German Cheesecake Part I: Quark

Alana

Yesterday I was sitting at Tea Girl, chatting and reviewing some nursing notes when I remembered that I had cream cheese sitting in my fridge. I didn’t want it to go bad, so I decided the best solution was to bake a cheesecake. Cruising through the recipes from pastry school brought my attention to the German cheesecake we made, and I noticed that it called for quark . While it is tricky to buy in Canada, Chef Marco mentioned that it was quite easy to make at home. I was quite curious to try my hand at quark-making at the time, so I figured this was a great opportunity to give it a try!

Quark is most commonly consumed by Eastern-European countries, particularly those that speak German. I suppose that it makes sense it is a part of German cheesecake! Fun fact, it’s also a traditional filling for strudel, another distinctly German dessert! Apparently quark is also quite nutritious; it has a high protein content, but little fat or sugar. I even found a Government of Canada blurb on quark for fact checking purposes! I guess this quark stuff is legit.

So, from my random internet readings (including Wikipedia, I admit) I have developed the following understanding of how to make quark cheese and why it works:

1) You need milk that contains bacterial cultures, aka buttermilk. Buttermilk these days is regular milk that has been pasteurized to remove potentially harmful bacteria, then had non-harmful bacterial cultures introduced after the pasteurization process.

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Dish of buttermilk waiting to be turned into quark!

2) You need the bacterial cultures in the milk, because they produce lactic acid. This is what causes the proteins to precipitate out of solution, thus forming curds (milk solids) and whey (remaining liquid). This is also why you can add lemon juice to milk to “make” buttermilk; the citric acid has the same effect on the milk proteins.

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Out of the oven after a good night sleep

3) Straining the curds in cheesecloth drains of excess moisture, and voila! Quark! The longer you drain the cheese, the drier it will be. Less moisture results in firmer quark, and higher concentrations of protein and fat.

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My quark after about 2.5 hours of draining, you can see that the edges are drier than the centre.

I found a ridiculously simple recipe for making quark on A Canadian Foodie. A few of the recipes I looked at were comparatively more complicated (but still fool-proof in my opinion), because they required specific bacterial cultures or rennet (an enzyme). I was not at all motivated to find either of these things at 2200h (10 PM) on my way home from Mike’s, nor would the random store carrying these things be open. I’m also pretty sure that you use cultures and rennet when making cheeses form milk, rather than buttermilk. 

I decided to go with an online recipe, because the notes I took down from pastry school were not at all readily accessible when I decided to make the quark. I think I will try to do this again and see how that recipe compares.

Quark

Adapted from A Canadian Foodie

Ingredient

  • 2 L buttermilk

Directions

  1. Heat oven to 175 degrees F, and pour buttermilk into an oven safe container.
  2. When hot enough, heat buttermilk in the oven for 2 hours. Turn off the oven, and let the buttermilk sit in there overnight.
  3. Line a strainer with cheesecloth and drain for at least 1.5 hours*.
  4. Enjoy your brand-new quark.

*I left mine for about 4.5 hours before using it in my cheesecake, and even then I made sure to scoop up quark from the edges of the cheesecloth because the middle was still quite loose.


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