Friday, June 19, 2009

Pepperoni Rolls

In northern West Virginia, the Italian-American bakers in the area have been making a favorite regional treat for years. It is a bit of mountaineer, and a bit of Italy in every bite. I'm talking about the pepperoni roll.

This taste treat has become so popular that every store from convenience markets to the local WalMart stores carry them. They come packaged individually and in bags of a dozen. The meat may be slices or sticks. But whatever the variation, they are an easy to handle meal or snack. Coal miners carry several in their lunch pails with great regularity.

I became acquainted with this delicacy when visiting the lovely spouse's family in Grafton, WV. Just a few miles away in Fairmont is where the pepperoni roll is said to have originated. Often, the LS and I lament that this is such a regional delicacy that we can't buy them here in Colorado. I don't know why it didn't occur to me to try my hand at making them until recently. In any case, I was noodling around on the Internet and found the Pepperoni Roll web site. That site has a history of the pepperoni roll and the various bakers that make them. It also happens to have a page of recipes. The one that appeared to me to be very authentic was one from a guy named Tim.

So this morning, I decided to make a batch of them. Oh my goodness, are they fantastic! These are just like you get back in West Virginia. They can be eaten warm or cold. You can dip them in tomato sauce, or have them plain. I think I may make a batch with some pepper cheese in them with the pepperoni.

The bread has just a touch of sweetness, which goes well with the spicy pepperonis inside, although I think the next batch I will cut the sugar by about a third. I also had another thought. When I lived in Houston, there are kolache shops on every corner. Kolaches are very similar to pepperoni rolls, except they have either a little smoky link inside, or made flat with a fruit topping, similar to a danish pastry. I think this dough would make great kolaches too!

I'm on a roll!!

Edited to add Tim's recipe from The Pepperoni Roll website. It doesn't say, but it only took 10-12 minutes to bake these. I used a cookie sheet with baking parchment.

Tim's Pepperoni Rolls
Makes about a dozen rolls, although I always double the recipe (just use twice as much of everything, except one package of yeast is fine.)

1 1/2 cups water, barely warm to the touch
1/3 cup sugar
1 package yeast
1 teaspoonful salt
1/4 cup dry powdered milk
4 cups flour
Thin-sliced packaged pepperoni, about four ounces (paper thin is best)

Dissolve sugar, yeast, salt, and powdered milk in the warm water. Stir in the flour, using extra flour or water as needed to make a soft dough that isn't too sticky. Turn out onto a floured board and knead for a couple of minutes. Shape into a ball and let raise in a bowl for 30 minutes to an hour, covered with a towel. Volume should double.

Turn the raised dough back onto the floured board, and cut it into 12 pieces (I use a scraper/cutter, but a knife works fine.) Take each piece, flatten it lightly on the board with your hand, and place 4-5 slices of pepperoni in the middle, overlapping but not stacked. Roll it up like a jelly roll, and then primp it with your fingers to seal the ends into an oval, with no pepperoni sticking out. Place on an ungreased baking sheet.

Melt a tablespoonful of margarine and beat in an egg and two teaspoonfuls of sugar. Brush rolls lightly with this glaze. You don't need to let the rolls raise further.

Bake rolls at 400 degrees until golden brown. Brush immediately and lightly with melted margarine so they soften up nicely.

You can read Tim's page HERE.

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