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Wednesday, July 2, 2008 11:19 am

Celebrate the red, white, and blue

Dessert with berries, and making white-chocolate cheesecake

Untitled Document You can pretty much count on at least one version showing up in at least one cooking periodical every July: a white dessert decorated with blueberries and red raspberries, strawberries, or both.
It’s not hard to figure out why. Blueberries are one of the few ways to have blue food that doesn’t involve food coloring. Add the red raspberries or strawberries and some sort of white substrate, and hey presto! “Stars and Stripes Forever” starts running through your head. Making the dessert even more appropriate, all three berries are (usually) in season, at their peak of deliciousness. The white part comes in various forms. The classic is a white frosted sheet cake. Its advantage, of course, is its rectangular shape, which allows it to become a flag, with a square of blueberries in the upper left corner and stripes of red berries alternating with the frosting. A little corny, perhaps, but always a hit with kids — who, by the way, usually get a kick out of placing the berries, no matter what the design. Another berry-bedecked dessert is easily made by rolling pie pastry (pastry for a one-crust pie, or two crusts for a larger tart) into a flat circle, oval, or even rectangle (also good for a flag design), pricking it well, and baking it in a 450-degree oven until golden brown. Let the crust cool, then spread softened cream cheese that’s been mixed with a little sugar and vanilla (about 2 tablespoons sugar and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla per 8 ounces of cream cheese) all over it, then top with the berries, and you have a patriotic dessert pizza. It’s light and just slightly sweet. For the ultimate pursuit of happiness, however, nothing beats this white-chocolate cheesecake. It’s insanely delicious and decadently rich, a perfect foil for the berries. Whether you choose a flag pattern, stripes, waves, or concentric circles or just let your kids go crazy, you can give any berry-topped dessert a professional-looking finish by brushing the berries very lightly with melted apple jelly, which will make them glisten. A pastry brushes is fine, but I use a small natural-bristle paintbrush from the hardware store. It’s cheap and lasts almost as long as expensive brushes made specifically for pastry.
White-Chocolate Cheesecake

Crust 1 package (16 ounces) chocolate sandwich
  cookies such as Oreos
10 tablespoons melted unsalted butter
Filling 1 pound good-quality white chocolate 2 cups sour cream, divided 1/2 cup heavy cream 2 pounds cream cheese, room temperature 1 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar, divided 1/2 teaspoon salt Four large eggs 2 tablespoons vanilla extract
Decoration (optional) Blueberries Raspberries, strawberries, or both Apple jelly
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Wrap the outside of a 10-inch springform pan with foil. If the pan is not nonstick, spray the interior with cooking spray. Scrape the white filling from the cookies and discard it. Grind the cookies into even fine crumbs in a food processor or with the use of a rolling pin. Mix the cookie crumbs with the melted butter and press the mixture evenly over the bottom and sides of the pan. Bake for 10 minutes to set the crust, then set it aside to cool while you prepare the filling. It does not have to be completely cool before you add the filling, but it shouldn’t be hot. If the white chocolate is in large pieces, chop it into small chunks. Heat the whipping cream in a heavy medium saucepan until it simmers. Remove from the heat and stir in 1 cup of the sour cream and the chocolate. Reduce the heat to the lowest possible setting and return the pan to the stove. Stir the mixture until the chocolate is melted. It is very important that the heat be low; white chocolate “breaks” very easily. Once the chocolate is melted, remove from the heat, and cool to room temperature Beat the cream cheese with a mixer until light and fluffy. Beat in 1 cup of the sugar, eggs, salt, and vanilla. Stir in the chocolate mixture and beat until smooth. Pour the cheese mixture into the crust. Bake until the top is beginning to brown and the center of the cake moves just slightly when it is (gently) shaken, about an hour and a half. Turn off the oven and crack the door open slightly. Leave the cheesecake in the oven for another 30 minutes. Mix the remaining sour cream and sugar together in a small bowl. Spread it over the cake while it is still warm. Cool the cheesecake to room temperature uncovered, then cover and refrigerate it at least 8 hours or overnight. Not more than two or three hours before serving, arrange the berries on top in the pattern of your choice. Warm the apple jelly over low heat just until it melts and then very lightly brush the berries with it. Serves 12 to 16.
For individual miniature cheesecakes Place liners in muffin tins. Scrape the filling from the wafers. Place one wafer, scraped side up, in the bottom of each liner. (You will not need the entire package of cookies or the butter.) Fill the muffin tins about two-thirds full, being careful not to overfill. Bake at 325 degrees for about 30 minutes, checking for doneness as in the recipe for the full-size cake. Top the cheesecakes with the sour cream while they’re still warm — you’ll need half again as much of the sour cream mixture (1 1/2 cups sour cream mixed with 1 1/2 tablespoons sugar.) The individual cheesecakes can each be decorated with a single kind of berry or with a mixture. Glaze the berries with the melted apple jelly as described above. Makes two dozen or more.
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