Pepperoni Rolls – The State Food of West Virginia. Who knew, aside from all those folks who live in the good old Mountain State?!! Let me tell you, they’ve been harbouring an unbelievably delicious secret that I’d like to let ya’ll in on. They have Pepperoni Rolls there and once you cross the state line, you’ll find them everywhere, bakeries, grocery stores, convenience stores, gas stations, you name it! What is a Pepperoni Roll you may ask. It is a soft white yeast roll which is stuffed with pepperoni, cheese and possibly some peppers.
It is similar to a Stromboli, yet the bread is different. Softer and sweeter. And lest you commit this blasphemy, I have been informed it is a grievous faux pax to refer to them as “Pizza Rolls”. They are not. They are Pepperoni Rolls.
I myself was unaware of this delicacy, until quite recently. It seems that West Virginia saw a large influx of Italian immigrants, who arrived to work int he coal mines in the early 20th Century. They often took Pepperoni Rolls into the mines with them for lunch, much as the miners in Cornwall would take pasties.(another favourite of mine) Pepperoni Rolls were great for this since they were quite portable and required no refrigeration.
My husband, pup and I have been going to West Virginia – Fayetteville, in particular – for several years. Fayetteville (population 2, 754) is a great town. In fact, in 2006 Budget Travel Magazine named it one of the Top 10 Coolest Small Towns in America. You’ll find it nestled right there on the New River Gorge. The scenery is just stunning.
The folks are very friendly and there is lots of outdoorsy things to do, white water rafting, rock climbing, mountain biking and hiking. Although it is a small town, it boasts several wonderful restaurants. Our favourites are DiOGi”s (awesome Latin Cuisine), Pies and Pints (wouldn’t miss their handcrafted pizza) and the Cathedral Cafe (whole wheat pancakes to die for!). When we visit, which isn’t nearly as often as I’d like, we rent a little cabin tucked away in the woods (with a hot tub, of course…) (Opossum Creek Retreat) and spend our time, when we’re not soaking in that tub, hiking around the trails along the New River Gorge. (we need to do something to burn off all that yummy food) As a matter of fact, the banner picture at the top of this blog was taken in Fayetteville on one of our hikes. Here are a few more from our recent jaunt:
We were just there last month and I was excited to find that there was a relatively new bakery in town, Wild Flour Bakery, which is known for its Pepperoni Rolls. So we stopped by and grabbed a couple to take along on our hike. They were delicious. So when I came home, I started looking around for a recipe so that we could have them even when we weren’t visiting West Virginia. Well, I found a winning recipe on Martha J. Miller’s blog. Martha, who is originally from West Virginia, shared this phenomenal recipe for her Pepperoni Rolls. And they are exactly as described in their name…utterly heavenly! I think it’s the bread that puts these rolls over the top. Often Pepperoni Roll bread can be rather heavy. You eat one roll and feel like it is sitting in your stomach for days. This bread is slightly sweet, buttery and very light. Dangerous in a way because it allows you to reach for that second, no third…anyone having a fourth?….Pepperoni Roll. Be aware that this is a yeast bread creation, so you need to plan ahead when you bake these little devils, what with all the rising times and all. I love them so much, I just might be planning my “Pepperoni Roll” making days out for a year in advance. Time well spent in my opinion. As I’ve said so many times…good things come to those who wait! And these rolls are that goooooooood!!!
Heavenly Pepperoni Rolls
Recipe From: Martha J. Miller
Yields: 20 rolls
For the bread:
- 2 cups milk
- 2/3 cup oil (canola or vegetable)
- 4 tsp salt
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 2 packages instant yeast
- 1 cup warm water (about 110 degrees)
- 1 tsp sugar
- 2 large eggs
- 9-10 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
For the Filling:
- 3 packages sliced pepperoni (about 12 sliced per roll)
- 2 cups shredded Provolone
- 2 cups shredded Mozzarella
- 1 cup grated Pecorino Romano
- Banana Pepper Rings (optional)
- 4 Tablespoons butter, melted for brushing
In a small saucepan, heat the milk over low heat until just before it comes to a boil. Do not let the milk boil. In a small bowl, combine the warm milk, oil, salt and 3/4 cup sugar. Stir until the sugar dissolves and let the mixture cool to lukewarm.
Meanwhile, in the bowl of stand mixer combine the two packages of yeast, sugar and warm cup of water. Stir gently with a fork to break up any clumps and let stand 5 minutes or until mixture becomes bubbly. Pour the lukewarm milk mixture into the yeast mixture and stir to combine. Add the eggs one at a time and beat to combine.
On low-speed, begin to slowly add the flour, one cup at a time until a loose dough forms. There is no precise measurement for the flour as it will vary depending on your individual environment’s humidity, elevation, etc. but it will be somewhere between 9 to 10 cups. The finished dough will be slightly sticky and slack, but still hold together well.
Turn the dough out onto a well floured surface and knead, incorporating more flour to prevent the dough from sticking to your hands and the counter top. Knead by hand for 6 to 10 minutes or until the dough is smooth and elastic. To test if the dough is ready, gently poke your finger into the dough and if the indentation remains but slowly comes back, you have kneaded long enough. Place dough in a large lightly oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap and a kitchen towel. Place in a warm draft-free place and let rise until dough doubles, about 2 hours.
Line 4-5 baking sheets with parchment paper. Set aside.
Punch down the proofed dough gently to deflate and place on a floured surface. Divide the dough into 4 oz pieces using a kitchen scale or just eyeball it. This should yield about 18 – 20 pieces. With a rolling pin, gently roll each piece into a rectangle, about 3 inches x 2 inches. Place sliced pepperoni in rows 4 by 3 across on dough and sprinkle with a handful of cheese and banana peppers if you like.
Shape the rolls by folding in one long edge followed by the 2 short sides, and then rolling up like a burrito. Seal the edge firmly by pressing the seam into the counter with your palm or pitching shut with your fingers. Continue with remaining dough and place rolls on prepared sheet pans, about 2 inches apart. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise till doubled, about 1 hour.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cut 3 slits in the top of each roll to allow steam to escape. Bake rolls for 20-25 minutes, rotating pans halfway through to make sure they brown evenly. Remove from the oven and brush immediately with a generous amount of melted butter. Transfer to a rack to cool.
Rolls will keep well for about 2 days in an airtight container or freeze in bags for up to 2 months. To thaw, remove from freezer and let sit at room temperature until thawed. Reheat in a 200 degree oven for 20 minutes.