Welp, it looks like it’s time for my weekly dairy post! How about we tackle . . . quark?
(Note: “quark” is best vocalized loud and fast, like a cross between a goat’s bleat, a duck’s quack, and a dog’s bark: QUARK! Go on, try it. See? Wasn’t that fun?)
I didn’t know anything about quark — QUARK! — until a few weeks ago. Turns out, it’s a German soft cheese, sibling to the French fromage blanc (or frais, or whatever), and similar to cream cheese but made with milk instead of cream. It’s actually a lot like the yogurt cheese I make but without the yogurty tang (and the extra step of making the yogurt).
Quark yields a gratifyingly large amount: nearly two pouds per gallon of milk if you have high-fat milk (our Daisy milk only yields 1 pound 5 ounces). Also, it’s extremely simple: culture plus time, that’s it. If you plan things right, you’ll actually be asleep for the majority of the process.
Quark requires mesophilic starter which is expensive BUT I’ve learned that I can save the whey from the quark and use that as my mesophilic starter for futures quark, cottage cheese, monterey jack, etc. It’s brilliant! (Locals, I’ve got plenty and am willing to share.)
Since quark differs enough from cream cheese that we don’t use it as a substitute, at least not for fresh eating, figuring out how to use the quark has been a little challenging.
So far, I’ve used quark…
*in place of ricotta for lasagna-type dishes: fabulous.
*baked French toast: since I can detect a slight different flavor, I thought the kids might fuss, but they gobbled it up, syrup is magic. Also, since quark crumbles kinda like feta, it was way easier to layer with the bread — no sticky cream cheese to swear at!
baked fresh toast
leek and sausage, with a few fistfuls of quark and some leftover cuajada
I was skeptical about the cheesecake. I mean, I do already have the recipe for the perfect classic cheesecake in my files, and there was no way, I thought, a milk-based cheese with a slight texture could possibly compete, right? Right. EXCEPT, cheesecake made with quark is altogether different. More dense, and with a slight tang, it’s less like a dessert and more like a nutritious food. Like if we’re comparing cheesecakes to breads, a classic cheesecake would be a brioche while cheesecake made with quark would be a rustic wholegrain sourdough. Both are delicious.
Eating the cheesecake, one of my girlfriends actually got emotional — Oh, Jennifer, she whispered, her eyes welling up (or did I imagine that?), this is incredible! — and another declared she liked it even better than regular cheesecake. Cheesecake of the traditional sort, she said, is so rich she can only handle a couple bites, but this? This now, she could do.
My husband and I agree that this cheese requires a tart fruit sauce, and lots of it. For our small group supper the other night, I served the cake with sugared peach slices and they just didn’t pack the right punch. However, the leftover berry drizzle that I brought home from the diner (that they used on their weekend waffles) was perfect, as would be this red raspberry sauce. Saucy and bright, that’s the goal.
Save a quart of the quark’s whey to use in other cheesemaking recipes that call for mesophilic starter, like cottage cheese and monterey jack. (I generally substitute about ¼ cup whey for every ⅛ teaspoon of dry culture.) The whey should hold in the fridge for at least three weeks, and maybe longer.
In the evening before bed:
Heat the milk to 85 degrees. Gently stir in the whey, and then the diluted rennet. Pour the mixture into a gallon jar (or keep it in the kettle), lid, and let sit at room temperature overnight, approximately 12-14 hours.
In the morning:
Using a long serrated bread knife, roughly cut the curd into squares. Let sit for 5 minutes. Pour the curd into a cheesecloth-lined strainer (don’t forget to save some of the whey for your next batch!), tie up the ends, and hang for about six hours.
Dump the cheese — QUARK! — into a bowl and stir in the salt (I’ve used as little as a half teaspoon and as much as two). Transfer to the fridge — it should hold for about three weeks — and use it in recipes that call for cream cheese or ricotta.
One gallon of milk should yield about 1½ to 2 pounds of quark, depending on the fat content of your milk.
(because “Quark Cheesecake” just sounds wrong)
Use this recipe, but substitute quark for the cream cheese, and double up on the fruit sauce.