German Cheesecake: Revisited

It seems to be cheesecake week here in Seattle.

Not only did I have a hankering to bake one on my days off this week, but now I hear one of my friends is baking one for her anniversary this weekend, too.

I posted a very solid recipe for German-style cheesecake last December. Since I revisited that recipe this week and made some adjustments—to great success, I can assure you—I thought I might share the recipe in case you, too, are feeling cheesecake fever over the weekend.

Last year when I posted the recipe, I used Belfiore’s Russian Farmers Cheese instead of the more traditional Quark (you can read the earlier post for an in-depth discussion of what, exactly, Quark is). At the time, I couldn’t find a Quark that didn’t specify that the milk hadn’t been treated with RBST—and if it doesn’t say, I just won’t buy it.

Much has changed in a year.

I now work for a cheese shop that actually sells Quark. Vermont Creamery’s Quark, to be exact. It comes in happy green little 8-ounce tubs, which made it rather easy for me to figure out that I needed three of them for my cheesecake recipe (whereas last year I bought three tubs of Russian farmer’s cheese and was left with a lot after the fact).

I had a long talk about Quark with my German mother the other day, because a recipe in one of my cookbooks suggested that Quark should resemble cheese curds from which you can just drain the whey. I have personally never seen Quark look like that. My mother said she remembered Quark from her childhood being yogurt-y and rather firm, whereas Vermont Creamery’s Quark is loose and liquid-y.

Mom also notified me that Appel Farms, which is based in Ferndale, Washington, is now selling their Quark on her go-to site for all things nostalgically German, Germandeli.com (although the reviews from cranky old Germans on that site complain that it’s not real German Quark—because, duh, it’s not).

So, there is Quark to be had out there, even if it’s not exactly 100 percent like the stuff you’d get at a German supermarket.

So this time I used Quark, as tradition would have it. As it just so happened, I was also feeling too lazy to clean my coffee grinder to make caster sugar. So I didn’t use caster sugar for the dough or for the custard, and instead just used normal cane sugar. I also didn’t adjust the oven temperature from Celsius to Fahrenheit while I was pre-baking the crust, so it was in at 200 degrees rather than 400. And I used thickly ground cornmeal instead of corn starch for the custard, because sometimes I know better than the recipe. (Not.)

Oops. But hey, it turned out OK anyway.

I also had extra dough leftover, which meant that I had to do something with it. And by that, I mean that I used a festive Halloween cookie cutter to make little dough ghosts, which I pre-baked while the crust was pre-baking, and then later arranged on top of the cheesecake when it was halfway baked. (If you put them on top before the custard sets, they will just sink to the bottom and add more dough to the base of the cake—an unpleasant surprise for the custard enthusiast).

Here, for your baking pleasure, is the recipe.

German Cheesecake

Ingredients

For the dough:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 tbsp caster sugar (if you don’t have this, you can grind cane sugar in a coffee grinder until it is finer—but not until it becomes a powder)
  • 1/2 lemon rind, grated
  • 1 egg, beaten

Note: last time I made this cake, I used a pâte brisée (double butter) crust instead. It didn’t turn out as well as I’d hoped. But if you have a go-to pastry crust recipe, I encourage you to try yours here.

For the filling:

  • 3 cups Quark or Russian farmer’s cheese
  • 4 eggs, separated
  • 3/4 cup caster sugar
  • 3 tbsp corn starch
  • 2/3 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 lemon, juice and grated rind
  • 1 tsp vanilla

For the pastry dough, start out by sifting the flour into a bowl. Cut in the butter until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Then stir in the caster sugar and lemon rind. Add in the egg and mix until it is all constituted into a dough. If the dough is still too dry, add a little water to help moisten the ingredients enough to stick. If you have a food processor, you can add all the ingredients in there and allow the blade to do the work for you. Chill for at least 15 minutes.

Roll the dough out on a lightly floured surface and then lay it onto the base and sides of a 9- or 10-inch loose-bottomed cake form. (I lined my form with parchment paper first, but you don’t have to line or grease the form.) It is recommended that you chill the crust for one hour, but it won’t be a tragedy if you don’t have time to do that.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. When it comes to temperature, pull your cake form out of the fridge and prick the chilled dough with a fork. Fill the dough with crumpled aluminum foil or line it with parchment paper and stabilize the paper with pastry weights (or something oven-proof and heavy to keep the parchment paper in place). Bake the dough for 10 minutes, then remove the foil and bake for another 5 to 10 minutes.

Remove the cake form from the oven, and reduce the heat to 350 degrees.

For the cake filling, measure the Quark or Russian farmer’s cheese into a bowl with the egg yolks and caster sugar, and mix.

In a separate bowl, blend the corn starch with the sour cream. Add this to the quark mixture, along with the lemon juice, grated lemon rind, and vanilla. Mix well.

Preferably in a stainless-steel bowl, whisk the egg whites until they are stiff. (If you have an electric hand mixture or stand mixture, use that.) Fold the whites into the quark mixture in thirds.

Pour the filling into the cake form and bake for 60 to 75 minutes, or until the cake is golden and firm. It may crack if the heat is too high, and it may still be a bit jiggly.

Turn off the oven and leave the door open, allowing the cheesecake to remain in the oven to cool, for about two hours. This is actually really important! The cake continues to set as the oven cools down, and it won’t set as well if you keep on baking the cake or if you take it out of the oven to cool.

You can serve your cheesecake with hot or cold berry compote poured all over the top of it, perhaps even with a squirt of hot honey or a sprig of mint. Enjoy!

 

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