This traditional German cheesecake recipe (or käsekuchen recipe) differs from its North American equivalent in that its essential ingredient is quark, a low fat German fresh cheese, rather than cream cheese. Because of this substitution, German-style cheesecake is much lighter and fluffier than American cheesecake.
What is Quark?
There are actually two kinds of quark in this world – the first is an elementary particle, and the second is a soft cheese. Today, since we known nothing about physics, we’ll keep to the soft cheese. Quark cheese is made by warming soured milk until it curdles and then straining it. This sounds gross, doesn’t it? But, think of it more simply as a solidified version of buttermilk, living somewhere between a yogurt and a cream cheese, with its closest relative perhaps being a farmer’s cheese. The flavor is much less tart than sour cream, and the curds are quite a bit smaller than cottage cheese.
Where Can I Find Quark?
Some grocery stores stock imported German quark in the dairy aisle. If you can’t find it locally, you can buy American versions of quark online at the 5 Generations Creamery. Or, if you’ve got a gallon of buttermilk and some time to kill, you can make your own quark.
This Quark Thing Is Annoying. Is There a Good Substitution for Quark?
The short answer is — not really. There are many variations in the “soft unfermented cheese” category, from ricotta to cottage cheese to fromage blanc. Each has a distinct flavor profile, water content, and curd size, so results won’t be consistent if you swap something else in.
A Short History of Quark
Quark is an ancient cheese, with earliest written records dating back to the 14th century. The word “quark” simply means “curd” in German. Prior to the twentieth century, it was a food primarily eaten in rural areas with limited food options and was also sometimes used as animal feed. Quark shot to fame in the inter-war period. Politicians believed that Germany had lost World War I to hunger.
Prior to World War I, Germany imported many of its key foodstuffs including coffee, meat, butter, and sugar. With import blockades in place during the war, Germany could not feed its own people and many died of starvation in 1917-1918. During the Weimar Republic and Nazi periods, the German government sought to achieve “nutritional freedom” by encouraging German citizens to shift their diets towards foods that could be grown in sufficient quantities within Germany. Rye bread replaced white bread, fish replaced beef, and quark was actively promoted in place of butter.
Love cheesecake so much that this German Cheesecake Recipe just isn’t enough? Don’t worry, so do we! Here are a few more favorites.
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Useful Tools for Making this German Cheesecake Recipe
A German Cheesecake Recipe
- 9 inch springform pan
- parchment paper
- 1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/3 cup granulated sugar
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1 medium egg
- 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- 1/2 cup butter cold
- 1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
- 3 medium eggs at room temperature
- 2 cups quark
- 2 tbsp corn starch
- 2 tsp vanilla extract or vanilla sugar
- 1 tsp lemon zest
- 1/2 cup vegetable oil
- 3/4 cup heavy whipping cream
- Sift the flour, sugar, salt, and baking powder into a large bowl.
- Cut the cold butter into 1/2 inch cubes and add it to the flour mixture. Use a pastry cutter to cut the butter into the flour mixture until a coarse meal forms.
- In a small bowl, combine the egg and the vanilla extract. Stir the egg mixture into the flour mixture with a fork until a dough begins to form. Knead gently to fully combine, then wrap the shortcrust pastry tightly in plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for at least one hour.
- Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease and line a 9-inch springform pan with parchment paper.
- In a large mixing bowl using a whisk, mix the eggs and sugar until fully combined. Add the cornstarch and vanilla extract and stir to combine. Then add the oil and lemon zest and mix again.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer, using the whip attachment, whip the heavy cream until soft peaks form.
- Fold the whipped cream and quark into the egg mixture little by little using a large rubber spatula until you have achieved a smooth consistency and no lumps remain.
- Place the dough on a well-floured work surface. Sprinkle flour over the top of the dough and the rolling pin, then roll the dough out until you have a 12 inch circle. Trim the dough to make a nice even circle.
- Place the rolled dough into the pan and press it into place. You should have roughly 1 inch of dough going up the sides of the pan.
- Pour the cheesecake filling into the pan and tap the filled cake pan several times on the counter to ensure that you have removed any large air bubbles.
- Bake the cake in the lower third of your preheated oven for 70-90 minutes. Remove the cake from the oven and let it cool fully before removing the ring of the springform pan.
- Dust the cheesecake with powdered sugar and/or decorate with berries before serving.
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