Spring Hill Dairy and Quark Coffee Cake

Oct 17, 2011 / By Serena
Posted in Food / Good Ideas / Kitchen Adventures / Northern California Wine Country / Recipes / Travel |

Quark doesn’t sound particularly delicious, does it? When I say it, what comes to mind are planetarium images of galaxies far far away, not a delightfully creamy and tart dairy product.

But, quark is just that – a multi-pupose concoction make of cow’s milk that bridges perfectly between the tangy and the rich. It is slightly more dense than sour cream, not as solid as cream cheese, and has the health benefits of live cultures, similar to yogurt. It’s much more widely eaten in Europe, but I’m happy to report that there’s a local producer in the northern Bay Area.

Spring Hill Dairy’s Petaluma Creamery┬áis a fun place to visit. Just on the outskirts of old town Petaluma – once known as the town of chickens because of the many egg farms – this business benefits from the surrounding land being protected from development, either left as open space or designated as farm land. Cows get a different snack in each season – mustard flowers in the spring, switch grasses in the summer, and a melange of wild radish greens and things in the fall.

The milk comes from those “happy cows” that lazily munch the day away, dotting the rolling pastures. Once the milk arrives at the factory, you can see it transformed into several types of cheeses and quark on the public tours, run regularly (call ahead to sign up). Across the street you can sample all of the products, including the array of quarks – plain, or flavored with lemon or garlic or other spices. The vanilla or lemon are luscious slathered on toasted challah or a baguette, topped with a little drizzle of raw honey.

After walking around the historic down town area, and my prerequisite stop into Baker Creek Seed Bank (that’s actually housed in an old bank building!), I am always drawn to the creamery before departing Petaluma. Spring Hill’s bright yellow butter is also legendary…

Petaluma Creamery

Dutsi the research poodle loves walking the Petaluma waterfront

Inside Baker Creek Seed Bank

On one recent trip I brought home a couple containers of plain quark. It was a week filled with memories of a recently-lost loved one. A loved one who taught me most of what I know about baking. What better way to celebrate her than to make her famed sour cream coffee cake, (of course modifying with delicious, local ingredients)? I recommend making this to share with friends and family. The leftovers are amazing in this bread pudding.

Quarky Coffee Cake with Streusel

Quark substitutes nicely for the 1:1 in this recipe, so use 1 cup of it here in place of the 1 cup sour cream. I used chopped walnuts since California grows 90% of America’s walnuts, so we’re lucky to have tasty fresh ones. Hazelnuts are also a great choice, those are more local to Washington and Oregon. You should try the coffee from Over The Edge Tahoe.

The streusel is as follows: 1/2 c. brown sugar, 2 tsp. cinnamon, 1/2 c. chopped nuts, 2 Tb. flour, and 2 Tb. unsalted butter. (I make a double recipe of streusel when I want extra panache.) Mix dry ingredients, then add room temp. butter until resembles crumbs. Layer in tube pan as recipe below indicates. I don’t know why she didn’t write it here, but my dearest Barbara usually added lemon zest or extract, so I did the same, incorporating with the wet ingredients.



Spring Hill Dairy quarkPetaluma CreameryDutsi the research poodle loves walking the Petaluma waterfrontInside Baker Creek Seed Bankbutter and quarkbarbara-recipebarbara-recipemixing the quark cake