Many of us look forward to celebrating Shavuot with a luscious cheesecake.Ever since I was a child, my mother’s cheesecakes have been one of my favorite desserts. She made them from a cream-cheese mixture that she sweetened with sugar, baked in a graham cracker crust and finished with a sour-cream topping. Relatives and family friends made similar cheesecakes, some with pastry crusts or fruit toppings.Yet there’s much more to this popular dessert. Melanie Underwood went beyond the classics, and in her book Making Artisan Cheesecakes debunked common misconceptions about this beloved treat.First, cheesecakes don’t have to be baked in a crust. Underwood’s crustless Japanese soufflé cheesecake is light like a sponge cake, thanks to whipped egg whites.Her classic Italian ricotta cheesecake is flavored with orange zest, sweetened with honey instead of sugar, and garnished with sautéed figs. (See recipe.) Second, cheesecakes aren’t necessarily sweet. Savory cheesecakes, wrote Underwood, are perfect as a first or main course, accompanied by a salad or by sautéed greens. To flavor her black olive and herb cheesecake, she uses feta cheese and a crust of sesame seeds. (See recipe.) She also makes spicy roasted red pepper cheesecake seasoned with Sriracha hot pepper sauce. Tomatoes in two forms enhance her tomato and Parmesan cheesecake, which is baked in a Parmesan crust. (See recipe.) Third, not all cheesecakes are made of dairy cheese. For her vegan maple banana cheesecake, Underwood uses vegan cream cheese and silken tofu as the base and flavors it with pureed bananas, maple syrup, brown sugar, vanilla and cinnamon.She serves it topped with caramelized bananas.Fourth, not all cheesecakes are baked. Gelatin enables Underwood’s no-bake pistachio cheesecake to set. The cake is flavored with homemade pistachio paste and lemon juice and zest, and is sprinkled with chopped pistachios. Her no-bake cannoli cheesecake, which is inspired by the popular Italian pastry, is enhanced by orange zest, cinnamon, vanilla, chocolate chips and a garnish of candied orange peel. For the best texture in your cheesecakes, choose full-fat dairy products, advised Underwood. Before making the batter, bring all your ingredients, especially the cheeses, to room temperature. Using cold ingredients can cause the batter to have lumps of cheese that will remain in the baked cheesecake. Mix cheesecake batters at medium to medium-low speed of the mixer so as not to over-aerate them, because this can cause cracking. To help maintain a smooth texture and prevent over-baking, Underwood bakes many of her cheesecakes in a water bath.These savory and sweet cheesecakes are rich, but after all, Shavuot comes only once a year... The writer is the author of 1,000 Jewish Recipes and of Aruhot Halaviot (Dairy Meals) in Hebrew. Ricotta and honey cheesecakeUsing all ricotta cheese gives this classic Italian cheesecake its pleasing, crumbly texture, wrote Melanie Underwood. She noted that the cake is not overly sweet and is a perfect ending to a meal.Makes one 25-cm. cheesecake■ 1.4 kg. ricotta cheese■ ¼ cup (30 gr.) all-purpose flour ■ ¾ cup (255 gr.) honey ■ 6 large eggs ■ 1 tsp. grated orange zest■ Sautéed figs (for garnish; see Note 1 below) ■ Fruit sauce (for serving; see Note 2 below)Preheat oven to 170º. In bowl of electric mixer, using paddle attachment, mix ricotta and flour on low speed until softened, scraping down sides of bowl, underneath paddle and the paddle frequently with a rubber spatula, about 2 minutes. Add honey and continue mixing on low and scraping down sides, bottom and paddle until there are no visible lumps. Add eggs, one at a time, and mix just until combined, about 10 seconds after each egg. Stir in orange zest.To prepare the 25-cm. spring-form pan for a water bath, wrap outside of pan in foil. Place pan in a large cake pan or a roasting pan (one that is around the same height or lower than the spring-form pan). Pour batter into pan and level it with a small offset spatula. Place in oven and pour almost boiling water into roasting pan (it should come up halfway around sides of pan). Bake for about 1 hour, until cheesecake is firm around edges, but still jiggly in center (the jiggly part should be about 2.5 cm.).Remove from oven and remove cheesecake from water bath. Remove foil from sides of pan. Gently run a small sharp knife or small spatula around edges of the pan to loosen cheesecake from sides. Cool at room temperature. Refrigerate for at least eight hours; this will help cheesecake set completely.To unmold cheesecake, gently run a small sharp knife or small spatula around edges of pan. Release latch on side of pan and then lift ring straight up. Refrigerate until ready to serve.Serve each slice with sautéed fig halves and 1 to 2 tablespoons of fruit sauce.Note 1: Sautéed figs: In a large sauté pan, heat 56 gr. (4 Tbsp.) unsalted butter and 80 gr. (4 Tbsp.) honey over medium heat, until butter is completely melted. Whisk together until combined. Then add 16 dark figs, halved. Cook for four to five minutes, until figs are heated through. Remove from heat.Note 2: Fruit sauce: You can use any type of fresh or frozen berries. In a medium- size saucepan, combine 450 gr. fresh or frozen berries, quartered, ¼ cup (50 gr.) sugar, and 1 Tbsp. lemon juice, if desired; cook over medium heat until berries soften, about five minutes. Taste, and add sugar if necessary. If adding sugar, reheat sauce until sugar is completely dissolved. Remove from heat and let cool completely. Process in a blender or food processor until completely smooth. If using raspberries, strain to remove any seeds. Makes 1½ cups (360 gr.) Black olive and herb cheesecakeFor this easy-to-make cheesecake, wrote Underwood, you can use any type of olives, or you can replace them with sun-dried tomatoes or artichokes. The batter can be mixed by hand.Makes one 25-cm square cheesecake■ 1 Tbsp. (14 gr.) butter, melted■ ½ cup (60 gr.) white sesame seeds ■ 1 cup (225 gr.) cottage cheese ■ 1 cup (225 gr.) farmer cheese or additional cottage cheese ■ 3 Tbsp. (24 gr.) all-purpose flour ■ 3 large eggs ■ ¾ cup (100 gr.) crumbled feta cheese ■ ¾ cup (100 gr.) grated white cheddar cheese■ ½ cup (50 gr.) pitted finely chopped Kalamata olives ■ ½ tsp. fresh thyme leaves■ ½ tsp. coarse salt ■ Large pinch of ground black pepperPour melted butter into bottom of a 25-cm. square baking pan. Using a pastry brush, brush butter all over bottom and sides of pan. Pour ¹⁄3 cup (46 gr.) of the sesame seeds into bottom of the pan and rotate pan around so that seeds cover bottom and sides completely; you will have a thin layer of seeds on the bottom.Preheat oven to 170º. In bowl of an electric mixer using paddle attachment, mix cottage cheese, farmer cheese and flour on low speed until softened, scraping down sides of bowl, underneath paddle and the paddle frequently with a rubber spatula, about 1 minute. Add eggs, one at a time, and mix just until combined, about 10 seconds after each egg. Add feta, cheddar, olives, thyme, salt, and pepper and mix on low just until combined.Pour batter over sesame-seed crust and level with an offset spatula. Sprinkle remaining sesame seeds on top of batter. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, until cheesecake is firm in center and lightly golden. Cool for 1 hour before cutting.To unmold, run a sharp knife or spatula around edges of pan. Using a small knife, cut cheesecake into 6-cm. squares. Use a small offset spatula to lift squares from pan. Refrigerate until ready to serve.Roasted tomato with Parmesan cheesecakeThis cheesecake has sun-dried tomatoes in the batter and slices of beefsteak (large) tomatoes on the top.Makes one 25-cm. cheesecake■ Parmesan and Herb Crust (see next recipe) ■ 900 gr. cream cheese ■ ¹⁄3 cup (37 gr.) minced oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes ■ 1 Tbsp. (9 gr.) minced hot pepper, such as chipotle (smoked jalapeño)■ 5 eggs■ 1 tsp. coarse salt ■ ½ tsp. ground black pepper ■ 2 beefsteak tomatoes, sliced into eight 6-mm. slices ■ 1 Tbsp. (5 gr.) grated Parmesan cheese Bake crust following next recipe. Let cool completely. Lower oven temperature to 170º.In bowl of electric mixer, using paddle attachment, mix cream cheese on low speed until softened, scraping down sides of bowl, underneath paddle and the paddle frequently with a rubber spatula, about two minutes. Add sun-dried tomatoes and hot pepper and mix just until combined. Add eggs, one at a time, and mix just until combined, about 10 seconds after each egg. Stir in salt and pepper.To prepare the 25-cm. spring-form pan for a water bath, wrap outside of pan in foil. Place pan in a large cake pan or a roasting pan (one that is around the same height or lower than the spring-form pan). Pour batter over crust and level it with a small offset spatula.Lay sliced tomatoes, in a circle, on top of cheesecake. Place in oven and pour almost-boiling water into roasting pan (it should come up halfway around sides of pan). Bake for about 50 minutes, until cheesecake is firm around edges, but still jiggly in center (the jiggly part should be 2.5 cm.).Remove from oven and remove cheesecake from water bath. Remove foil from sides of pan. Gently run a small sharp knife or small spatula around edges of pan to loosen cheesecake from sides. Cool at room temperature. Refrigerate for at least eight hours (this will help the cheesecake set completely).To unmold cheesecake, gently run a small sharp knife or small spatula around edges of pan. Release latch on side of pan and then lift ring straight up. Refrigerate until ready to serve.Before serving, sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and place under a broiler for about five minutes, or until lightly golden.Parmesan and herb crustFor this versatile savory pastry crust, you can substitute other hard cheeses and any kind of herbs, wrote Underwood.■ 1¼ cups (156 gr.) all-purpose flour ■ 2 Tbsp. (13 gr.) finely grated Parmesan cheese ■ 2 Tbsp. (6 gr.) finely chopped chives ■ ½ tsp. sea salt ■ ½ cup (112 gr.) cold unsalted butter, cut into 2.5-cm pieces ■ 2 large egg yolks ■ 2 tsp. (30 ml.) cold water Preheat oven to 180º. In bowl of a food processor, combine flour, Parmesan, chives and salt. Pulse once or twice to mix completely. Pulse butter into dry ingredients until mixture resembles coarse ground cornmeal and no pieces of butter remain visible.Whisk egg yolks and water together in a small bowl and add to flour and butter mixture. Pulse just until mixture is uniform in color and comes together (if you pinch a small piece of dough, it will easily hold together). Remove from food processor.Using your fingers, pinch off small pieces of dough and place them all over bottom of a 25-cm. spring-form or cake pan. Using palm of your hand or bottom of a glass, press dough evenly into bottom of pan. Bake crust for 18 to 20 minutes, or until lightly golden and firm, but not hard to the touch. Remove from oven and let cool completely.