How to Soften Cream Cheese (& Bake Your Heart Out With It)

Ah, cream cheese. We know it, we love it, it’s our old standby bagel topping. But this tangy spread is so much more than a schmear. Cream cheese is a rich dairy product that makes an amazing addition to pastries, pastas, and more, adding a smooth, rich…

Ah, cream cheese. We know it, we love it, it's our old standby bagel topping. But this tangy spread is so much more than a schmear. Cream cheese is a rich dairy product that makes an amazing addition to pastries, pastas, and more, adding a smooth, rich quality to everything it touches. But it can be tricky to work with when cold: it sticks to itself, clumping together, and nobody wants lumpy frosting, am I right? For this reason, when it comes to working the stuff into recipes, especially desserts, most recipes call for softened cream cheese. Once it comes to room temperature, cream cheese can properly incorporate into a batter or emulsify a frosting.

How to Soften Cream Cheese in the Microwave

Since cream cheese has such a high fat content, it doesn’t take long to come to room temperature if the room is relatively warm. It takes about thirty minutes on the counter to soften significantly, and about an hour to fully come to room temperature (again, depending on the temperature outside and in your kitchen). But if you’re strapped for time, or have a sudden craving for cheesecake, you can cut that time down to seconds. Remove any packaging (especially foil!) and place the block of cream cheese on a microwave-safe plate. Microwave on high for 15 seconds, then poke the center of the cream cheese block to test the texture. If it’s still not your desired softness, continue microwaving in 10-second intervals, but err on the side of caution. A little firmer is better than melted, which will be hard to salvage and potentially unusable in a recipe. The cream cheese should feel soft and hold a fingerprint when pressed.

Read More >>

Let Mascarpone Luxe Up Mushroom Pasta & So Much More

Mascarpone is essentially an Italian version of cream cheese, though with a slightly higher fat content; mascarpone must have 40% fat while cream cheese only needs to have 33% fat. Cream cheese is also tangier than mascarpone, which tends towards the r…

Mascarpone is essentially an Italian version of cream cheese, though with a slightly higher fat content; mascarpone must have 40% fat while cream cheese only needs to have 33% fat. Cream cheese is also tangier than mascarpone, which tends towards the richer side of things. In fact, mascarpone most closely resembles French crème fraîche. Both are soured by lactic culture, but mascarpone is a little sweeter and milder.

All this to say, mascarpone is a lot more versatile than we give it credit for. It works quite well in both sweet and savory dishes. It's also surprisingly easy to make, so you don't even need to run out to a specialty grocery store to track some down.

Read More >>

17 Recipes to Use Up Your Leftover Heavy Cream

Picture this: It’s the day after Thanksgiving, and your fridge is just filled to the brim. And, tucked away behind stacks of Thanksgiving leftovers, there are at least three half-empty cartons of heavy cream you threw in haphazardly amidst the dinner s…

Picture this: It's the day after Thanksgiving, and your fridge is just filled to the brim. And, tucked away behind stacks of Thanksgiving leftovers, there are at least three half-empty cartons of heavy cream you threw in haphazardly amidst the dinner storm. Now, imagine that you face the remnants and their looming expiration dates, yet you have no desire to eat another dollop of whipped cream. The best news? You don't have put that cream to waste—instead, you can make one of the 17 delicious recipes that follow. Heck, you might even start buying cream just so you can make them all, year-round!

1. Caramelized Cream Eggs from Ideas in Food

The easiest, most rewarding thing to do with cream (should we just end this list early?)? Fry eggs—or pork chops, carrots, onions, anything, really—in it. As the liquid cooks down in a skillet, it separates out into a layer of butterfat and buttermilk, steaming the eggs and caramelizing them at the same time.

Read More >>