BY KELLY MARIE MANCUSO
Queens-based cookbook author and acclaimed chef-instructor Melanie Underwood will be signing copies of her new cookbook “Making Artisan Cheesecake” at the Barnes & Noble, located at 70-00 Austin St. in Forest Hills, on Thursday at 6:30 p.m.
In her new book, Underwood elevates the classic dessert staple to a higher level. She devotes an entire chapter to exploring recipes and techniques for making traditional cheesecake, including the classic New York-, Philadelphia- and Chicago-style varieties.
What makes Underwood’s book unique are her recipes that combine exotic flavors and ingredients, such as her saffron cheesecake with sauteed pineapple, an avocado cheesecake with almond brittle and her delicious goat cheese and rose cheesecake.
Underwood also offers several gluten-free and vegan options for those on restricted diets looking to indulge. Her vegan maple banana and gluten-free triple chocolate cheesecakes are rich, flavorful alternatives to the traditional dessert.
“I am inspired by other cultures and cuisines, by my students at the Institute of Culinary Education,” Underwood explained. “I also think of what is visually appealing, delicious, but fairly easy to find ingredients. I know people have very limited time and my goal with any of my recipes is to make them easy and straightforward. People want to make foods and desserts that look spectacular but are simple – and that is one of my goals.”
With fall approaching and pumpkin spice season in full swing, Underwood’s caramel apple crumb, spiced pumpkin, pecan praline and hot chocolate varieties of cheesecake make the perfect seasonal desserts for any sweet tooth.
Underwood also devotes a chapter to uniquely flavored savory cheesecake. Unexpected flavor combinations such as her chive pesto, black olive and herb, and blue cheese with candied walnut cheesecakes are meant to be served as a main course or, as Underwood writes, “with green salad or sauteed greens.”
The Sept. 17 book signing is bittersweet for Underwood in light of the news that the Forest Hills Barnes & Noble bookstore will be closing its doors in January 2016.
“The closing of Barnes & Noble is very tragic for Forest Hills,” she explained. “I know I personally shop here at least once a week. They are such an important part of our community. They support local authors, schools, fundraisers. I know I am hoping they can find another venue to open another store here.”
Community members and dessert enthusiasts alike are invited to attend Underwood’s book signing on Thursday night in an effort to help support the bookstore while also picking up some sweet recipes from this accomplished local author. Underwood’s other books “Baking Artisan Bread” and “The Sweet Book of Candy Making” are also available.