Last week I stumbled across Frau Dietz’ blog Eating Wiesbaden, where she describes her life as an British expat in Germany. I loved her introductions to various German delicacies, such as the cheesecake, in her list of top 4 German cakes. Having previously posted recipes for Sachertorte (Frau Dietz’ no. 3) and the Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte (no. 1), I realised that it was high time to present you with this typically German version of a cheesecake, which came second in her list.
In Germany we use Quark for cheesecake, not the elemental particles but a milk product similar to fromage frais or paneer, which you can get in many supermarkets in the UK. In Austria it’s called Topfen, by the way, and used for the most amazing dishes and desserts.
Although Quark is possibly made of quarks, the latter were in fact a made-up name, although helped by an expression found in James Joyce’s Finnegan’s Wake. Having lived in Zurich for many years, Joyce probably had come across the word (and the food!), and used it for its unusual sound for his experimental novel.
Quark, like fromage frais, usually comes in different versions: low fat, ‘regular’ (20%) and ‘full fat’ (40% fat in dry mass). For this cake, I used the full fat version, as this seems to be the most common one in British supermarkets. If you can get hold of the regular 20% version, simply add 100ml of whipped cream; the low fat version needs a good 200ml to get a nice creamy filling…
You can make your own Quark quite easily, as my old cookbook advises, by leaving milk out to turn sour. Once the sour milk is thick enough to be cut into slices you warm it up to separate the cheese from the whey: the latter will form a green liquid on the top of the mass. Pour it onto a cheese cloth and leave to set; alternatively, buy the Quark in the supermarket 😉
The base is the same short crust pastry, or Mürbeteig, which I have already described in my recipe of the Träubleskuchen.
For the shortcrust pastry/pâte sucrée/Mürbeteig:
- 180g plain flour
- 120g butter, not too soft
- 60g caster sugar
- 1 egg
For the filling:
- 5 eggs
- 250 g caster sugar
- 2 tbs vanilla sugar
- 100g plain flour
- 500g Quark or fromage frais (20%)
- peel of 1 lemon
- a handful of raisins
Begin by mixing the ingredients for your shortcrust pastry on a cool surface, ideally with a spatula or similar to prevent the pastry from getting too warm. With cool hands, quickly work the mix into a soft dough; if necessary add a little bit of flour but don’t overdo it as it takes away from the lovely taste and texture of this pastry! Wrap it up and put it into the fridge for at least 1 hour.
When you’re ready – or rather when the pastry is, having cooled down enough to be handled, grease your springform (ideally sprinkle some semolina onto the butter, to ensure the pastry comes off; it’s optional, though: with that much butter there shouldn’t be a problem…). Preheat the oven to 175C.
Carefully roll out the pastry on a slightly floured surface and fit it into your tin: again, avoid handling it too much; if it breaks, just worry about the rim as that’s the only bit of it that will be visible in the finished cake 😉. One way of doing this is to roll the dough back onto the rolling pin, then gently roll it out over your tin; alternatively fold it twice, lift it into the tin and unfold. Personally I find this easier. Press the dough into the tin, then cut off the excess. You need around 1 inch for the rim.
If you feel like it, blind bake the base for around 10 minutes. I find that although it helps to keep the pastry firm, the rims always sink in, so it’s up to you whether you do this or not.
For the filling, beat the egg whites until they form soft peaks. Add half the sugar while mixing it, to ensure it is incorporated fully.
In a separate bowl, mix the flour and the remaining sugar, lemon peel and egg yolks before straining the quark through a sieve to break it up. Mix well, then fold in the egg whites.
Sprinkle the raisins on the pre-baked base, or not, if you happen not to like raisins. Some of us don’t, so we have opted for a half-and-half solution. Fill ill in the quark mix and flatten it a bit with a spatula to ensure a neat finish. Bake on the bottom shelf for around 30 minutes without opening the doors!
After that first bake, take out the cake and make an incision ca. 1 cm inside the rim, using a sharp knife. This is to prevent the surface from breaking up as you bake the cake. Return it to the oven and bake for another 15 minutes.
When you remove the cake from the oven you can either leave it to cool, or you can turn it out on a round wire tray to give it a nice pattern.
Should you like it, try it with apricots or other fruit – or add a few spoonfuls of soured cream to give it an extra edge.
Frau Dietz names the Black Forest Gateau as her favourite cake, whereas mine will always be Sachertorte. Which cake makes your heart beat faster – not literally, obviously, as in clogging up your arteries due to the ridiculous amounts of sugar and cream used …?