Cracking the Cream Cheese Code: Your Ultimate Guide to Sourcing and Utilizing this Culinary Delight

Cracking the Cream Cheese Code: Your Ultimate Guide to Sourcing and Utilizing this Culinary Delight

Extremely used in the United States, cream cheese is much less used in our green lands. However, it is present in a good number of recipes imported or inspired by our friends across the Atlantic… So let’s take a quick look at what cream cheese is, how to find it in France or replace it, and above all how to ‘use in your recipes!

History of cream cheese

Cream cheese is a fresh cheese of American origin that emerged in the 19th century. It is made from pasteurized cow’s milk and has a creamy and smooth texture. Its sweet and slightly tangy taste makes it a versatile ingredient in the kitchen.

Its origin dates back to the 1870s when William A. Lawrence, a dairy farmer from Chester, New York, apparently invented this variety of fresh cheese by chance. While trying to improve the traditional recipe for French Neufchâtel – a soft cheese also made with cow’s milk – he allegedly accidentally added more cream than necessary during the manufacturing process. The result was a richer, creamier version than he initially sought to replicate.

In 1880, Lawrence founded his own company specializing in the production of this new cheese which he named “cream cheese”. The Philadelphia Cream Cheese brand was created a few years later under the leadership of the Reynolds brothers who successfully marketed this product thanks to their aluminum packaging.

Composition of cream cheese

Cream cheese is mainly composed of pasteurized cow’s milk and a small amount of cream. The traditional recipe also requires the addition of lactic ferments, which allow the mixture to ferment and thicken. Finally, a coagulant – usually an enzyme or acid – is added to cause the curds to form and thus obtain the creamy consistency characteristic of cream cheese.

This fresh cheese contains approximately 33% to 55% fat depending on the brands and varieties. It is rich in protein, calcium and vitamins A, B2 (riboflavin) and B12.

There are also low-fat or lactose-free versions to meet the specific needs of health-conscious or lactose-intolerant consumers.

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Culinary uses of cream cheese

Cream cheese is a versatile ingredient that can be used in both sweet and savory recipes. Here are some ideas for use:

  • Spreads: Its creaminess allows it to be easily spread on toast, bagels or crackers with different toppings (smoked salmon, grilled vegetables, jam, etc.).
  • Dips: Mixed with various seasonings (herbs, spices, garlic, etc.), cream cheese can serve as a base for dipping sauces (dips) accompanying raw vegetables or chips.
  • Cheesecake: Cream cheese is the main ingredient of the famous American cake which comes in many flavors and textures depending on the recipes.
  • Pasta filling: It can be incorporated into fillings for ravioli, cannelloni or lasagna to add a creamy and tasty touch to dishes.
  • Sauces: Cream cheese also serves as a binder for certain sauces such as Alfredo sauce made from cream, butter and parmesan. It allows you to obtain a creamy consistency while providing a subtle taste to the dish.

Is the Philadelphia found in France really cream cheese?

Where to find cream cheese in France?

Although less common than in the United States, it is possible to find cream cheese in most French supermarkets. The Philadelphia and Elle & Vire brands notably offer their products in different varieties (plain, low-fat, flavored, etc.).

For those looking for a more local equivalent to American cream cheese, Saint Môret fromage frais is an interesting alternative. Made in France with French pasteurized milk mainly from Normandy and Brittany according to its official website. This cheese has a similar texture and a slightly stronger taste than cream cheese. It can be used in the same way in cooking, especially for making cheesecakes.

Finally, fresh cheeses such as Carré Frais or Kiri can also be used as an alternative to cream cheese in certain recipes. However, their texture is generally less creamy and their taste more pronounced than that of real American cream cheese.

Whatever your preference, don’t hesitate to experiment with this delicious fresh cheese to add a creamy and tasty touch to your dishes.

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