Originating in the Normandy region of France, this cheese is a soft unripened cheese, which is very similar to cream cheese in texture, taste and use. Traditional Neufchâtel is made with unpasteurized cow's milk, but when exported is made with pasteurized milk, generally containing a higher milk fat content. Domestic versions produced in the United States often do not contain the higher fat content cream that thickens and enrichens the texture and flavor, and they are typically higher in moisture content. Therefore, to thicken the consistency, domestic versions contain xanthan and carrageenan gums rather than higher amounts of cream or fat content. When a recipe indicates use of Neufchâtel cheese, it may be best to determine if it is a French version or the American version in order to produce the intended results.
Somewhat salty in flavor, this cheese becomes pungent and stronger tasting as it ages. Since it is a spreadable cheese, it is an excellent topping for crackers and bagels. It is also a good cheese for sandwich spreads, hors d'oeuvres, as a base for snack dips, desserts and dessert frostings.
Neufchâtel is produced in many different shapes and sizes, the most common of which is the small rectangular block. In addition to square shapes it is also available in logs, rounds or heart shaped forms.
To store, refrigerate and keep it wrapped tightly after opening. Since this type of cheese may have a limited life after opening, it should be discarded if mold appears.