A mold-ripened, whole-milk French cheese that is soft in texture, creamy-firm in consistency. The sensation of eating Neufchatel is similar to that of cream cheese, though the former contains far less fat and more moisture.
The cheese is distinguished from other French soft cheeses by the youthful age at which it is eaten. Neufchatel should be consumed when it is barely ripened; in this state, the surface bloom is pure white and velvety. The flavor is subtle and mild, thoroughly satisfying with a tart edge. If the cheese is allowed to mature, the mold becomes blackened, the texture becomes more firm, and the flavor deepens.
Named after a French town in northern Normandy -- and not to be confused with the Swiss canton (i.e. one of the states of the Swiss confederation) of Neuchatel, itself a cheese-producing region -- Neufchatel cheese has been produced successfully both in its area of origin and abroad.
While the cheese is always purchased in small volumes (100 g or 4 oz), their shape varies according to the discretion of the producer; there is carré (square), cœur (heart-shaped), Bondon (small loaf), Gournay (flattened cylinder).
The process for preparing Neufchatel, while similar to that of other French cheeses such as Camembert and its varieties, is a touch more complex, requiring more time and expense. Ripening takes place in a cool, damp cellar infected with several species of molds and bacteria; among the diverse strains suggested, Penicillium candidum is the most prominent microorganism used.
Ouroboros explains that "there are so called 'neufchatels' available in the US marketted as 'low fat cream cheese'. These are not mold-ripened nor do they exhibit a rind."