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After the Ham . . . Dessert

March 28, 1991

The naturally good taste of fruit lends juicy flavor to Easter Sunday desserts. The Easter egg, a symbol for which many cultures have delightful customs and traditions, begins the selection.

Flavored with liqueur and coconut, Golden Easter Egg has the elegant appearance of a dessert that took hours of meticulous care to make, but using unflavored gelatin, it is actually prepared ahead with a minimum of fuss.

An American version of a deliciously light and lower-calorie dessert, Golden Ricotta Cheesecake, teams eggs, citrus peel and canned cling peaches for a no-bake party pleaser. It is the perfect dessert to follow a sumptuous Easter meal, yet it has the satisfying quality of all good cheesecakes. And since it must be made ahead of time it's a fine choice for entertaining. The cling peaches add golden color and light fruit flavor. The ricotta keeps the fat content down while retaining all of the excellent cheese flavor and nutrition.

Pineapple is the secret of the another make-ahead Easter dessert. It's a moist, rich quick bread flavored with dried fruits and nuts. This recipe produces two spicy loaves, so you can be sure there will be enough for seconds.

GOLDEN EASTER EGG

1 envelope unflavored gelatin

6 tablespoons sugar

2 eggs, separated

1 cup milk

1/4 cup Galliano liqueur or rum

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Yellow food color, optional

1 cup whipping cream, whipped

1/2 cup flaked coconut

Combine gelatin with 4 tablespoons sugar in medium saucepan. Beat egg yolks and milk and blend into gelatin mixture. Let stand 1 minute, then stir over low heat until gelatin is completely dissolved, about 5 minutes. Add liqueur, vanilla and food color. Pour into large bowl and chill, stirring occasionally, until mixture mounds slightly when dropped from spoon.

Beat egg whites until soft peaks form. Gradually add remaining 2 tablespoons sugar and beat until stiff. Fold egg whites, then whipped cream and coconut into gelatin mixture. Turn into 5-cup mold or bowl and chill until firm. Garnish with additional whipped cream and apricot slices, if desired. Makes about 8 servings.

GOLDEN RICOTTA CHEESECAKE

3/4 cup sugar

2 envelopes unflavored gelatin

3 eggs, separated

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 cups nonfat or low-fat milk

3 cups ricotta cheese

3 tablespoons lemon juice

2 teaspoons grated orange zest

1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 (29-ounce) can cling peach halves, drained

Gingersnaps

Combine 1/4 cup sugar and gelatin in top of double boiler. Add egg yolks and beat until light and frothy. Add salt and milk. Cook over simmering water until mixture forms thick custard, thick enough to coat spoon.

Process ricotta in food processor or blender until smooth and stir into custard with lemon juice, orange and lemon peels and vanilla.

Beat egg whites until soft peaks form. Gradually beat in remaining 1/2 cup sugar until stiff peaks form. Fold cheese-custard mixture into egg whites. Pour mixture into 9-inch springform pan, spreading mixture evenly. Arrange peach halves, cut side down, over top.

Cover and refrigerate at least 4 hours. Unmold onto serving plate and smooth edges. Crush gingersnaps and sprinkle crumbs over top of cheesecake. Makes 10 to 12 servings.

FRUITED QUICK BREAD

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1/2 cup brown sugar, packed

1/2 cup butter or margarine, softened

3 eggs

1 (8 1/4-ounce) can crushed pineapple in syrup

2 1/2 cups flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon ground allspice

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 cup chopped figs

1/2 cup chopped maraschino cherries

1/2 cup chopped pitted prunes

1/2 cup golden raisins

Cream sugars and butter until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs until blended. Beat in undrained pineapple. Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, allspice and cinnamon. Gradually stir into pineapple mixture until just blended. Fold in figs, cherries, prunes and raisins.

Pour into 2 well-greased and floured 9x5-inch loaf pans. Bake at 350 degrees 60 minutes or until wood pick inserted near center comes out clean. Cool in pan 10 minutes. Invert onto wire racks and cool completely. Makes 2 loaves.

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