- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 28, 2005

The quintessential American holiday is Independence Day, but over the past few summers, my husband and I have been out of the country on July 4. Once again, we’ll both be working in France, far from our country’s shores, but that won’t keep us from celebrating.

We’ll be staying in a Paris apartment with a tiny but well-equipped kitchen, so we will invite a group of our expat friends who live in Paris to a dessert party.

Naturally, I want to serve all-American confections and have been deciding on a menu. Brownies and chocolate chip cookies are on my list, as well as a peach crumble that I’ll offer with whipped cream. As a showstopper dessert, I’ve chosen a glorious white chocolate cheesecake topped with glazed strawberries.

The cheesecake, which I created for one of my cooking classes, is perfect for a crowd because it easily serves 12. The rich crust is made with store-bought shortbread cookies and almonds, which are ground together in a food processor and combined with melted butter.

The filling is made with traditional cheesecake ingredients eggs, sugar, cream cheese and sour cream, to which melted white chocolate and a generous flavoring of orange liqueur are added.

As the cake bakes, it puffs up in the center; as it cools, it sinks, forming a shallow cavity that I fill with strawberries. A simple glaze of melted red currant jelly and orange liqueur is brushed on the berries to make them glisten, while a sprinkle of julienned orange peel adds a festive touch.

Cream cheese and sour cream are not readily available on the other side of the Atlantic, but I have tips on a special store that carries American ingredients. Meanwhile, all you stateside cooks will have no trouble finding what you need in your local supermarkets, although you may need to visit a liquor store for the orange liqueur.

The cheesecake can be prepared two days ahead, but it is best to assemble the topping a few hours before serving. Feel free to vary the berries. Blueberries and raspberries, used alone or combined with strawberries, also make a beautiful crown for this scrumptious cheesecake.

White chocolate cheesecake with glazed strawberries

The cheesecake can be prepared 2 days ahead. The topping can be placed on the cake 4 hours ahead; refrigerate uncovered.


2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, plus extra for greasing the pan

5½ ounces shortbread cookies

½ cup slivered or sliced almonds toasted (see note)


8 ounces good-quality white chocolate (such as Lindt or Ghirardelli), finely chopped

3 8-ounce packages cream cheese, at room temperature

6 tablespoons sugar

1 cup sour cream

3 tablespoons Grand Marnier or other orange-flavored liqueur

4 large eggs


4 cups (2 pints) fresh strawberries, hulled

2 tablespoons red currant jelly

2 teaspoons Grand Marnier or other orange liqueur

Finely julienned orange peel for garnish, optional

Butter a 9-inch springform pan. Place cookies and nuts in a food processor, and pulse them until finely ground. Add melted butter; pulse again until moist clumps form.

Press crumb mixture onto bottom of prepared pan. Bake on rack in center position of preheated 350-degree oven until crust is golden, 8 to 10 minutes.

For filling, in the top of a double boiler or in a heatproof bowl set over (but not touching) simmering water, stir white chocolate until melted, about 3 minutes or longer. Remove pan or bowl from water and set aside.

With an electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat cream cheese and sugar in a large bowl until blended and smooth, 3 to 4 minutes.

Beat in sour cream and Grand Marnier or other orange liqueur. Then beat in melted chocolate. Beat in eggs, 1 at a time.

If cheesecake batter has lumps, strain it through a large sieve. Pour filling into prepared pan and bake on rack in center position of preheated 350-degree oven until top is golden and puffed, about 1 hour 10 minutes.

Remove and cool cheesecake to room temperature in the pan on a rack. The cake will fall in the center as it cools. Cover and refrigerate cheesecake until cold and firm, 6 hours or overnight. Do not worry if cracks appear as the cheesecake is chilling; the topping will cover them.

To unmold, run a small, sharp knife around inside edge of the pan and release sides.

For topping, arrange strawberries, pointed ends up, on top of the cheesecake. Melt jelly, stirring, in a small saucepan over low heat. Remove and stir in Grand Marnier or other orange liqueur.

Brush mixture over berries. Garnish with a sprinkle of orange peel, if desired. Makes 12 servings.

Note: To toast almonds, spread on a rimmed baking sheet and bake in a preheated 350-degree oven until lightly browned, 4 to 5 minutes for sliced almonds or 7 to 8 minutes for slivered ones. Watch carefully so that they don’t burn.


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