Soften safely this baking season.
With baking season around the corner, you might be considering trying a new recipe using an old favorite ingredient, cream cheese. But the recipe says "room temperature." Can you even do that with dairy? And how long is too long before the cream cheese goes bad?
Can I Leave My Cream Cheese Out?
When a recipe calls for an ingredient to be at room temperature, this is a step that shouldn't be overlooked. However, it's important to soften items safely. Cream cheese should not be left out longer than two hours at room temp (or higher than 40 degrees F) because it then becomes a playground for nasty bacteria like salmonella. No one wants a trip to the emergency room over the carrot cake. If it's been out for longer than two hours, toss it—better safe than sorry.
The storage advice straight from Philadelphia is to, "Re-seal and return product to refrigerator immediately after serving/using. Keep in refrigerator under normal refrigerator temperatures of 40 degrees at all times. Product should be used within 10 days after opening or by the date stamped on the package, whichever comes first." In other words, it shouldn't be left out—and we tend to agree.
So How Do I Soften My Cream Cheese Safely?
The schmear experts go on to recommend brief microwaved intervals to soften cream cheese.
"To quickly soften cream cheese, place completely unwrapped package of cream cheese in a microwaveable bowl. Microwave on high for 15 seconds or just until softened."
If you're worried about accidentally liquifying your cream cheese, we have some other ways to quickly break down that block as well.
How to Store Products Made With Cream Cheese
According to the Philadelphia website FAQs again, "Baked cheesecakes that contain cream cheese must be refrigerated. Fillings and toppings should be kept refrigerated." It also states, "Dessert containing cream cheese, whether baked or unbaked, should be covered and stored in the refrigerator. Use within 5 days."
Items like cheesecake or cream cheese frosting have a higher moisture content and usually contain other temperature-sensitive ingredients like milk or eggs—another reason to store in the fridge.
This also applies to tasty treats like pound cakes and cream cheese cookies. Confections using flour and sugar absorb some moisture, minimizing bacterial growth, but leaving these out could cause the fat in the cream cheese to go rancid so make sure to pop these goodies in air-tight containers and keep cool for best results.
Read the original article on All Recipes.