Cream cheese is a smooth, spreadable, unripened cheese that tastes mildly tangy. It is made from cow’s milk, and contains a minimum of 33 % butterfat.
The standard cream cheese is white and unflavoured, though many different colours and flavours are now available.
In North America, cream cheese equals cheesecake and bagels. Elsewhere, though, it is often served as a proper cheese, rather than a spread: in Italy, dollops of it are put in salads, elsewhere in Europe it is served on cheese trays.
If a recipe calls for cream cheese, assume it means the plain cheese, though almost all recipes will tolerate you using low-fat versions.
There are cheesecake recipes that swap in tofu instead of cream cheese.
Cream cheese per 100 g: calories 439, fat 47.4 g (29.7 g), calcium 98m g
Philadelphia Brand Cream Cheese per 100 g: calories 313, fat 31 g (19.4 g), calcium 110 mg
1 pound = 16 oz = 450 g = 2 cups
1 cup = 8 oz = 225 g
3/4 cup = 6 oz = 175 g
1/2 cup = 4 oz = 115 g
Store chilled. After opening, keep it tightly wrapped and use up within a week. If mould appears, bin the cheese.
About 1872, an American cheesemaker named William Lawrence in Chester, New York state, came up with what would become cream cheese. He was working with a few people who were trying to create their own home-grown version of Neufchâtel, a cheese from France used at the time in cheesecake. He called it “Star Brand.” In 1880, the Empire Cheese Company of South Edmeston New York (near Chester) began producing it and called it Philadelphia Cream Cheese (U.S. Patent and Trademark Office registration #0392212, possibly first sold 1 September 1880). They distributed it in foil packaging, though the foil wrapping might only have begun in 1885. In 1903, the Phoenix Cheese Company of New York bought the rights and the trademark. Phoenix merged with Kraft in 1928.
In the 1940s, Kraft tweaked the production process so that the refrigerated shelf life of the cheese, which had a few weeks, increased up to 4 months.
It was introduced to Britain in 1960; it was first sold in plastic tubs (with a foil topping) in 1981.
It was probably named after Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. At that time, good-quality food products, especially dairy, were associated with the city (before oil refineries were). There was even a phrase “Philadelphia quality.” However, only 100 miles from South Edmeston is the small town of Philadelphia, New York, halfway between Syracuse and the Quebec border, which claims it is the namesake for the cheese. (The town, like Philadelphia in Pennsylvania, was also founded by Quakers — these ones bought a large tract of land in the area in 1803.) Philadelphia, New York has one for-sure indisputable claim: Cassius Coolidge, the man who painted the picture of dogs playing poker, was born there.
Sometime in the 1920s, it was New York Jews who, in a flash of pure genius, had the idea of schmearing cream cheese onto bagels (which had never previously been done back in Europe.) And the rest is history.