In search of healthy and fun meals to feed my family, with an eye toward sustainable living.

Here you'll find recipes & ramblings about keeping my family fed with what's available in Alaska between local produce, a little bit of wild harvest, and the modern grocery store.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

QUARK: a staple of German dessert-making

If you've never heard of QUARK, you're not alone. It does not have a translation in English. It's a fresh (or white) soft cheese similar to queso blanco or Indian Paneer. The closest I can come to describing this dairy product is to call it a cross between sour cream and ricotta cheese, or cream cheese and cottage cheese-- sort of like the Italian mascarpone. I occasionally treat myself to a tub of "real" Quark, available in Anchorage at New Sagaya Market. I've got one in my frig right now, and am trying to decide what special German dessert to make with it.

Wikipedia defines Quark (pronunciation "qvark") as a fresh curd cheese of East European origin (from the slavic "tvorag"). It is soft, white and un-aged, similar to the french fromage frais. It usually has much lower fat content (about the same as yoghurt) than cream cheeses and has no salt added.

I grew up eating Quark both savory and sweet: we spread it on bread, and ate it as a simple dessert with fruit. And it is the best for making German cheesecake! As a substitute, you can create your own from buttermilk (link here) or by using a yoghurt cheese (strain unflavored yoghurt through a cheese cloth). Even simpler is to substitute mascarpone, or blend 9 parts ricotta w/ 1 part sour cream, or use a blender to make you own mix of cottage cheese, cream cheese and/or yoghurt, depending on how much creaminess you're after...
Suesser Quark mit Frucht
Blend quark, sugar or honey and berries -- it's so easy a five-year old can be in charge of this! Probably the first dessert I ever made.

Poached Pears with cheese & berries
I learned this recipe from Eldest daughter (Kitchensister). You can use quark, mascarpone or ricotta cheese. several fresh pears (not super-ripe)
ginger, sliced real thin
ground cinnamon (1/2 -1 tsp?)
honey (1/2 cup?)
water, as needed (may substitute partially with wine)
berries (can be frozen) - 1 or 2 cups
quark or ricotta or mascarpone cheese - 1 tub

In a sauce pan, heat the honey/water/wine mixture with cinnamon and sliced ginger. Add pear slices and simmer with just enough liquid to cover the pears. When pears are soft, remove them and set aside. Discard the ginger.
Boil the liquid down until there's barely any left (watch that you don't burn this!).
Stir in the cheese.
Separately, make a berry compote ("soup") from berries -- simmer in a saucepan, adding sweetener if you feel it's needed.

Serve this dessert by placing a few slices of pear on each plate, spooning sweetened cheese over it, and drizzling with berries.

Streuselkuchen mit Quarkfüllung

2 c. flour
1/2 package dry yeast (1 heaping teaspoon) or 1/2 cube of fresh yeast
1/2 c. lukewarm milk (110°F)
2 T. butter
2 T. sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
5 T. butter
1 tsp. lemon zest
6 T. sugar
1 egg
1 1/2 c. Quark or yogurt cheese
2 T. cornstarch
optional: berries or other fruit

Streusel Topping:
1 1/2 c. flour
2/3 c. sugar
1/2 c. butter
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. cinnamon


Make the yeast dough: Place the flour in a bowl and create a hollow in it with the back of a spoon. Crumble fresh yeast or sprinkle dry yeast in the hollow, fill with the lukewarm milk, add a pinch of sugar and mix a little to incorporate some of the flour. Let the sponge sit in a warm place for 15 minutes.

After the yeast is activated and showing strong growth, add the butter, salt and sugar to the milk and mix the dough, incorporating the flour as you go. You may also use a stand mixer for this step. Continue mixing until the dough is smooth and forms a ball. Add a little more flour if necessary. Form dough into a ball, place in a greased bowl, turning once, and cover. Let rise 15 to 30 minutes.

Roll out on a lightly floured board to a 9 x 13 inch rectangle and transfer to a 9 x 13 inch baking pan. Press towards the edges gently, creating a lip (like a pizza crust). Let this dough rest while you mix the filling and topping.

Make the filling: Cream together butter, sugar and lemon zest for 2 minutes. Add the egg and beat until light and fluffy, scraping down the bowl as you go. Add the Quark or yogurt cheese, mixing until smooth. Sprinkle the cornstarch on top and mix to incorporate. Spread over the yeast dough.

Optionally, add fruit at this stage (something not too watery, such as berries).

Make the streusel topping: Mix 1 1/2 cups of flour, 2/3 cup sugar, salt and cinnamon. Using your hands or a pastry mixer, cut 7 tablespoons butter into the flour mix until you have course crumbs. Sprinkle these crumbs on top of the Quark filling.

Bake the cake at 350°F for 30 minutes, or until cake is lightly browned and filling is almost set. Filling will set up more as it cools.

1 comment:

  1. Nice recipes for quark (It's know as quarg down here via dutch and belgium influence. It's cool that there's someone else who makes their own too. Good on ya mate!