Why cream cheese works great in ice cream

My ice cream skills and knowledge have been increasing steadily ever since buying ‘Hello, my name is ice cream‘ and practicing ice cream making in our ice cream machine. The other day, I tested yet another recipe from the book, a cream cheese ice cream, which turned out super smooth and rich in flavour.

When reading the ingredients on the label of the cream cheese once the ice cream was churning, a lightbulb went on. It makes a lot of sense that using cream cheese makes a smooth ice cream, since all the additives you would otherwise use are in the cream cheese already. Let’s dive in!

What is cream cheese?

Cream cheese really is what is says it is, it is cheese made from cream or mixed with cream. It is a so called fresh cheese, you can’t store cream cheese for years on end, instead, you have to eat it within a reasonable time.

There are a lot of different applications of cream cheese, which vary between countries. One of the more famous applications is to use it in a cheesecake.

How cream cheese is made

Cheese can be made in various ways, two vary common ways are through the use of acid or rennet. As we described before, both of these methods allow the milk to curdle and form curds drifting in the remainder of the liquid, the whey. The casein proteins in milk play an essential role in the process.

In the case of cream cheese the milk is first pasteurized and standardized to a high fat content. Standardization refers to a process in which fat is first taken out of the milk and then added back in to the exact required amount. This ensures that all milk going into the cream cheese making process has a constant fat content and thus gives a constant product.

At that point acid and/or a starter culture (=bacteria) are added to the milk while it’s kept at a constant temperature. The bacteria type that is added will acidify the cheese, resulting in it curdling and thickening. It is in a way similar to the yogurt making process.

This process only lasts a few hours. After this, manufacturers drain of the whey so they only have the remaining cream cheese curd.

scoop of cream cheese ice cream on bowl

Ingredients of cream cheese

Before packaging the cream cheese manufacturers generally add a few more ingredients. The first, well known one, is salt. However, you will often find other additives in there as well. These tend to be stabilizers. Just like yogurt and other soft cheeses these cheeses aren’t always very stable over shelf life. Instead, some of the moisture might come out over time. To prevent this from happening, these stabilizers are added.

Common stabilizers are locust bean gum, carob bean gum, guar gum and xanthan gum. If you’ve read more on this blog, these names might sound familiar. We’ve discussed them when talking about the addition of stabilizers in ice cream.

Why cream cheese is used in ice cream

There are various reasons as to why cream cheese is used in ice cream, but let’s start with those stabilizers we just discussed. At the bottom of this post you can find a recipe for cream cheese ice cream. We’re using this recipe as a reference for some of the explanations below.

Stabilizers

It depends on the country where you live what the exact legislation is, but generally, cream cheese may contain up to 0,5% stabilizer. Let’s assume that our cream cheese contains that 0,5% of stabilier. That would mean that the recipe contain 150g * 0,005 = 0,75g. But, a lot of ice cream recipes may only call for 1g of stabilizer such as xanthan gum in a recipe of our size. Therefore, that 0,75g will most likely have a significant impact on the texture!

Composition

Apart from the stabilizer, cream cheese contains a considerable amount of fat, over 30%. This is is comparable to whipping cream even. The high fat content and its thick texture will definitely help the final ice cream texture.

Of course, cream cheese also has a distinct, slightly sour flavour. This contributes to the overall perception of the ice cream, making it a little more special!

Print

Cream cheese ice cream

  • Author: Scienchef
  • Prep Time: 5 min
  • Cook Time: 60 min
  • Total Time: 1 hour 5 minutes

Description

A simple, no eggs, cream cheese ice cream from Hello, my name is ice cream. It’s not overly sweet and has a very rich texture.

You will need an ice cream machine to make this ice cream.


Ingredients

  • 250g cream
  • 400g milk
  • 150g sugar
  • 50g corn syrup
  • 150g cream cheese

Instructions

  • Mix the cream, milk, sugar and corn syrup in a small pan and bring to the boil. Once it’s boil, turn off the heat and cool down. You can do this in ice for a fast result or in the fridge.
  • While the mixture is cooling down to room temperature, take the cream cheese out of the fridge and leave to soften and come to room temperature as well.
  • When both are about room temperature, mix the two together. Some brands of cream cheese don’t break apart easily. Use a food processor in that case to break them apart and mix the two together.
  • Put the resulting mixture back in the fridge to cool down and age. You can skip this stage and go straight to the ice cream machine.
  • Once your mixture is ready, make the mixture into ice cream using your ice cream machine following the instructions of your manufacturer. In our case the ice cream came together after about 40 minutes, starting from fridge temperature.
  • Once it’s ready, scoop into a freezer proof bowl to solidify further. When the ice cream leaves the ice cream machine it will still be very soft, like a soft serve.

Further reading

We’ve also asked ourselves why sour cream is used in cakes so often? The answer is surprisingly simple, just like this one.

There are a lot of different ways to make ice cream, the recipe mentioned here is a Philadelphia style ice cream which is quite American. You can also use eggs to make an ice cream from custard. Or, even easier, just use two ingredients.

Want to see how cream cheese is made? Here’s a video. They simplify some things and it’s not the newest manufacturing site, but it gives a good first idea!

Sources

Cream cheese, University of Guelph, link

Wisconsin center for dairy research, Dairy pipeline – A closer look at cream cheese, March 2003, Volume 15 number 1, link

Science Direct, cream cheese, link

Wikipedia, cream cheese, link

Three brands of cream cheese: Lucerne, Organic 365, Philadelphia

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