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story.lead_photo.caption Smoky Baked Cream Cheese Spread (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Kelly Brant) 6/25/21

I got the idea for this "recipe" from Facebook. Over the course of a week, the same post kept appearing in my newsfeed — each time it was shared by a different friend with no connection to the previous friend.

The post was for smoked cream cheese. And it could not have been simpler: Unwrap a block of cream cheese, generously coat it with your favorite seasoning blend, drizzle the edges with a bit of olive oil and smoke it (on a sheet of heavy-duty foil) at 250 degrees for 3 hours.

To find out more, I googled "smoked cream cheese" and dove into the search results.

The instructions were all about the same with the only differences being time and temperature. Some cooks smoked theirs as low as 100 degrees, but most were in the 200-250 range. Some went as long as 3 hours and some as briefly as 45 minutes. Some drizzle with oil, others don't.

I don't have a smoker, but I was so intrigued by the idea I decided to give it a try in my oven.

I was sure the cream cheese would melt into a puddle of goo. So sure, I opted to put it in a baking dish rather than take my chances with foil.

I was wrong.

The cheese didn't change shape at all. The only evidence it had been in the oven was a crack or two running down the center.

But what transformation!

Smooth, creamy, spicy, spreadable and absolutely delicious on buttery Ritz crackers.

To give my block a hint of smokiness, I included smoked paprika in my spice blend. And although the smoke didn't permeate the block the way it would in an actual smoker, the results were still outstanding.

Next time I make it — and there will be a next time — I'm going to try serving it with pepper jelly on top.

BAKED SMOKY CREAM CHEESE SPREAD

Makes: about 8 servings

1 (8-ounce) block cream cheese

1 to 2 tablespoons seasoning blend such as blackened seasoning, barbecue rub, Cavender's (I used smoked paprika, coriander, cumin, smoked salt and ground black pepper)

Olive oil, optional

Crackers, for serving

Heat oven to 250 degrees.

Generously coat the cream cheese on all sides with spices. Place cream cheese in a small baking dish or on a raft made of heavy-duty aluminum foil, drizzle edges with olive oil if desired. Bake for 1 to 2 hours.

Serve warm with crackers.

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