Tuesday, June 15

Laugh - {German Cheese Cake with Blueberry Topping}

We spent hours together in those rooms. McDonel. Holmes. Sny-Phi.

Named for the dorms they're housed in, each cafeteria is outfitted with its own "special" features; universally equipped with salad bars, hot lines, soup tables and a meager cereal selection (God bless Special K Fruit and Yogurt!); and totally, completely and utterly shrouded in a heavy cloud of despair.

Ok, to be honest, that last part is a little extreme.

The food isn't really that bad. I'm just kind of a food snob, I guess. Yeah, I ate what was served, but I subsisted mostly on cereal and heavy salads. Oh, and whole grain toast spread with peanut butter and topped with sliced banana. Seriously, why did I have to wait until I was 18 to be introduced to such a beautiful, lovely thing?

Anyway.

The way I saw it, the dining halls were really just good places to socialize. The tables there are just so much more convenient for conversation than our cramped dorm rooms turned out to be, and sitting there opened up opportunities for other friends to drop in and out of conversations. You could sit there all day and never have a conversation end; by the time one person had to leave for class, you had already been joined by another and by the time they had to leave... Yeah, I think you understand how I may or may not have missed class on one occasion due to this phenomenon.

In the cafeteria, you didn't have to worry about bothering napping or studying roommates. So, mealtimes tended to last much longer than one would expect. K, P and I would continue talking long after our dishes had been picked over and stacked. Classes, friends, memories, jokes. We discussed it all.


But one of our favorite topics was the intricacies of life in the US. The complicated lack/presence/disregard of rules in our language. The occasional acceptance of leggings as pants and the surprising amount of Ugg boots sighted in the summer. The funny products available for purchase at your local mega-mart and the shockingly cheap prices of said goodies. You know, just stuff that we're exposed to every day. Some things strange, some things good and some things downright funny (I really, really wish I could share a picture of Spartan Brand "Is it Butter?" with you, but I can't find one!). There was logic behind some of it, but sometimes there was simply no better explanation than "SA."

I don't remember who came up with it, but we say it all the time. It's just a simple thing, you know, to explain something - anything - overly complicated or unjustifiable. Allow me to explain:

It stands for "stupid American."

Now, before any of my readers get upset or offended, keep in mind that I am an American. We never said "SA" in an offensive way, and reserved it for our observations of daily things in American life that were just... Well... Kind of silly. I know that Americans aren't exactly the most loved of nationalities across the world (yeah, yeah. For a lot of reasons. I know), but every culture has things like this, and saying "SA" had the bonus of being a good way to make K comfortable on campus!

Not that she appeared uncomfortable; I mean, K's English is just about flawless. She has no accent, doesn't stumble over words and never looks lost - I swear, you would never know she was from out of the country unless you asked. I just feel like hearing us poke fun at ourselves may have torn down some of the subconscious stereotypes she may have had in her mind when she first arrived. Sure, I am a bit of a ditz, I like to shop, and I use the word "like" to string together thoughts. I make irrelevant comments, talk too fast and tease people like its a sport. But hey, no one is perfect, and I think saying "SA" - even if K started it herself - was a great way for her to break into how things work around here. I know we're not the only ones, but Americans like to laugh, and I, personally, don't mind doing so at my own expense.

And boy did I ever do that a lot. I remember K talking about quark one afternoon while we were dissecting our meals, and I distinctly remember questioning her word choice. "Do you mean cream cheese?" I had asked, completely unaware that such a thing existed. But P countered quickly - proving me wrong and explaining the differences with K's help.

And then there was the whole thing with the alphabet. I guess this is a Canadian thing too, but I have never, ever, EVER heard of "z" referred to as "zed."

I'm sure I'm offending someone here with my ignorance, but I'm not trying to. I guess I'm still learning. Anyway, I'm not going to give any more excuses - I'm just going to continue to poke fun at myself.


Which is why I laughed when I read through the cookbook K mailed me for my birthday. It reminded me of those long hours in the cafeteria spent discussing our culture and customs in addition to all the "SA" things I had ever done. Scrolling across something called "creamy curd" was just the icing on the cake. Maybe it's not exactly stupid that I didn't know specifically what it (or quark) is, but I think you get the idea.

So I had to make it. Without consulting her, of course, because it's her birthday today and I'm being mean by surprising her with a virtual cheesecake. Sorry I'm such a jerk, K, but you know you like it! HAPPY BIRTHDAY!

I substituted a combination of ricotta and cream cheese for the mysterious creamy curd that was called for in the recipe. It's a little grainy, but I really prefer it to any cheesecake that I've had before. I didn't have any sachets of vanilla pudding mix, but I'm resourceful enough to have found a way around it. Perhaps mascarpone would have been a more appropriate substitution for the cheese, but I didn't have any on hand.

Using the ricotta instead of mascarpone (my first choice) had nothing to do with being too lazy (or broke... Haha) to go to the store to get the necessary ingredients.

Because that would be an "SA" thing to do, you know?

Note: K emailed me to let me know that this is a recipe from southern Germany. The cheese cakes that they make where she lives contain... You guessed it! Quark. I should have known... SA!!!

Also, for those that don't know and from what I understand, Quark is like cream cheese but contains significantly less fat and no salt. According to K, it is sold in small tubs in stores.


HAPPY BIRTHDAY, K!

Cheese Cake adapted from The Little German Cookbook
This isn't the creamiest cheese cake ever, but that could be due to my substitutions. That said, it's still the best cheesecake I have ever had. It's certainly not a "light" dessert, but it's much lighter than the cheesecakes that I'm used to! The recipe is very vague, so I have provided more in-depth instructions on the way I chose to do it.
Printable Recipe

For the base
1 2/3 c (250 g) flour
1/2 c (100 g) sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cinnamon
14 Tbls (200 g) butter, cut into small cubes and frozen
2 eggs, straight from the fridge, slightly beaten
1/2 tsp vanilla

You will be treating this like a pie crust.

Combine the dry ingredients, including the sugar, in a large bowl. Cut in the butter using two forks, a pastry blender, or a food processor. Quickly knead in the eggs and vanilla, stopping as soon as the mixture comes together. Wrap tightly in cling film or aluminum foil and refrigerate for an hour.

After an hour has passed, roll it out and place in a 9 or 10 inch spring form pan, dock the crust, then chill. Although the recipe didn't say to do so, I think it would be best to par-bake the crust at this point. If you chose to, I would say baking at 350F (175C) for 15-20 minutes would be sufficient. Just until it is barely browning.

For the filling
This makes quite a bit of filling, and I ended up not using it all because I was afraid the pan would overflow. I would suggest doing

4 1/2 Tbls (65 g) butter, room temp
3/4 c (165 g) sugar
3 eggs
1 vanilla bean, seeds from (or 1 tsp vanilla)
1/2 sachet of vanilla pudding powder (substitution follows)
About 1 1/2 lbs (665 g) creamy curd (I used 1 3/4 c (435 g) ricotta and 1 c (225 g) cream cheese), room temp
3/8 c (55 g) flour

Preheat your oven to 350F (175 C). Wrap your prepared springform pan with aluminum foil and place in a water bath.

Cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, then add the vanilla. Add the pudding mix and beat until very light, about three minutes. Add the cheese(s) and whip until combined, then add the flour and mix only until it is just dissolved. Pour into your lined pan and bake for one hour.


To substitute the pudding powder
I don't claim to know exactly how much pudding powder is in a "sachet," but I compared it to a bag of instant pudding. I used this recipe as a base, but cut it down significantly in size and omitted the cocoa powder. I'm not sure it is entirely necessary to go through the trouble of making this, so do what you like.

1 1/2 tsp (4 g) cornstarch
4 tsp (13 g) confectioner's sugar
1 1/2 tsp (3 g) instant dry milk
Pinch salt

Combine all in a small bowl. Use as directed.

Blueberry Topping
You can do this with any fruit you like and make as much or as little as desired. This is just a guide, but be sure that there is more fruit than sugar, more sugar than lemon juice and certainly more lemon juice than nutmeg!

Blueberries
Sugar
Lemon juice
Pinch nutmeg (I like nutmeg with blueberries, but you may omit this if you like)

Add all ingredients to a small saucepan and cook over medium heat, whisking occasionally, until some berries burst and the sauce is thickened. Cool and spoon over sliced cheesecake.

22 comments:

  1. I've learned something new. I never knew there was a cheese called quark.

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  2. So, wanna help us other "SA"s out here out and explain what quark is? =)

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  3. Your pictures are so beautiful.

    And quark is my new fav word :)

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  4. I prefer quark in my cheesecakes (its a soft cheese made from soured milk we use mostly in Europe) it adds a bit more of a smooth creamy texture to dishes and the slight sour tang once cooked makes a big difference in cakes. Its hard to explain but cheeses like mascarpone can often end up TOO sweetened and over soft.. but the quarks natural sour hint makes the cake perfectly balanced.
    Your photos look great.. the sauce looks to die for!

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  5. I like your term SA - I know that it's all in jest! And that's what makes SAs so great - they DON"T CARE what other people think... I love that attitude! Anyway, great looking cheesecake!

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  6. Happy Birthday to K from the other K's mom. I fondly remember your visit to our home over Thanksgiving last year, and your astonishment with SA drive through banking, when you pulled out your camera to take a picture. By the way this cheesecake is the best I have ever had.

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  7. As a college instructor of Spanish, I hear a lot of "SA" things and witness a lot of "SA" moments haha. I am not offended in the least because I know many USicans (since the term "Americans" truly refers to residents of Canada to Argentina) are in their own "world" (seriously, many act like the US is a world in itself haha). I think traveling to other countries and learning other languages really reduces the "SA" factor but not everyone can do that.

    Anyway, with that said, I thought it was interesting that you said your friend has no accent. Everyone has an accent, but I guess you mean that she has a US accent (or Canadian or British, etc.?). I have heard many people from the US say that someone doesn't have an accent if they speak US English well, but that is actually incorrect ("SA"? haha). I forgive you, though. I have my SA moments, too!

    Lastly, I'd like to say that great minds think alike because I made a fruit-based cheesecake as well! I drizzled my fruit topping over it just like you did. Your photos and cheesecake look amazing as usual.

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  8. Absolutely gorgeous. I love your humor and that a smile seems just moments from your face... that is a gift!

    Fantastic recipe... cant wait to try it!

    Blessings-
    Amanda

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  9. You have great photos! Looks like tasty cheesecake to me!!
    Would you mind checking out my blog? :D http://ajscookingsecrets.blogspot.com/

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  10. You're really taking amazing photos you know Kaitlin. That first one: wow.

    By the way, I think that Americans, in general (there are exceptions), are some of the friendliest and most appreciative people on the planet. It makes a good impression. That's not SA!

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  11. oh my gosh , this cake is amazing!!thank you,thank you very much!

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  12. Your stuff is great and your photos are fantastic! I just started getting into food photography because I'm designing a cook book for a wedding gift. I've been looking at all kinds of examples (including your images, martha stewart, and real simple) what do you use to set up your colored backgrounds? And are you using natural light? You have great colors!

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  13. I have been reading and loving your blog for awhile. Your pictures are gorgeous and regularly make me hungry. I never realized you were at MSU though. I am an alum myself and still live in the Lansing area.

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  14. Of course it's "zed"! :o) Now that I live in the US I always have to stop myself and say "zee" ... I used to say "zed" and people would look at me funny.

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  15. Another SA here...I had never heard of "quark" either. It sounds like a "Star Trek" term to me...LOL

    jessyburke88@gmail.com

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  16. I'm from Germany, and "Käsekuchen" used to be my favourite, but to be honest, I've hardly touched one again since I know what "real" American cheesecake is/can be like :P it's the fat in the cream cheese.. (which is what it always comes down to in the end, I guess :D) lovely pictures as always! oh, and I say "zed" as well! it's the Canadian 12-year-old in me.

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  17. he he... I love the term. I'm not American and I don't think all Americans are SA's, but some things you hear about give you a good giggle. It's awesome when people don't take themselves too seriously. You have to be able to laugh at yourself. :)

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  19. In British English, 'Z' is pronounced 'zed'.
    Loving your blog, gorgeous photos, delicious looking food! This one especially, as it reminded of the cheesecake my grandma, who was the daughter of German immigrants, used to make when I was a kid (minus the fruit topping, she used to put raisins in the cheese mixture instead). She definitely used quark! Can't wait to try it!

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  20. I am a German girl living in the U.S. for almost 6 years now and I really miss quark. I have found that plain FAGE Greek Yogurt is really close to quark in flavor and texture. I have made several German style cheesecakes using this yogurt and it is to die for. You should give it a try.

    Carmen

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    Replies
    1. Good to know - thank you! Fage is my favorite Greek yogurt. So yummy!

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  21. I found your post at Pintrest, and, as a German expat, I'm always happy and curious when I see somebody posting about a German dish (indicating that they know there is more to German cuisine than sauerkraut and bratwurst :)
    Your funny write-up made me smile, and your recipe is one of the many variations of German Käsekuchen.
    I blind bake my short crust, too, but, after many trials to find the right substitute for quark (SIGH!) I use cream cheese, lightened by whipped egg white. For the missing tang (quark is a little bit sour) I add lemon juice and zest, a usual ingredient in Käsekuchen. I didn't like ricotta for it, because it is too gritty and bland for my taste.
    I do like American cheese cake, too, and make it often. But it is really a different animal, and my American family loves my much lighter Käsekuchen.
    If you like to see my recipe, check out my blog Brot & Bread.

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Thanks so much for reading! I would love to hear your thoughts!

If you have any questions, please feel free to email them to me at kaitlin@whisk-kid.com.

Have a great day!