While quark is a term that you’ll hear in some physics textbooks, it is also one that you’ll find in some cookbooks – one that comes with a very different meaning. Quark is a type of soft, fresh European cheese. It is easy to make comparisons with other dairy products, since it is similar to many other types of cheeses, but definitely unique. It is hard to find in the US but with the ever-growing popularity of cooking as a hobby, it is now appearing in more specialty markets than before, and some US dairies are even producing their own.
Quark is smooth and creamy, with a consistency similar to that of thick, greek-style yogurt or sour cream. It’s flavor is somewhere between ricotta and sour cream, with a bit of a tang to it. It is probably most similar to the popular French fromage frais, although quark is of Eastern European origin and produced in a slightly different way. The exact consistency and flavor of quark will vary slightly from producer to producer.
The reason why quark is so popular in international cookbooks is that it is extremely versatile and low in fat. It holds up very well to heat (unlike yogurt) and can be used any number of ways. For instance, it can be substituted for sour cream, yogurt and even for cream cheese in many recipes, from baked goods to quiches to dips, and because of its consistency will add a richness to dishes even though it is low in fat. If you see it in your local specialty grocery store, it is worth picking up a container to experiment with and try incorporating it into some of your own recipes.