’s milk. You can make cream cheese at home using various methods and recipes. Traditionally made cheese has no stabilizers and usually comes out crumbly and is not easy to spread.
Typically, manufacturing companies add stabilizers and flavors to the processing of cream cheese to make it spreadable. Cream cheese comes in different flavors. Some cream cheese has fruits or herbs blended into them.
How to Soften Cream Cheese
Uses of cream cheese
Cream cheese is a very popular recipe in many dishes. It has a very mild taste, and that’s why it is added to many recipes because it does not alter the flavor of the dish. From enhancing sweet meals to savory meals, cream cheese can easily be taken at breakfast with a sandwich, for lunch in a sauce and during dinner in a pureed soup.
Cream cheese can be used to make delightful meals in hundreds of ways. It is mainly used for making dips, toppings, frostings, salads, desserts and sweet and savory dishes. Also, it can be used to thicken sauces or soaps and even change their texture by making them creamy.
Talk of making your favorite cheesecake or adding it to cakes, cookies or ice cream. You can make an onion dip or other kinds of dips and then take it with potato crisps or other snacks. It is perfect for making desserts with a combination of many fruits like kiwis or blueberries.
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Handling Cream Cheese
Cream cheese is not like hard cheese which has a longer shelf-life. Cream cheese can stay fresh in the fridge for up to a month and for about two months if it is stored in a freezer.
But cream cheese gets spoiled when it is placed at room temperature for over a period of 3 hours because it is a dairy product with high moisture content. If it stays longer than 3 hours at room temperature, then it gets spoiled, and it has to be thrown away.
Therefore when cooking with a recipe that requires cream cheese, it is important to take the container or wrapper of cream cheese from the fridge or freezer, cut out a small portion that is enough for your recipe and return the rest. Take it just about 30-45 minutes before you need to use it.
Once you have unwrapped cream cheese, then you have to re-pack it in an airtight container or bag before returning it to the fridge or freezer.
Also, avoid overheating cream cheese. Overheating it makes the solids melt, destroying the original texture of the cream. It becomes hard to use it in a recipe. It is therefore advisable to use short warming periods and gentle heating methods to bring it to a soft texture.
When softening it, confirm to ensure that the cream cheese is soft before using it. Use a spoon to press the cream cheese to check for a uniform soft texture. Also, if you choose to add other ingredients as a way of softening the cream cheese, the amounts added depends on what amount of cream cheese is being softened.
Methods of softening cream cheese
Most recipes with cream cheese require softened cream cheese. There are multiple ways of softening cream cheese. They are discussed here below.
*Allowing the cream to soften at room temperature
The easiest method of softening cream cheese is to remove it ahead of your cooking time to allow it to soften on the kitchen counter. This process requires giving the cheese at least 30 minutes to soften before using it.
Cut the portion that you require and return the rest in the fridge or freezer. Make sure it is packed in an airtight container or bag. If you intend to use the contents of the whole container or package, then you can leave it in the original package.
Also, if you need the softening process to be a bit faster and if the cheese will be mixed with other ingredients, then you can cut the cream cheese into smaller pieces. Cutting it into small pieces quickens the softening process. If you are in a hurry, then you can opt for quicker methods.
Please remember that leaving your cream cheese to stay at room temperatures for longer than 3 hours will render the cream cheese spoilt. Plan to remove the cream cheese from the fridge or freezer about 30 to 45 minutes before you start your cooking and no longer to avoid it spoiling.
*Warming the cream in warm water
Fill a bowl with lukewarm water. Then place the cream cheese while in its original container in the bowl of water. If your cream cheese is in a wrapper, then unwrap it and put it in a small container with a lid.
Place the cream cheese in the warm water and allow it to sit for about 10 minutes. If the cream cheese won’t have softened enough, then give it a further 5 minutes and recheck the texture. If you are not yet satisfied, then place the container in a bowl of warmer water, which should soften it.
This is the quickest method of softening cream cheese if you don’t want to add other ingredients to the cream cheese.
Use a microwave-safe plate. A plate is preferable because it is easy to remove the soft cream cheese from a plate than from a bowl. Start by removing the cheese from its wrapper and placing it on the microwave-safe plate. Slice the cheese into small pieces to quicken the softening process.
Place the cream cheese in the microwave and heat it for about 20 seconds. Check if it is soft. If it is not yet soft, again return it in the microwave and heat it again for another 10 seconds.
The idea is to soften the cream cheese and not melt it. Keep examining and heating it up for 10 seconds until it reaches your desired texture.
If it gets too soft, you can give it time to harden by letting it sit on the kitchen counter for a couple of minutes. Or if you are in a hurry, you can place it in the fridge for about two minutes.
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You can use a blender or mixer to soften cream cheese that is straight from the refrigerator. You simply cut the cheese into small pieces and put them in the blender or mixer. Add a minimal amount of water, like a tablespoon. Then blend the mixture.
*Using milk or cream to soften it
Neutrally flavored products can be used to soften cream cheese. If your recipe includes milk or cream, then you can mix the cream cheese with the milk or cream but don’t exceed the milk quantities you will use in your recipe.
If you are not using milk or cream in your recipe, then consider adding a minimal amount of milk or cream to the cream cheese. One tablespoon should be enough. You need to add milk or cream that is at room temperature.
Start by cutting the cheese into small pieces. Put the cream cheese in a bowl and add the milk or cream. Stir the mixture until it is soft. You can add another tablespoon if it is not soft enough.
Melted butter can be used to soften cream cheese. This process thins out the cream cheese. Start by putting the cream cheese in a bowl.
Then take the butter and place it in a microwave-safe bowl. Heat the butter in the microwave. Then add the hot butter to the cheese. Unsalted butter should be preferred because it has a neutral flavor.
*Using Lemon Juice
Using lemon to soften cream cheese may not go well with all recipes. Use this method only when your recipe demands for a sour kind of taste. It is excellent for sweet recipes, sour desserts, and frosting.
Start by squeezing the lemon. Then take a teaspoon and add to your cream cheese and mix them well. If it is not well mixed then consider adding another teaspoon of lemon juice and that should be enough.
You can add more teaspoons if your cream cheese quantity is big. Mix them thoroughly.
*Using a light spreading
You can choose to use a spread to soften cream cheese. Using a spread is ideal if the cream cheese is for a bread pudding or desserts. You can use Mascarpone because it is light and soft and therefore easily softens cream cheese.
*Mixing with marshmallow fluff
Fluffy marshmallow can be a perfect ingredient to soften cream cheese. They are suitable when you want to use cream cheese for frosting. Fluffy marshmallow like Cool Whip will add a mild flavor to the cream cheese enhancing the recipe.
Is cream cheese healthy?
Cheese which is a dairy product is an excellent source of calcium, potassium, and protein. Federal dietary guidelines require a person to get two to three daily servings of dairy. Usually what is recommended is yogurt and low-fat milk because they have a low-fat content.
Unfortunately, cheese is classified as a source of saturated fat. Saturated fats are associated with raising the level of harmful cholesterol in the body thereby boosting the risk of heart disease. But since 2016 there are mixed reactions about this.
A research was conducted by Harvard studies to determine the role of dairy products in promoting heart diseases. Researchers found that dairy fat had a lower risk of cardiovascular disease compared with calories from carbohydrates of similar amounts.
How to soften cream cheese depends on how much time you have at hand, what ingredients you have got in your house, your recipe and your tastes and preferences. Because of the many roles that cream cheese can serve in our dishes, knowing how to soften it will make it convenient to use it every time it is needed.
Enjoy cooking with softened cream cheese. Relish your meals.