Falsetti: Dessert is all dressed up for the potluck table

Julie Falsetti
For The York Dispatch

At potlucks, I sometimes like to be a fly on the wall and listen to people’s comments about the food.

I’ve never heard any remark on the complexities of flavor in a well-assembled casserole. Usually, the entrees are glanced at superficially but left unreported. In what seems a blink of an eye, plates are cleared and people move on for the most important course.

At the dessert table, the conversation is intense. There are the debates about whether a cake is store bought or homemade. (“She just took it out of the box and put it on a fancy plate.”) For those special desserts that took time to prepare, the compliments fly. The desserts in a clamshell or box sit forlornly on the table until they make their return journey home.

The next time you feel a need to impress your fellow diners, consider Black Tie Bars. As their name suggests, they are an elegant-looking dessert with a decadent taste.

Just as it takes time to dress for a formal evening on the town, Black Tie Bars take a bit of preparation. Each layer is mixed separately and then assembled before baking. After they are cooked, a drizzle of chocolate is added for a final flourish.

The recipe makes 48 bars, so there will more than enough for your next family gathering. Refrigerated, they keep well.

Black Tie Bars

6 tablespoons butter, divided, plus extra for greasing pan

2 8-ounce packages of cream cheese, divided, at room temperature

1/2 cup plus 3 tablespoons sugar

4 teaspoons vanilla extract, divided

1 cup and 1 tablespoon flour

12 ounces semisweet chocolate chips, divided

3 eggs

2/3 cup confectioners’ sugar

1/2 cup sour cream

1 tablespoon cornstarch

Grated zest from one orange

1 teaspoon vegetable oil

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9-by-13-inch baking pan.

In a medium-sized bowl, beat 4 ounces cream cheese, 2 tablespoons butter, 1/2 cup sugar and 2 teaspoons vanilla at medium speed until blended. Beat in 1 cup flour on low speed.

Using the palms of your hands, spread the mixture over the bottom of the prepared pan.

Reserve 1/2 cup chocolate chips. In the microwave, melt the rest of the chocolate chips and 4 tablespoons butter. Blend and let cool slightly.

In another bowl, beat 2 eggs, 3 table­spoons sugar and 1 tablespoon flour at medium speed until blended. Add the melted chocolate and mix well. Using a spatula, spread over the crust in the pan.

Combine the remaining cream cheese and the confectioners’ sugar and beat at medium speed until fluffy. Beat in the remaining egg and 2 teaspoons vanilla, sour cream, cornstarch and orange zest. Spread over the chocolate layer.

Bake until edges are lightly golden, 30 to 35 minutes. Place on wire rack to cool slightly.

Melt the remaining chocolate chips with the vegetable oil. Mix well; drizzle with a spoon over the pan.

Cool completely. Cut into bars and store in the refrigerator.

— Julie Falsetti, a York native, comes from a long line of good cooks. Her column, From Scratch, runs twice monthly in The York Dispatch food section. Reach her with questions and comments at