What is Cream Cheese?
Cream cheese is a soft, unripened and slightly acid-tasting cheese with mild diacetyl flavor. It is made from standardized, homogenized, pasteurized milk and starter culture, a citrate fermenting Lc. lactis subsp lactis.1
- Although it is intended to be eaten fresh, a wide range of spreads and cheese cakes are made with it
- It is often compared to Neufchatel, Petit Suisse, Gervais and Fromage Frais à la crème
- It’s available in many flavors and combinations of spices, and herbs, in addition to low- and full-fat versions
Cream cheese and similar soft cheeses have a short history in comparison to other European cheeses. The first mention of these products dates back to 1583 in England and the first written recipe appeared in 1754. Modern cream cheese was not fully recognized and named until 1873 when William A. Lawrence added extra cream to Neuchâtel to make this cheese. Partnering with Samuel S. Durland produced Philadelphia cream cheese in 1880, which is the most popular brand in the United States today.
Similar to most acid-coagulated cheeses, this one is prepared from fresh milk that does not require fermentation. It is a gel with most of its moisture removed after coagulation and thus can be consumed right away.
Compared to acid-rennet cheese gels, it has very low elasticity, low fracture stress and lower syneresis.5
Producing cream cheese relies on the formation of acid-induced gels from high fat milk and subsequent shearing, heating and water-removal. Typically, commercial scale manufacturing follows these steps:2
- Standardizing cream to 11% fat, followed by pasteurization at 68 °C (154 °F) for 30 min
- Using a starter consisting of Lactococcus lactis ssp. lactis/Cremoris at a level of 5-6% for culturing at 30–32 °C (86-89 °F) for 5 h. Sometimes, a long-set process uses 1% Leuconostoc sp. starter and incubation for 16 h at 22 °C (71 °F). In limited processes, very small levels of rennet are added.
- Fermentation is continued until a pH of 4.4–4.5 is attained.
- The formed gels are drained in special muslin bags in cold rooms or using centrifuges or membrane processing.
- Resulting cheese can be packed cold or heat-treated to extend its shelf life.
- Guar gum(0.35% w/w) or other stabilizers and salt (1%) can be added and the mix is heated to 70oC (158 °F) help prevent cream cheese from separating and improving the texture and shelf life (up to 2 months) of cream cheese.
Composition and nutrition
Typical nutrients composition / 100 g:3
|Total lipid||32.14 g|
|Fatty acids, total saturated||21.43 g|
The USDA specifies that cream cheese contains at least 33% milk fat, no more than 55% moisture, and a pH between 4.4 and 4.9.4
Cream cheese is used as a perfect companion to many prepared foods and bakery products to provide unique flavor, texture and appearance. Applications of this ingredient include:
- Spreading on bagels and crackers
- Mixing into dips
- Making frosting
- Substitution for butter in cakes
- Mixing into mashed potatoes
As a soft and uncured cheese, this cheese is regulated by FDA under 21CFR133.133.6
- Litopoulou-Tzanetaki, E. Soft-ripened and fresh cheeses: Feta, Quark, Halloumi and related varieties. Improving the Flavour of Cheese, 2007, 474–493.
- Chandan, R. C. Cheeses , Soft and Special Varieties. Encyclopedia of Food Sciences and Nutrition, 2003, 1093–1098.
- Cream cheese. Accessdata. Fda. gov. April 01. 2019. https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/566840/nutrients. Last accessed by Feb 13. 2020.
- Cream Cheese – Agricultural Marketing Service – USDA. https://www.ams.usda.gov/sites/default/files/media/creamcheese.pdf. Last accessed by Fed 13. 2020.
- Lucey, J.A., Tamehana, M., Singh, H. and Munro, P. Effect of heat treatment on the physical properties of milk gels made with both rennet and acid. Int. Dairy J. 2001, 11, 4-7, pp. 559-569
- CFR – Code of Federal Regulations 21CFR133.133. Accessdata. Fda. gov. April 01. 2019. https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/scripts/cdrh/cfdocs/cfcfr/CFRSearch.cfm?fr=133.133. Last accessed by Feb 13. 2020.
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