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The Long and the Short of It…
Chef Melanie Underwood developed her enthusiasm for fresh and organic food as a child on her family’s farm in Virginia, where she began cooking at age four. She worked in Washington, D.C., before moving to New York, where she demonstrated her talent for baking and desserts at the Four Seasons Hotel, the Plaza Hotel, Torre di Pisa, and other celebrated New York City restaurants. Since 1996 Underwood has been sharing her expertise as a cooking and baking instructor for professional and recreational programs at the Institute for Culinary Education (ice.edu), at Home Cooking New York in Manhattan’s SoHo neighborhood (homecookingny.com), and is frequently invited to teach private throughout the country. Melanie has expanded her love of food to not only teaching, but also to recipe testing, development and food styling which marries her expertise in cooking and baking with tapping into food trends and consumer needs. Some of her clients include Sara Lee Foods, Rodale Books, Weber Shandwick, Dairy Management Inc., Ziploc, National Pork Board, Planter’s Peanuts, The Simply Orange Juice Company, Diageo and Veggie Patch among many others. She has demonstrated her skills on several TV networks, including NBC, ABC, CNN, Food Network, and Oxygen, and has been featured in the New York Times, the New York Daily News, New York magazine, Fine Cooking magazine, and other publications. Melanie is also a co-author of the self-published book Art and Cook, a unique blend of recipes, art, and politics. Her most recent book, Making Artisan Cheesecake will be released August 1, 2015.
The Long of it… (In case you want to know me better)
I began my love of fresh food and cooking at age four, where I was usually in the kitchen cooking and baking on our family farm in Loudoun County, Virginia. One of my earliest memories is picking red and black raspberries with my granddaddy – gently falling into my hands when I barely nudged them – to make jelly. I would eat five for every one I put in the basket, and still do today. Nothing tastes better than a raspberry falling off the vine. I continued watching my grandparents and parents prepare all of our food from scratch, my granddad butchering and passing it off to my grandma to prepare. Peach ice cream, apple pies, and fresh cheese were a part of my daily life. I’d like to add sunny days and blue skies, but I am afraid that sounds trite and you wouldn’t believe me, although it’s true.
From the age of eight, I wanted to be a lawyer/lobbyist so off I headed to college to study political science and journalism, but I then realized I did not love it and my heart wasn’t in it. I was skipping classes but whipping up breakfasts, lunches, and dinners for everyone. Éclairs were by far everyone’s favorite. I even took a trip to the department store and bought a very expensive set of pots and dishes. I don’t remember how I explained that purchase to my mom. What I do remember is telling her I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life. She asked me what I loved… and I replied baking. She said, well then you should bake. It was the best advice anyone has ever given me!
Not many professional kitchens were interested in hiring me because I had no formal training. Butchering animals, making homemade cheese, and baking almost every day of my life didn’t matter without culinary school. Eventually my persistence and passion paid off. I began working at a Washington DC hotel under the tutelage of a well-known pastry chef who took me in and became my mentor, as well as giving me tremendous confidence, support and amazing opportunities. One of those opportunities was the chance to move to New York City to open the Four Seasons Hotel, a job that set my career in motion. After the Four Seasons, I went on to work at other hotels and restaurants in NYC.
In 1996, I began working at the Institute of Culinary Education (then known as Peter Kump’s) as a Chef Instructor where I discovered my love of teaching. It was here I realized people often have a fear of cooking. My goal at ICE as well as here is to teach people not to be afraid of trying new things or of making mistakes; to begin to feel intuitive and empowered about their cooking and trust their instincts.
I live in New York City with my husband and two kids, but try to visit Virginia as much as I can.
Makes 1 (8-inch) cheesecake
9 sheets graham crackers, broken in half
6 PEEPS® Marshmallow Snowmen, halved
1⁄4 cup or 1⁄2 stick butter, melted
Makes 12 small whoopie pies
PEEPS® are a fun treat; not just at the Holidays, but year round. I took two of my favorites to make one perfect dessert – Crème Brûlée It is perfect for entertaining…read more
Combine salt, zest, sesame seeds, baking powder, millet flour, oat flour, all purpose and nuts and set aside…read more
These tasty red velvet sandwich cookies are delicious pillows surrounding mouthwatering cream cheese frosting.read more
I love the versatility of this cake. Every fruit I have substituted for the rhubarb has worked! Cake flour is bleached so if you prefer to use unbleached flour, King Arthur has a cake flour blend available which is unbleached flour, blended with cornstarch and sifted many times to have a finer, more delicate texture than all-purpose flour.read more
Please, please, please used dried chickpeas and soak them overnight. I see recipes that call for canned and honestly, these just don’t work well. There is too much moisture in the chickpeas and the camp. falafel will not hold together without too much flour. I am also in the baking powder and not baking soda camp. I don’t know about you, but I am sensitive to the taste of baking soda and it does not belong in falafel!read more
Excerpted from Making Artisan Cheesecake by Melanie Underwood (publishing August 2015)
This recipe is based on black bottom pie, which is a chocolate crust, layers of chocolate and vanilla puddings, and whipped cream. Here, we use cream cheese as well as milk for the custard. The crust needs to be doubled here so it is thick enough to support the custard. Although these take a little more time to make, they are well worth it!read more
“There is a mystery around cheesecake that should not be there. Cheesecakes are a wonderful choice to make. They can be made in advance and, more important, they are very impressive! By following a few simple techniques, it is one of the easiest things to make.” – Melanie Underwood, Making Artisan Cheesecake (publishing August 2015)read more
Excerpted from Making Artisan Cheesecake by Melanie Underwood
Although this cheesecake has honey, it is not that sweet and is more akin to having a cheese for dessert. If you like it sweeter, add an extra 1/3 cup (70 g) sugar. Also, cream cheese can be substituted for a creamier cheesecake.