Simply Sarah: Our new contributor will show you how to make good, tasty food using the freshest ingredients
This Holiday Pumpkin Roll is from a recipe by Sarah Schweitzer. PHOTO SARAH SCHWEITZER
Editor’s note: Meet 23-year-old Sarah Schweitzer. Sarah’s love of cooking started years ago. She learned from her grandmother, and then she went on to learn from the professionals. Starting today, Sarah will be sharing recipes, photos and cooking tips on the our Food pages. Look for her once or twice a month.
My love of cooking began most likely with my grandparents coming to our house to baby-sit us kids. Mom-Mom would bring the most amazing meals for my parents, my brother, sisters and I.
Mom-Mom, now 91 and still cooking, would make homemade mac and cheese, fresh baked breads, spaghetti and meatballs, halupki and desserts for us to enjoy. I remember how the house smelled of her cooking. It smelled like contentment.
I started cooking, by making easy recipes, then easy meals and next desserts. As time went by, my enjoyment and love of cooking became something that I to this day strive to work at, hope to get even better at, and want to do.
Learning something new has always been a part of my life. During middle school and high school, I was a clarinetist at the Lehighton Boys & Girls Band Hall and participated in local 4-H projects. Into high school, I developed life-threatening health issues that challenged me, yet now are making me stronger, more determined.
I want to succeed, contribute something and leave something behind one day.
Some summers back, I apprenticed for a little while at FLOW in Jim Thorpe. In 2013, I graduated, with honors, from Commonwealth Charter Academy. A few years later, I became an alumni of Escoffier Online International Culinary Academy, with dual certifications in the Culinary Arts and Baking and Pastry programs. Having to prepare lavish culinary dishes and decadent desserts at Escoffier by working with two chef mentors, this established concrete chef’s goals in me.
At that time, I began my exploration of cooking and baking with a purpose. I realized that yes, I wanted to eventually make cooking and baking my career. I don’t just bake box mixes that are all dressed up or post “almost-my-own recipes.” I brine my own briskets, cure my own veggies, mix my own crepe batter, preserve fruits into jams and jellies, have my own sourdough bread starters in our fridge, create soups and chowders from scratch and hand-roll buttery croissants.
Chef Chrissy and I at Blue Shamrock Golf Club, with just the two of us in the kitchen at times, served large events and cleaned up afterward. Chefs don’t always have the life of glamour, as I have found out.
Now, my future is upon me. I’ve been practicing my culinary and pastry skills to take these skills to where this path leads.
Using farm-to-table, locally grown ingredients is something I really love to do. Enjoyment comes to me by utilizing local farm stand foods and supporting our farmers in my dishes and cakes. Coming from a large family of seven, I see the savings that occur when healthy meals are prepared at home.
When my brother is home from college or on holidays, our table has pan-seared teriyaki salmon, fresh pasta with mussels, or grilled chicken or shrimp kebabs with seasonal vegetables. Beef Wellington, handmade crabcakes and layered tortes are served at our house for special occasions or just rainy days.
When cooking, I also remember my brother Joshua. He loved fresh Italian bread dipped in diced tomatoes and herbs. His favorite pie was my Mom-Mom’s pumpkin pie that was crustless. He also loved oats and carrot juice. When I go and select a bunch of fresh carrots or some sweet apples or herbs from our local farmers, I remember my brother and the healthy foods he craved.
I also think of my Pop, who always said he was proud of me. I would have served him the best dinner plating of the day.
Now, it’s my turn to take over my grandmother’s spoon and bread pan. I study the cooking styles of Julia Child. I am always studying, learning and trying to be better as a chef.
You can ask me why I love cooking. One thing that comes to mind when I hear that question is that I care. I care for my family, and I love helping out. I feel that I am contributing for good when I give my cupcakes to someone who has lost a family member or is just simply feeling down.
I guess you can say I care, so I cook. I bake. I am happy in the kitchen, putting something I created in the oven, then on the table.
What’s next? I’ll know soon. But for now, feel free to ask me a cooking or baking question. If I don’t know the answer, I will figure it out in the kitchen.
Send questions or comments to Sarah at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Holiday Pumpkin Roll, a little fussy, but fun
BY SARAH SCHWEITZER
My mom used to make this pumpkin roll when I was little. It brings back memories.
¾ cup flour
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon ginger
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon allspice
¾ cup pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling)
3 large eggs
1 cup granulated white sugar
½ teaspoon vanilla
Linen towel or something comparable
Powdered sugar, enough to sprinkle
Cream Cheese Filling
1 8-ounce package of cream cheese, room temperature
1 stick of butter, room temperature
½ teaspoon vanilla
¾ to 1 cup of powdered sugar
Options for flavoring: 1 tablespoon of crystallized ginger, candied orange peel, “rum-soaked” golden raisins, chopped toasted pecans or walnuts, finely ground amoretti cookies. You can swap the cream cheese and butter and replace them with marscapone plus a few tablespoons of heavy cream plus ¾ cup of powdered sugar, plus 1-3 tablespoons of heavy cream
Preheat oven to 375 F. Butter and line with parchment paper a 13-by-18-inch jelly roll sheet pan.
Sift all the dry ingredients. Whip, approximately 5 minutes, the eggs and the sugar on medium high, with paddle attachment, until light/pale. The consistency should be like thick custard. Add vanilla and pumpkin. Mix on low to medium speed, until all is incorporated. Then on low speed, mix your dry ingredients just until combined. Scrape the bowl to make sure all ingredients are mixed throughout. Mix well. Pour batter on to the sheet pan. Use an offset spatula, smooth out the batter to make it even in the pan. This will ensure that the cake part of the roll will be even. This cake cooks very quickly. Bake for 8-10 minutes. The cake should spring back when you touch it.
While the cake part of the roll is baking, prepare on your counter top a linen or clean, dry, smooth towel. Dust a thin layer of powdered sugar over the surface of the towel. Place hot cake on a cooling rack for a moment or two. Next, take your sheet pan and flip the cake out onto the sugar-dusted towel. Peel away the parchment, being careful as the cake is delicate and warm. Starting with the side nearest you, roll the cake in the towel not too tightly, like rolling up a carpet. You can roll the cake thinner or thicker, depending on how you roll it up. Place the entire cake roll gently, in the towel, on the cooling rack. Let the cake cool completely now.
Filling: Mix cream cheese and butter together, just to smooth them out. Next sift and add your powdered sugar and vanilla. Mix on medium speed for 3-5 minutes, until light and fluffy. Scrape the bowl down so that all is incorporated.
Gently unroll your cake on a clean work surface. Spread filling over the cake evenly over the entire cake. Then, using the towel as your guide, roll the cake back up. Roll out of the towel, onto a lined sheet pan to set. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate 4-8 hours or preferably overnight. Sprinkle with powdered sugar, when you serve it. Garnish, if you wish. Slice the cake roll with a bread/serrated knife. Enjoy.
This recipe sounds like a lot of hard work. It isn’t. After your first cake roll, it’s super easy and faster to produce. This roll is a nice recipe to teach children and fun for them to learn how to do, with adult supervision.