Cooking is my passion. The kitchen is my stage, and every new meal I make is my new hit. Everyone who loves cooking has his own personal favorite ingredient that he or she tries to put in almost everything they make. One of my absolute favorite ingredients is cream cheese.
I put it in cakes and cookies as a topping and in sauces like Hollandaise, for example, where instead of beaten egg yolks, I add cream cheese that I mix up with mustard, lemon, and herbs.
It gives a nice silky and smooth look to the sauce and improves the taste. I also add it to ice cream and even in sandwiches for my boys when I prepare them for school.
I love it because it can go with almost everything I make and that it gives everything a special taste. But, it’s imperative to know how to work with cream cheese.
How To Soften Cream Cheese
Many recipes will ask for softened cream cheese, and if you know how to soften cream cheese, that can help you gain the perfect texture. There are a few and easy ways you can soften cream cheese that doesn’t take much time, and they’re really helpful.
Related: Cream Cheese Is One Of The Great Ricotta Cheese Substitutes
Here are five quick and easy ways that I use when I need cream cheese to be softened:
1. Microwave – Fast and Easy Cream Cheese Softening
This is the fastest and easiest way to soften cream cheese.
What you need:
- The microwave, obviously.
- A microwave-safe plate so it can endure high temperature. It can be ceramic or glass plates, don’t use plastic plates. Also, using a plate instead of a bowl lets you scrape off the cheese easier.
- A ceramic knife to cut the cheese into evenly sized pieces so it can soften easier
After you heat the cheese for a while, remove it from the microwave and press it with a fork (or chopsticks) to test if it’s soft enough. If it’s not, return it to the microwave and heat for 10-20 seconds, and then repeat the process.
If you need more softness, unwrap the cheese and place it on a microwave-safe plate, and put it in the microwave on high for 10-20 seconds, and you are ready to go. Take it out of the microwave and test the softness. If it’s not soft enough, return the cheese to the microwave for additional 5-10 seconds. Repeat until you’ve reached the desired texture.
- NOTE: The small increments of heating are necessary so you can monitor the texture closely. Too long heating will lead to melting, and we don’t want that.
This method works best if you want melted cream cheese fast. It will break it down quickly, and you’ll be ready to use it.
2. Room-Temperature-Softened Cream Cheese
Since I’m busy all the time picking up kids from school, testing kitchen utensils and gadgets, grocery shopping, I don’t have much time just to sit around and wait for food to get ready. This method comes really handy for me in everyday cooking, especially when days get busy (you know, those days).
This is a great way to soften cream cheese if you plan your kitchen activities according to your daily schedule and want your ingredients to be ready when you enter the kitchen.
- You just need a plate and cream cheese, and you are ready to go!
Take the cheese out of the refrigerator, place it on the plate and leave it on the kitchen counter for about 1,5-2 hours. After 1,5 hours have passed, squeeze the cheese to test the softness.
If it’s not soft enough, leave it for another 30 minutes and check again. This method shouldn’t take more than 2 hours to soften the cheese.
- NOTE: Don’t leave your cream cheese at room temperature for more than 3 hours because it will go bad as many dairy products do. Unlike hard cheese, soft cheese has more moisture and tends to spoil faster.
- Very Important-have a timer or a reminder set on your phone or watch, so you don’t forget about the cheese waiting for you!
3. Soften the Cream Cheese with Lukewarm Water
This is a great way to soften your cream cheese if you have some spare time. It’s recommended for getting the optimal softness for usage in various meals when you don’t want it nearly liquefied.
What you need:
- A larger bowl that is filled with warm or lukewarm water.
Make sure that you use a ceramic or glass bowl, don’t use a plastic one. If you use a plastic bowl, make sure that it’s BPA-free.
- Use a Ziploc bag so you can prevent the water from touching the cheese.
If you don’t have a Ziploc bag, you can use plastic wrap but make sure you close it good, so the water doesn’t leak into the cheese.
Place the cheese in the Ziploc bag and make sure you get all the air out of the bag. Make sure your bag is completely sealed. If the cheese is not opened, you don’t need to put it in the Ziplock bag, you can put it straight in the water. Put the cheese into the lukewarm water and leave it in the water for 10 minutes.
- NOTE: Don’t place the cheese in hot water because the hot water will melt the cheese.
Remove the cheese from the water and gently squeeze it to check its softness. If the cheese is still firm, put it back in the water for another 5 minutes. If it’s still not soft enough, you can change the water into a little warmer and place the cheese in it for additional 5 minutes. It should be softened after 20 minutes in water, no more than that.
4. Add Some Milk or Cream
Neutral-flavored dairy products are good for softening the cheese without it losing its taste. The procedure is simple, doesn’t take much time, and gives a nice creamy look to your cheese.
- NOTE: Milk or cream softening is reat if you need cream cheese for the frosting.
What you need:
- A bowl where you put the cream cheese. Cut the cheese into small pieces so you can stir it easier.
- Small amount of milk or cream
You just add a tablespoon of milk or cream to the cream cheese and stir it together until it’s soft. If it’s not soft enough, you can add a little more milk. Make sure you’re using a room-temperature milk & cheese (get it out of the refrigerator at least an hour before this method).
5. Softening the Cheese by Blending it
You can soften cream cheese with a mixer fresh from the refrigerator by simply cutting cheese into equally sized pieces and putting it in the tilt-head mixer. If you don’t have a tilt-head mixer, you can use the blender.
When using a blender, it’s best if you add a little water in it and then putting the cheese in because that way, you’ll get that smooth, creamy look that you can see on television in your favorite cooking show.
- NOTE: Don’t use a hand mixer because it will be really hard to soften cream cheese with it. Believe me, I was struggling with it before I bought a quality mixer.
Master the Cream Cheese Softening & Reap the Benefits!
Choosing the right way to soften cream cheese depends on how much time you have to spare. Each way works just fine, and it doesn’t need much effort, and everyone can do it with ease.
Microwave and blending will work if you need quick and fast softening, but it sometimes tends to change the texture of the cream cheese. So make sure you use this way only if you don’t have much time to spare.
If you do have some time to spare, you can soften cheese with lukewarm water or even room temperature. Room temperature is, in my opinion, maybe the perfect way to soften your cheese without even needing to be present. Think about it, you go outside, and when you go back, it’s done!
But no matter which way you choose, you won’t regret it. Make sure that you don’t leave the cheese out of the fridge for more than 3 hours – you will waste some decent cheese, and that’s blasphemy!
Cream cheese, like many dairy products, can’t last for a long time. Once you unwrap it and use it, you need to store it properly by putting it in a glass airtight container or Ziploc bag and then in the fridge. That way, you can use it again but make sure that you don’t store it longer than 10 days because it will go bad.
I hope you’ll use my advice and make some delightful recipes with cream cheese! All the best! 🙂
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