Summer berries add flourish to July 4th desserts

Strawberries are still going strong just in time for local blueberries to come on the scene.

When the two berries are at their peak, there’s no excuse for skipping a red-white-and-blue-themed dessert to fete Fourth of July. It can be as simple, of course, as a big bowl of berries served with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream or even plain yogurt. Or as elaborate as the star-spangled pie that this blog featured two summers ago.

After a spell of searing heat, however, I’m much more inclined toward this cool, creamy cheesecake bar. Cutting then decorating the individual portions makes every plate patriotic.

Tribune News Service photo

American Flag Cheesecake Bars

For crust:

1 1/2 cups finely crushed regular or cinnamon graham crackers (24 squares)

1/3 cup butter, melted

3 tablespoons sugar

For cheesecake:

3 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, at room temperature

3/4 cup sugar

3 large eggs, at room temperature

2 tablespoons lemon juice

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1/4 teaspoon salt

For garnish:

80 blueberries

1 cup seedless strawberry or raspberry jelly

Preheat oven to 325 F. Line a 9-by-13-inch baking pan with foil, leaving a 2-inch overhang on 2 sides. Mist foil with cooking spray.

In a bowl, mix the graham cracker crumbs, butter and sugar. Press mixture evenly over bottom of prepared pan. Bake in preheated oven for 10 minutes or until set. Let cool on a wire rack.

With an electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat the cream cheese and sugar until smooth. Scrape down sides of bowl. Reduce speed to medium-low and add the eggs, 1 at a time, beating until just combined. Beat in the lemon juice, vanilla and salt.

Spread cream cheese mixture evenly over crust. Tap pan on countertop 3 or 4 times to burst air bubbles in filling. Bake in preheated oven for 40 minutes, or until filling is just set. Remove cheesecake from oven and cool completely on a wire rack, then refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

Use foil overhang to lift cheesecake out of pan and onto cutting board. Carefully cut into 16 bars and transfer to a serving platter. Decorate each bar with 5 blueberries in upper left corner to resemble stars on the American flag. Place jelly in a zip-top bag, seal bag and snip off about 1/4 inch from a bottom corner. Pipe jelly in thin lines on each bar to resemble stripes on flag.

Makes 16 bars.

— Recipe adapted by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette from

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