German Käsekuchen is a rare animal to find. It's also a fond childhood memory of a time when our family lived in Germany. The German version of cheesecake is different. The texture is most similar to a ricotta-based cheesecake. It's not as creamy, but has more of a dense texture. It's somewhat sweet, but a lot less than American versions. The crust isn't made with graham crackers, but with more of a butter-shortbread dough. The ingredient that is unique to this cheesecake is "Quark".
Oakdale Cheese Company. We buy an assortment of their Gouda cheeses and I usually buy a slice of their German Cheesecake. One the way back home, we stopped again, and I decided to buy Quark. It was time for me to see if I could recreate this childhood favorite cheesecake.
I've also spotted Quark at Whole Foods.
The texture of Quark is very similar to ricotta cheese. You could also use cottage cheese, pureed in a blender. After searching the internet, I stumbled across "Diana's Dessert's" and I found the recipe that sounded like I was looking for. First, the crust:
We begin with flour, sugar, butter (that I've grated, as it's cold), vanilla sugar, lemon zest and one egg. Using a food processor, the butter is cut into the dry ingredients. Last, the egg is added, and the dough is kneaded and then covered in plastic and refrigerated for at least an hour. NOTE: The smell of the lemon-zest and vanilla sugar really brought back childhood memories in Germany.
The dough is a little temperamental, at first. I begin by rolling it out once. Then folding it again, and rolling it out for a second time. Using a springform pan, the dough is laid out and then I had to press it into shape. Set aside.
For the filling, we need egg yolk, vanilla sugar, sugar, butter, heavy cream, Quark, egg whites, corn starch and a pinch of salt. Beat the egg yolks with the sugar and vanilla-sugar until pale and foamy. Add the softened butter and beat well, then add the heavy cream and beat again. Add the quark and stir until the mixture is smooth and throughly combined. I added two of my favorite baking additives, to the filling. Fiori di Sicilia is an all-natural combination of citrus and vanilla. Loranne's Buttery Sweet Dough is my "secret ingredient" that I add to a lot of my baking goods. You don't need these for these recipes, but I felt it added a very "European" flavor to the filling.
Last, whisk the egg whites with the salt until very stiff, then very gently fold in the quark mixture, also adding the sifted cornstarch a little at a time.
Pour the filling into the crust shell and I used an off-set spatula to even out the filling. I trimmed the dough, leaving about 1" above the filling line. Bake in preheated 300 degrees F (150 C) oven for 50 to 60 minutes (longer if necessary) until well risen and golden – it resembles a souffle at this point (It will sink in the middle quite dramatically – don’t worry, it’s supposed to do this). Turn the oven off, and let the cheesecake rest in the oven for 15 minutes; then remove it from the oven, cool for an hour or so at room temperature, and refrigerate for several hours before releasing sides of pan and serving. (I made this cheesecake a day before serving.)
The next day, it was time to taste this cheesecake.
The moment of truth...
TASTING NOTES: The sweetness of this cheesecake is very mild. The texture is moist, and both creamy with a slight denseness. The crust is really good-- and I'm usually not a fan of pie crust. I can taste very subtle notes of citrus. My husband, who isn't a fan of cheese, really liked this German cheesecake. I actually enjoyed a slice for breakfast, with a dark roast coffee. I was back in time, as that child who would hope for a second slice of my Oma's cheesecake that she had brought home from the local bakery. It's a winner. The big bonus is that I didn't feel one iota of guilt about this recipe. It's a treat. It's worthy to bake for special company. I would definitely make this recipe again. In fact, I have a frozen container of Quark that will be morphed into this delectable treat in the next few months.
As always, a printable recipe card is at the end of this post.