This weekend I helped host my friend Julie’s baby shower (see pictures at the bottom of this blog). First of all, I should say that it was probably the best baby shower I’ve ever been to, in part because of the great ladies invited to the party, in part because of the way in which we pulled together the shower details, and, of course, in part because of the food.
When I met with the other ladies to plan the shower, Jamie (who used to be a party planner) suggested we do a yogurt bar and bagels and cream cheese. I volunteered to bring or make the bagels and cream cheese. I knew it would be a good opportunity to make (and blog about) both.
A few weeks before the shower I tried making the bagels and nailed them the first time I tried them. I didn’t have the same luck with the cream cheese. There are many, many recipes for cream cheese floating around the internet. I opted for one found at Wonderland Kitchen.
- 2 c. heavy cream
- 2 c. whole milk
- 1 drop liquid vegetable rennet dissolved in 2 T. water
- 1 oz. buttermilk
- 1/4 teaspoon salt or other flavorings (optional – I forgot the salt and it was fine without, but would definitely add it next time)
- In a pot, heat milk and cream to 75°F, stirring occasionally.
- Remove pot from stove and add the buttermilk. Stir gently. Add diluted rennet mixture and combine. Cover pot with lid, wrap in a few kitchen towels, and place in a warm location (70°F-75°F) to incubate, about 14 hours.
- When cheese is ready to be drained, it will resemble yogurt. Spoon into a strainer lined with a piece of butter muslin (I used cheesecloth). Clip the corners of the muslin together and allow to drain over a bowl (I tied the cheesecloth around a wooden spoon and placed the spoon across the bowl) until desired firmness is reached, 7-10 hours.
- Mix in a 1/4 teaspoon salt or other flavorings as desired. Transfer to a container with a tight-fitting lid and refrigerate.
The whole process sounds relatively simple, right? Let me tell you why it was so laborious in my instance. To start, I doubled the recipe because I needed enough cream cheese for 10 to 15 people. (I didn’t think one recipe was enough, especially given how much cream cheese I spread on my bagels.) Despite the fact that I doubled the ingredients, the recipe yielded a tiny amount of cream cheese. Maybe a cup or a cup and a half.
I believe my problem was the temperature during the incubation period. It was a cool 60 some degrees when I was making the cream cheese. No matter how hard I tried to elevate the temperature, I do not think my liquid thickened enough. After the initial tiny amount of cream cheese had cultivated, I continued to try to incubate the remaining liquid over the next few days. This yielded a tiny amount of additional cream cheese that tasted a bit tangier than I would have liked, to be truthful.
Also, when I was adding the rennet to the water, I wasn’t sure if I added enough rennet. I know it’s hard to mess up a “drop” of liquid, right? But the drop that came out of my bottle of rennet seemed tinier than a regular drop – if that even makes sense. I wasn’t using a glass dropper though. The bottle came with a top that allows you to squeeze right from the bottle. Speaking of rennet, you can find it at your local farm supply store. Every city has a farm supply store, right? Or you can buy it at amazon.com.
Despite the trouble it took to yield a tiny amount of cream cheese, the cream cheese got rave reviews at the shower. And everyone was super impressed that I had made my own cream cheese. I would like to try this recipe again when the weather is a little warmer and would definitely recommend you try the recipe as well.