Cream cheese is, generally, quite soft in texture. However, when it comes to baking, you might find that a recipe requires you to soften the cheese even further.
When a recipe requires this, it is usually because the amount of cream cheese that you are required to add to the mixture is quite dense. So, softening it before you add it into the mix will make the cream cheese easier to control.
But figuring out how to soften your cream cheese can be difficult. After all, this type of cheese is rather delicate, so you have to be careful when softening it to ensure you do not damage it in the process.
In this guide, we’re giving you three different methods that you can use to soften cream cheese. Each one is better suited to different time scales. So with no further ado, let’s take a look at how to soften cream cheese.
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Why would you soften cream cheese?
As we said earlier, you might be puzzled as to why you have to soften cream cheese, mainly because this cheese already has a soft texture.
In baking terms, ‘softened’ essentially just means ‘room temperature’, so all the recipes require you to do is increase the temperature of the cream cheese before you use it.
You might not notice the difference between regular and softened cream cheese, but the overall temperature of the cheese will be higher.
This will make it easier to control when mixing into a recipe, and reduces the risk of lumps in your finished product. But how do you soften it? Let’s find out.
Method One – Use your Countertop
If you have the time, the most effective way to soften your cream cheese is by using your kitchen countertop.
As is generally the rule with most foods that require ‘softening’, the best way to do it is slowly, and using the countertop is the slowest option that we can offer.
Using this method does require you to be prepared, as it will take roughly 30 minutes for the cream cheese to soften. So, if you want to do this, ensure you get your cream cheese out of the fridge at least 30 minutes before you need to use it.
To follow this method, you should take your block of cream cheese out of the fridge and slice the amount that you need for the recipe up into 1 inch squared cubes.
Once you have chopped the required amount, transfer it onto a plate and cover with saran wrap, then simply leave it out on your kitchen countertop.
Within 30 minutes, you should find that the cheese has softened. You can check this by prodding at it. If it has softened, then it is ready to use. If you think that it is still a bit hard, wait a little longer before using it in your recipe.
Method Two – Warm Water Bath
If you are a little more pressed for time, then the next best method that you can use is a warm water bath.
You have probably already heard of this method before as it is commonly used to soften butter, and also to melt chocolate for recipes. But let’s quickly go over how you do this, in case you haven’t done it before.
From beginning to end, this process of softening cream cheese usually takes about 15 minutes.
This method is the best if you need to use an entire block of cream cheese in a recipe, so before you use this option, consider how much cheese you need to use.
To use this method, you should remove the block of cream cheese from its cardboard packaging, but leave the foil packaging intact.
You should then place the block of cheese into a medium-sized bowl of hot water, and leave it in there for 15 minutes. Every 5 minutes, you should flip the cheese to ensure that every side is being coated by the water.
You will be able to tell whether the cream cheese has softened or not by simply prodding the foil packaging. So, when you touch it, and it feels softer than before, your cream cheese is ready to use in your recipe.
Method Three – Use your Microwave
The final option that you have for softening cream cheese is to use your microwave. This method forces the cream cheese to soften very quickly, and as we said earlier, slower is better.
So, we would only really recommend using your microwave to soften cream cheese if you are very short on time.
While the last two methods that we looked at might have seemed quick, using your microwave is ultra-fast, and it will only take a minute for your cream cheese to be fully softened.
However, using your microwave can be a little risky, we’ll take a look at why shortly.
This process is very easy, all you need to do is place the amount of cheese that you need softened on a microwave-safe plate and place it in the microwave.
Ensure that you have removed all the packaging from the cheese before you do this. You should then set your microwave to high, set the timer to 15 seconds and press start.
If you only have 8-ounces of cheese to soften, then 15 seconds should do the job. But, if you have more than 8-ounces, then you should add an extra 10 seconds for each additional 8-ounces of cheese. This should ensure that your cream cheese softens completely.
However, as we said, you have to be very careful when using a microwave to do this. There is a very fine line between softened and melted cream cheese, and if your cheese melts it will completely alter the texture of your recipe.
So always keep an eye on your cheese when using the microwave to soften it.
In short, this has been a handy guide to softening cream cheese, packed with 3 different methods that you can use depending on the amount of time that you have available.