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Cream Cheese

Overview

Cheese is a concentrated dairy product made from fluid milk and is defined as the fresh or matured product obtained by draining the whey after coagulation of casein. In cheesemaking, the caseins are easily precipitated from milk in a variety of ways. In the manufacture of fresh acid-curd cheeses, the curd formation is obtained by the addition of food-grade acidulants. Fresh acid-curd cheeses comprise those varieties that are produced by the coagulation of milk, cream, or whey via acidification or a combination of acid and heat and are ready for human consumption once the manufacturing process is completed.

Commercially, the most common types of fresh cheese are: Quark, Cottage Cheese, Fresh Curd, Cream Cheese, Neufchatel and Ricotta cheese. Each of these types of cheese has its own distinct texture and flavour profile. Fresh cheeses are primarily used by further processors for their organoleptic properties, as they provide a high level of palatability, flavour and satiety.

Features

Cream cheese (hot-pack) is a cream-coloured, unripened variety of soft cheese with a clean, slightly acid tasting and mild diacetyl flavour. It is soft and smooth. Its consistency ranges from hard/brittle (regular cream cheese) to spreadable (light cream cheese). Cream cheese, which is ready for consumption immediately following production, is produced from standardized (12-16% fat content), homogenized, pasteurized (at 72-75NC for 30-90 s) milk (typically with a fat/protein ratio of 2.85:1 for regular cream cheese and 1.2:1 for light cream cheese. 

This treated curd may be packaged directly as cold-pack Cream cheese, with an average shelf life of 3 weeks when kept at refrigerated temperatures. It has a somewhat spongy, aerated consistency and a coarse appearance.

Hot packed cream cheese, which is a hot molten product (70-85NC) and sheared by batch or continuous cooking, carries a shelf-life of approximately 3 months when stored at temperatures below 8NC. It is very popular among consumers and food processors because of its "smoothness" characteristic.

Cream cheese is a stabilized dairy emulsion containing 33% fat and 45% solids at a pH level of about 4.6. Its high milk solids content provides sufficient protein to create a firm gel a at low pH level. In this gel, the primary function of the stabilizing process is to immobilize the moisture content and help smooth the texture. The most common stabilizing agents used in the manufacture of cream cheese are locust bean gum, xanthan gum, and guar gum. Small amounts of carrageenan can be used for moisture control, and starch is sometimes used in low fat systems to build body and replace fat.

Besides its use as a spread on crackers, bagels and bread, Cream cheese is used extensively by food manufacturers in baked goods, such as cheesecakes, and in dessert frostings.


Composition

Wide variations in the chemical composition of cream cheese have been documented. Cream cheese, by federal standards of identity, is a product made by coagulating cream to form a curd into a homogeneous mass after draining the whey. It must not contain more than 55% moisture, nor contain less than 30% milk fat. It may contain added cream to adjust the milk fat content, salt and nitrogen to improve spreadability. It may also contain emulsifying, gelling, stabilizing and thickening agents (e.g., locust bean gum) in an amount not exceeding 0.5% and preservatives (e.g., sorbic acid) in an amount not exceeding 3000 ppm.

Since most of the milk fat is retained in the cheese curd, it follows that the fat-soluble vitamins in milk also partition into the curd. Most of the vitamin A in milk fat (80-85%) is present in cheese fat. In general, most cheeses are good sources of vitamin A, riboflavin, vitamin B12, and to a lesser extent, folate. Conversely, most of the water-soluble vitamins in milk partition into the whey during curd manufacture. Thus, cheese contains negligible amounts of vitamin C.

Cheese is also an important source of several nutritionally important elements, including calcium, phosphorus, and magnesium. Acid-coagulated cheeses (e.g., Cream cheese) contain significantly lower levels of calcium than rennet-coagulated cheeses (e.g., Cheddar). However, the bioavaibility of calcium from cheese is comparable to that from milk.

Typical composition of Cream Cheese

Component
(%, w/w)

Light

  Regular

Moisture

  70%

55%

Fat

  14%

30.0 - 33.5% 

Protein

  20%

8 - 10% 

Lactose (lactate)

 3.5%

2 - 3% 

Salt

 0.75%

0.75% 

Ash

Calcium (mg/100g)

 1.0%
               
100

  1.3%
                
80

Gums

  0.3%

  0.3%

pH

 4.6

 4.6


Various Uses
 

The extensive use of cheeses in food products is attributable to their contribution of flavour and textures. They provide sound nutrition, variety, convenience of use, portability and novelty. A key application for cream cheese in the pastry segment continues to be cheesecake. Opportunities for flavour innovations in cheesecakes are endless. Cream cheese is also used for appetizers, toppings and sauces. It acts as a base for spreads and dips. Depending on the application, cream cheese may also be added to foods to increase viscosity, add mouthfeel or bind other added ingredients.  


Functional Properties

Functional properties are important for cheese applications. Because the chemical composition of the cheese determines its functionality, strict controls are applied to its pH, calcium content, fat content, moisture level and salt content. Here are the most important functional properties of cream cheese.

 Flavour carrier The milk fat in cream cheese acts as a flavour carrier, helps release others flavours, combines well with other ingredients (particularly fat soluble ingredients, spices, herbs, seasonings, and sweet flavours) and helps to evenly distribute those flavourings throughout the product.
 Viscosity Only soft, fresh cheese exhibits viscosity properties at refrigerated temperature. Cream cheese melts quickly when treated at mild heat temperatures. The milk fat liquefies and the entrapped water is freed. Depending on the amount of moisture, milk fat, and solids non-fat, melted cream cheese can range from runny to creamy, or from thick to thin.
 Cooking Ability Soft cheese, with a high moisture content, tends to be a good binder or carrier of other ingredients. Cream cheese, as an ingredient, mixes well with sugar, eggs and milk in the preparation of cheesecakes. Low-fat cheese tends not to cook as well as the full-fat version.

Texture/Mouthfeel

Texture and mouthfeel are characteristics directly related to the consistency of the cheese. Cream cheese, having a high moisture content, has a smoother mouthfeel than other cheeses, which are low in moisture such as semi-soft, regular and hard cheeses. Additionally, milk fat has an effect on mouthfeel by contributing to the lubricity and perceived moistness caused by the fact that it melts in the mouth at just below body temperature (28-36NC).

The texture of cheese can vary from smooth, grainy, creamy, flaky, dense or crumbly. Cream cheese adds "density" when added to a food formulation.



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