By now I’m sure you’re all familiar with a very delicious regional specialty native to the north central West Virginia cultural cradle: The Pepperoni Roll. Did you just say “pizza roll?” You’re wrong. This isn’t a pizza roll. It’s miles and miles ahead of the pizza roll. Forget the pizza roll.
For a primer on the food, I’ll direct you to this New York Times article where an east coast liberal elite lowers himself to the common folk. Basically a pepperoni roll is a lot of pepperoni, either in a solid stick or in slices, depending on who you ask, rolled into a yeast roll (not pizza dough. definitely not.) You might put provolone or pepper jack (or hot pepper cheese, as it is universally referred to here) in it as well. Bakeries in this area have been making them for many decades. The story is they were invented by Italian coal miners to take into the mines. (side note: the funniest part of that page is that the “interesting links” section is empty, because there is nothing more interesting than a pepperoni roll) They are baked by small family owned bakeries and sold in gas stations and grocery stores. My very favorite is Home Industry Bakery, and yes, partially because the name is so unpleasant, but also because they are so delicious.
Why have pepperoni rolls not taken the world by storm? I mean, what’s not to love about a delicious meat and cheese snack kept at room temperature? The rumor is that health regulations will not allow it to be sold outside of the state. HOWEVER this is called an urban legend by Wikipedia and also I once bought a delicious Home Industry Bakery Hot Pepper Cheese pepperoni roll in Pennsylvania.
But this isn’t just a boring “wacky regional specialties” blog post. Oh no sir. I’m here to tell you that you, too, can enjoy the pepperoni roll–and you don’t have to come to West Virginia (or parts of pennsylvania) to do it!
No sir, you can make them yourself!
But how? I do not have a home industry! I am not Italian! I am not a coal miner’s wife! Just follow these simple instructions and you too can enjoy a delicious treat that will make you look and feel like a real West Virginian–obese, but friendly!
Ok! Estelle’s Famous and Delicious Pepperoni Roll Recipe and Cure-All
One packet of dry active yeast in
3 tablespoons of warm water.
Wait for it to dissolve (5 mins or so). THEN ADD
1 cup warm milk
5 tblsp butter, melted
4 or 5 tblsp sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp salt
Mix by hand for 1 minute, and gradually stir in
2 cups of all purpose flour
and add until dough is moist but not sticky
1.5-2 cups all purpose flour
Knead until dough is smooth and elastic (about 10 minutes) and oil the dough. Cover loosely with a clean cloth and let it rise in a warm spot until it doubles (about 1 hour)
Then (and this is the fun part), grease a couple of baking sheets. Pull out small balls of dough, maybe a little larger than a ping-pong ball, flatten and stretch them so that they are a circle. Lay it flat on the baking sheet (this can be difficult since the dough is elastic, but don’t worry, it’s not important that they look all that good) and place in it pieces from:
1/2 a pound of pepperoni (pre-sliced)
1/2 a pound of cheese, either provolone, mozzarella, or hot pepper (optional)
The amount you put in each roll is up to you. I am of the school of the more the better, but sometimes it can get hard to close. All you need to do is make sure the pepperoni and cheese is wrapped fully inside the dough, you’ll come up with a good method.
As you finish wrapping them up, place them seams-down on the baking pan. Then beat one egg and brush it over the top of the rolls. Cover the rolls with plastic wrap and let them rise for another hour or so. Preheat the oven to 400 and bake for 10-15 minutes, or until they look brown and delicious.
Let them cool before you eat them because cheese burns your mouth somethin awful.