American-style Cheesecake

Cheesecake in Germany is different. It’s good, but it’s far lighter and crumblier than American cheesecake, with nowhere near the tangy flavor I expect. I’ve tried to make cheesecake over here before, but it never quite works out correctly. The flavor is always somewhat lacking and the texture is a little off. I’m certain it has to do with availability of ingredients. The cream cheese here is all spreadable – they don’t seem to have the big, dense blocks of Philly, wrapped in foil, that have to sit out and soften on the counter before you can put it in the mixer. Even if I could get the blocks (and I probably could – I have ways), I really don’t have the fridge space to store it.

While planning Thanksgiving desserts with our friends, we decided a cheesecake might be in order (counterpoint to the omnipresent pies). So I started my usual recipe search, when I had an idea; look for a German-language recipe for ‘American’ cheesecake! I found a winner here. The original recipe is in German with metric measurements, but here’s my translation.

25-30 Leibniz wholegrain (vollkorn) cookies, crushed
5-6 T (80 g) butter, melted

17 oz (500 g) cream cheese1
14 oz (400 g) quark cheese
3/4 c (160 g) sugar
1 1/2 t vanilla extract (wanna be fancy? Scrape a whole vanilla bean instead)
3 eggs
1 pinch salt

1 large jar sour cherries (Schattenmorellen)
2 T cornstarch

Preheat oven to 350°F/170°C.

Mix the crushed cookies and melted butter together in a bowl, until all the crumbs are evenly moistened and are starting to clump. Press the crumbs into the bottom of a 24-26 cm. springform pan until they make an even layer.

In a large mixer bowl, combine all the filling ingredients and beat until smooth and light. Pour into the springform and bake for at 40 minutes or until the center is somewhat jiggly, but no longer liquidy. I prefer to bake mine a little longer, until the top is no longer shiny – but this will probably cause your cake to crack. Allow cake to cool to room temperature, then chill for at least 4 hours, preferably overnight.

The topping is optional, but I like my cheesecake with cherries. Into a small saucepan, drain your cherry juice and set cherries aside for now. Put 4-5 T of the cherry juice in a small glass or measuring cup and add the cornstarch, stirring well. Bring the juice in the saucepan to a boil, then add the cornstarch slurry while stirring. The mixture will immediately thicken. Remove it from the heat, stir in the cherries and serve with the cheesecake.

  1. Edited on 2018-04-30; a previous incarnation of this recipe had the cream cheese-to-quark ratio flipped. This way (as written here, now) is even better. []

Individual Cheesecakes

I started with this recipe but quickly made it my own thing.

Baker’s Joy (or just butter), for greasing the pan
graham cracker crumbs, for the bottoms of the cupcake pans
2 eggs, separated
3/8 cup sugar
200g cream cheese, softened (that’s one small German-sized package — a little smaller than the 8 oz. size typical in the U.S.)
1 tablespoon of sour cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter the cups of a mini-muffin pan and put a half a centimeter of graham cracker crumbs in the bottom of each cup; set aside.

Cream egg yolks, sugar, vanilla, sour cream and cream cheese until fluffy. Beat egg whites until stiff; fold into creamed mixture.

Spoon cream cheese mixture into muffin tins, filling three-fourths full. Bake in preheated oven for 20 minutes. Cool 10 to 15 minutes. Carefully remove from muffin tins. Let ’em cool, then try to save at least a couple to show people outside your kitchen that you actually made them. Makes 10 cupcake-sized cheesecakes. They come out of the oven poofy at first, but form little depressions as they cool, which would probably be great for some Lemon Sauce or other fruit sauces