Creole Cream Cheese Is The Key To Tart Yet Luscious Cheesecake

A mixture of Black and French traditions, Creole cuisine is synonymous with New Orleans, distinguishing its culinary originality from the rest of America, the Deep South, and even the other parts of Louisiana. While you've probably heard of jambalaya and crawfish etouffee, Creole cream cheese is a forgotten part of New Orleans' culinary history that modern chefs and local institutions are trying to revive. It's a soft, tart, creamy young cheese made with buttermilk, skim milk, and rennet; it's curdled and fermented for two days, then finished with cream or half-and-half. Its mascarpone-like texture is thinner than regular cream cheese, while it tastes closer to sour yogurt with a subtly sweet finish — and it adds the perfect tang to creamy desserts like cheesecake.

The recipe for Creole cream cheese dates back to the 18th century and was originally eaten as a breakfast dish, sprinkled with cream and topped with fresh fruit or spread over toast. But by the late 1990s, yogurt and regular cream cheese had completely replaced Creole cream cheese and all but eliminated its production in Louisiana dairies — that is, until nostalgic Louisiana natives began showcasing Creole cream cheese's unique flavor in novel ways.

Cheesecake was one of their many vessels to put Creole cream cheese back on the culinary radar. Its tart-sweet taste and delicate creamy texture add sophistication and decadence to cheesecake. In fact, the iconic New Orleans fine dining institution Commander's Palace even proudly features its own Creole cream cheese cheesecake on the dessert menu.

How to use Creole cream cheese in cheesecake

You won't need to head to a fine dining establishment to taste Creole cream cheese cheesecake, given how simple it is to mix this luscious ingredient into your own homemade version of the dessert. Should you try it, note that it's not a 1-to-1 substitution: While Creole cream cheese will provide a distinctly tart flavor and melt-in-your-mouth texture to your cheesecake, it works in conjunction with regular cream cheese and sugar. For a balance of sweetness and tang, use a ratio of around one cup of Creole cream cheese to four cups of regular cream cheese.

That said, Creole cream cheese is still a regional specialty, found in select grocery stores and dairies in and around New Orleans. Consequently, it won't be an easy product to find in stores outside of Louisiana. But the same advocates for its resurgence have broadcast and posted scratch-made Creole cream cheese recipes to try at home; if you don't have the time to make your own, you can also substitute a mixture of four parts sour cream and one part buttermilk.

Because Creole cream cheese was a popular sweet breakfast foundation for fresh fruit and sugar, Creole cream cheese cheesecake would benefit from a fruity topping. The addition of Creole cream cheese could work well with a classic New York cheesecake recipe topped with glazed strawberries. Caramel apple or brown sugar-glazed pecans would also pair well with the tanginess for a fall-inspired topping.