About Cream Cheese
Cream cheese is a soft, spreadable, tangy white cheese with a high fat content. Traditionally, it is made with unskimmed milk enriched with additional cream.
According to labeling laws in the United States, cream cheese must contain at least 33% milkfat with a moisture content of not more than 55%, and a pH range of 4.4 to 4.9 (hence its mildly acidic, tangy flavor). Labeling laws in other countries differ and may not reflect those in the United States; the listed fat content may be considerably higher.
Unlike other cheeses, cream cheese is not naturally matured and is meant to be consumed fresh. This means it varies from other soft cheeses such as Brie and Neufchâtel. In terms of taste and texture, it is more like Boursin and Mascarpone cheeses.
The earliest references to cream cheese date back as far as 1583 in England and 1651 in France. The first known recipes using cream cheese have been dated to 1754 from Lincolnshire and the southwest parts of England.
In the United States, it is said that the first American cream cheese was made in Chester, New York in 1872 by dairyman William Lawrence. In 1880, the brand name "Philadelphia" was coined; at the time, Philadelphia, PA was considered to be home of some of the most top quality food in the United States. To this day, Philadelphia Cream Cheese remains one of the most popular brands of cream cheese. To reflect modern dietary trends, Philadelphia Cream Cheese is sold in full fat, reduced fat, and fat free versions.
Cream cheese is typically used in savory applications but can also have sweet applications, as well. Its most popular use continues to be a spread for such foods as bagels, bread and crackers. It can be blended to make dips for crudités as well as cheese sauces. Cream cheese is the main ingredient in crab rangoon, a popular appetizer sold in American Chinese restaurants. For a velvety, creamy texture, it can be used in mashed potatoes in place of butter or olive oil.
Cream cheese is the main ingredient in the timeless dessert of cheesecake. It helps form the base of some spreads such as a yogurt-cream cheese topping for graham crackers (1 1/4 parts cream cheese to 1 part yogurt, then whipped to a smooth consistency). It can be substituted for butter or part of the butter in cake and cookie recipes (usually in a ratio of 2 parts cream cheese to 1 part butter). The traditional carrot cake almost always features a cream cheese frosting, which is made from both cream cheese and butter.
Since cream cheese is a naturally high fat product, it is always recommended to eat it sparingly. A 1 oz. serving of Philadelphia cream cheese is a whopping 100 calories, 80 of which are from fat. Because 80% of a serving of cream cheese is from fat, it is typically categorized to be in the fats group instead of the dairy group. In just one serving of full fat cream cheese, there is 9 grams of fat, 6 of which are saturated. This makes up about 14% of your daily fat intake and 30% of your total daily saturated fat intake; these percentages are based on a 2000 calorie per day diet.
There is 105 mg of sodium in a 1 oz. serving of cream cheese and falls under the category of being an acceptable low sodium food.
Cream cheese is naturally low in carbohydrates; the only carbs found in it come from the natural milk sugars. It will not spike blood sugar levels, so it is a safe food for diabetics or those that need to follow a low glycemic index diet.
Protein levels in a serving of cream cheese are low and thusly, cream cheese is not a significant source of protein.
Despite being a milk product, cream cheese is not an excellent source of calcium or vitamin A. It is recommended that an individual find other ways to incorporate calcium and vitamin A into his diet.
Reduced Fat and Fat Free Cream Cheese
It is important to note that cream cheese now comes in both reduced fat and fat free versions. Reduced fat cream cheese often tends to be improperly labeled as Neufchâtel cheese, which it is not. Real Neufchâtel cheese is a very different product. Reduced fat cream cheeses tend to have 33% fewer calories and fat as compared to full fat versions. They can be used in both savory and sweet recipes with no noticeable change in flavor, texture or consistency.
Fat free cream cheese is another choice for the health-conscious consumer. Like the name implies, it is devoid of saturated fat and is only slightly less in calories per serving than reduced fat cream cheese. It can also be used in recipes with almost no change to the flavor profile, desired texture or the consistency.
It should be noted that reduced fat and fat free cream cheeses are less stable than full fat cream cheese and has added stabilizers to give it more shelf life. It also has other ingredients that full fat cream cheese may not contain, but is clearly labeled on the packaging. If you are concerned as to the content of your cream cheese, please read the labeling carefully to make sure you're making the desired choice.