A Classic German Cheesecake With a Hint of Lavender

Saturday morning I awoke tired and grumpy to a gray rainy day. My right cheek was still swollen from earlier wisdom tooth extractions, and my body was frustrated with the lack of activity. The dentist said I had to slow things down for at least three whole days, and today was day number three. Mentally and physically I was annoyed, ready to get this last day over with. I am not the kind of person that can easily kick back and relax, especially for three whole days, and grumpy was written all over my face. 

After an oatmeal breakfast and luke warm coffee (dentist's orders), the fog layer cleared in my head. I decided I would make one of my favorite desserts, something light, something soft, something perfect for a girl with a sore right cheek- a German cheesecake. Not only could I eat it, but it gave me a rainy day goal!

I put on my boots, grabbed an umbrella and a canvas bag and took the very long round about way to the local grocery store. Instead of a 5 minute walk, I managed to make my shopping trip an hour long walk. With fresh organic eggs, schichtkase, quark, and some powdered sugar I topped out at a total of 6 euros. It is cheap to bake here in Germany! I arrived at home with a grin on my face, excited to start my fusion of classic German tradition and a sprinkle of the Pacific Northwest. The grumpy swollen Selva had turned into a motivated baker! The sunshine even made its way through the clouds to offer up a beautiful outdoor setting to the traditional 3 pm coffee and cake.

The traditional German cheesecake is much different than the traditional American version. It is light and fluffy, delicately sweet, with a mild cheese flavor. It is one of the most popular cakes here in southern Germany, made with fresh quark and schichtkase (similar to a creamed cottage cheese), served sometimes with a crust, and sometimes without. Often times you will find seasonal fruit jams between the crust and quark layer, or even a sprinkle of raisins and nuts. However you like it, you will find it. 

Since I brought some organically grown lavender from the Olympic Peninsula in Washington, I decided to create a flavor fusion of old world Germany and the beautiful Pacific Northwest. I hope you enjoy it as much as we did!

Lemon Lavender German Käsekuchen
Makes a 28 cm width cake 
Sweet Cookie Crust
100 g softened sweet cream butter
50 g sugar
1 Tbsp milk
1 dash sea salt
1 pinch lemon zest
100 grams whole-wheat flour
60 grams unbleached flour
1 pinch baking powder

Quark Cheese Mass
8 egg white
8 egg yolk
250 g sugar
500 g Schichtkase
500 g Quark
1 vanilla bean
1 ½ tsp dried lavender flowers
80 g cornstarch
1 generous pinch lemon zest
450 ml milk

1.  Please read the instructions carefully prior to starting the procedure. It is all simple, the cake just requires specific tools, and some minor preparation.
2.  Mix soft butter, sugar, milk, and lemon zest with hand held blender. Sift together the two flours in a separate bowl. Add the baking powder and lemon zest to the flour and stir. Slowly add the flour to the butter mixture and stir with spoon until combined. Then knead with hands until the dough is smooth. Lay flat and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate at least 2 hours. (Can be done the night before)
3.  Put the quark in a cheesecloth and allow to drain over sink at least 1 hour. If you tie the cloth around the faucet it works great. If you are not able to find Schichtkase use quark as a substitute for a total of 1000 g.
4.  Heat the milk over medium-low heat. Add the vanilla bean. Place the dried lavender into a tea egg/strainer and place into the warm milk. Allow the bean and lavender to soak in warmed milk for 10 minutes. Discard vanilla bean and lavender. Allow milk to cool.
5.  Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius (350 degrees Fahrenheit). Roll out the dough in a circle with about a 3mm thickness on a floured surface. If you have an adjustable torte ring fit the ring to the size of of the rolled out dough (about 28 cm width), and press down to cut the dough like a large cookie cutter. Place the dough onto a parchment lined cookie sheet and poke holes with a fork evenly throughout.  Bake for about 8 minutes. Remove from oven. The crust should have grown slightly. Place torte ring onto the crust and press down making sure the entire bottom is filled with the prebaked crust. Any crust found on the outside of the ring can now be a tasty little cookie snack! DO NOT remove the torte ring from the crust. The form is now ready to be filled with the quark filling. The crust now fits perfectly inside the torte form and will ensure that no filling will flow out under the ring. Allow to cool.

6.  Meanwhile, if you are using schichtkase, strain any fluid in the package and then continue to press the cheese through a fine sieve into a very large bowl. (The quark mass grows quickly later when you add the egg whites.) Add the strained quark to the schichtkase and mix well. Set aside.
7.  Beat egg whites until stiff while slowly adding the 250 grams sugar to the egg white mass. Egg whites should form peaks that remain stiff. A great way to test is by pulling the beater out of the egg white mass to see the strength of the peak it forms. Set aside.
8.  Preheat oven to 190 degrees Celsius (375 degrees Fahrenheit). Add egg yolks to the quark mass and mix well with a long wooden spoon. Slowly add the cornstarch and then the cooled herb infused milk. Sprinkle in the lemon zest. Gently fold in the egg white mass, mix very well with the wooden spoon. You want to make sure that everything is evenly mixed, otherwise you will find egg white pockets in the cake. Once thoroughly mixed add the mass to the torte form (with crust in bottom).
9.  Bake for 25 minutes and remove from oven. Cut along the upper inside edge of the torte ring to allow the cake to grow with out tearing along the sides. Allow to cake to set for about 5 minutes. Put the cake back into the oven for another 25 minutes. The cake will continue to grow upward. Cut the inside edge. If the cake grows quickly it is okay to take it out earlier than 25 minutes (1-2 times) to cut the edge, set for 5 minutes and return to the oven.  Just make sure to allow the cake to bake for a total of about 50 minutes.
10.  Remove cake from oven and allow to cool. Carefully cut along the inside of the torte ring (to cut the cake loose) and slowly unhinge the side. Dust the edge of the cake with powdered sugar prior to serving.

Optional: Prepare a large cooling rack. When the cake is finished baking immediately place the cake upside down onto the rack. The best way to do this is to place the rack on top of the cake. Hold one hand on top of the rack and the other on the bottom of cookie sheet. In one movement flip the cake upside down onto rack and set on counter. Allow to cool upside down. Carefully cut the cake along the inside of the torte ring, and remove the ring. Flip right side up onto cake stand or plate. This gives the cake the professional lined appearance. Dust the edge with powdered sugar prior to serving.

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