Celebrate July 4th with patriotic cheesecake bars

Gretchen McKay

A patriotic day calls for an equally patriotic dessert that brings out the red, white and blue. This easy bar cookie features a creamy white cheesecake base, fresh blueberries for the stars section and raspberry jam piped in thin lines for the stripes.

The bars hold together better when they’re chilled, so try to keep them in the fridge for at least an hour before serving. But if you can’t wait, go ahead and dig in, even if it means you’ll have to use a fork instead of your fingers.

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 raspberry or strawberry jelly

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

Make crust: Mix graham cracker crumbs, butter and sugar in a bowl. Press mixture evenly over bottom of prepared pan. Bake for 10 minutes or until set. Let cool on a wire rack.

Make filling: With an electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat cream cheese and sugar until smooth. Scrape down sides of bowl. Reduce speed to medium-low and add eggs, one at a time, beating until just combined. Beat in 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 for 40 minutes or until filling is just set. Cool completely on a wire rack, then refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

Use foil overhang to lift cheesecake out of pan. 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 at one bottom corner. Pipe jelly in thin lines to resemble stripes on the flag.

— Adapted from BettyCrocker.com