This recipe for German-style cheesecake is a far cry from the American, denser-than-dense version — it's more like a lofty lemon soufflé crossed with a Dutch baby. I prefer this tender filling made with Quark, a European farmers cheese, but if you can't find quark, either Greek yogurt or sour cream will work. Barely sweetened and loaded with lemon zest, a square of this cake will dance with upbeat flavors on the tongue rather than hit you over the head with heaviness.
I've departed from traditional crust to include my favorite cookie crumbs from the British standby, digestives, but any plain cookie will do nicely. Lastly, I've included a smidge of Tonka bean here — it's not a requirement, but if you can get your hands on this aromatic Scandinavian spice its subtly sweet, Christmassy flavor permeates the lemon filling beautifully. If Tonka isn't available, a pinch of ground cardamom works nicely.
German-Style Lemony Cheesecake
For the crust:
1 1/2 cups digestive cookie crumbs, about 14 cookies crushed finely
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, plus more for greasing
2 tablespoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
For the filling:
3 eggs, separated
3/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
1 Tonka bean, finely grated (optional) or 1 generous pinch ground cardamom
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
2 1/2 cups quark
Zest from 3 Meyer lemons, plus extra for garnish
1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
Generous pinch of fine sea salt
Powdered sugar, for garnish
1/2 lemon, sliced into 1/2-inch slivers, then cut in half to form triangles
Fresh lemon juice, for garnish
Line an 8x8-inch square pan with parchment paper, and generously grease the paper with a little melted butter. In the bowl of a food processor, pulse digestive cookies until finely ground. Add butter, sugar, and salt and pulse a few times until well-blended. Press mixture evenly into lined pan. Bake at 350°F for 10 to 12 minutes, until golden-brown and kitchen starts to smell toasty.
Preheat oven to 325°F. Beat the egg yolks and sugar for about 2 to 3 minutes on high speed until pale yellow. Add vanilla, almond extract, Tonka bean (if using) or ground cardamom, and softened butter until combined. Add the quark, lemon zest, cornstarch, and salt and then mix until thoroughly combined.
In a large, clean metal bowl whisk the egg whites until stiff peaks form. Gently fold egg whites into egg yolk/quark mixture. Pour into prepared pan with crust and bake on a sheet pan for about 1 hour, until golden. The center will still be a little wobbly. Turn oven off and allow to sit cooling in the oven for 10 minutes. Remove from oven, cool for about an hour on a wire rack, and refrigerate for at least 2 hours before removing from pan and serving. It will sink and settle a bit as it cools — it's supposed to do that! Cake can be made up to 1 day in advance.
When ready to serve, remove from pan and cut into 1-inch squares (or larger if you prefer). Top each square with a small, triangular lemon slice, extra lemon zest, a squeeze of lemon juice and a bit of powdered sugar.
Reprinted with permission from Tasting Hygge: Joyful Recipes for Cozy Days and Nights by Leela Cyd, copyright (c) 2017, Countryman Press