The Fourth Course: Sweets

Summer Cheesecake Bars
1 cup flour
¼ cup light brown sugar
1 cup chopped pecans
½ cup butter, melted

2 8-ounce packages cream cheese
1 cup sugar
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
Fresh berries for garnish

Preheat oven to 350º. Combine flour, brown sugar, pecans and butter in a bowl. Press this dough into an ungreased 13 x 9-inch pan. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes or until lightly browned.

For filling, beat cream cheese and granulated sugar together in a bowl until smooth, using electric mixer; add eggs and extract and beat well. Pour over crust. Bake for 20 minutes. Cool completely. Cut into squares before serving. Decorate tops with berries. Yield: 24

*This recipe from The Lady and Sons Just Desserts by Paula Dean

Watermelon Ice

1 teaspoon unflavored gelatin
2 tablespoons water
4 cups seeded cubed watermelon, divided
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons honey

Sprinkle gelatin over water; let stand for 2 minutes. Microwave on high for 40 seconds; stir. Let stand for 2 minutes until gelatin is dissolved.

Pour into a blender or food processor; add 1 cup watermelon, lime juice and honey. Cover and process until smooth. Add remaining melon, a cup at a time, and process until smooth.

Pour into a 9-inch square dish; freeze until almost firm. Transfer to a chilled bowl; beat with electric mixer until mixture is bright pink. Pour into serving dishes; freeze until firm. Remove from freezer 15-20 minutes before serving. Yield: 6 servings

Stuffed Grapes with Lemon Cream

1 package cream cheese (8 oz) 1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/3 cup confectioners sugar 1 pound large red grapes
1 teaspoon grated lemon peel

Beat cream cheese, sugar, lemon peel, and lemon juice until smooth. Cover and refrigerate 1 - 2 hours. With a sharp knife, cut an X through the top of each grape, being careful not to cut all the way through the bottom. Spread sections apart slightly. With a ½ inch star tip, pipe the filling to each grape. Grapes may be prepared and refrigerated up to 4 hours before serving. To hold grapes upright on serving plate, lay down a dot of filling and place the grape on top of that. Yield: 3 ½ dozen grapes.

Vanilla Sugar Tea Cookies
Make your own vanilla sugar with a vanilla bean placed in your sugar bowl for a couple days

2 ¼ cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
1 cup butter, room temperature
¼ cup vanilla sugar
2 large eggs
½ tablespoons vanilla extract
¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar

Whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. Cream the butter and vanilla sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer at medium speed. Beat in the eggs and vanilla. Stir in the flour mixture with a wooden spoon.

Turn the dough out onto a sheet of wax paper. Shape into an 8 ½ x 2-inch log and roll it up in wax paper. Refrigerate for at least 3 hours.

Preheat oven to 400º. Cut the dough into ¼-inch slices and place on ungreased cookie sheets. Bake for about 8 minutes. Remove to wire racks to cool. Ice with chocolate butter cream frosting. Yield: 3 dozen

Chocolate Butter Cream Frosting

2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, broken up
2 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups confectioners’ sugar

Combine chocolate, butter and milk in a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave on full power for 1 minute, then whisk until smooth. (You can also combine and melt the ingredients in the top of a double boiler over boiling water.) Add the vanilla and sift in the confectioners’ sugar. Whisk the mixture until smooth.