Summers are pretty laissez-faire around here. There’s usually food in the house, and we get around to something dinner-like late in the evening but beyond that it’s every one for themselves. This all changes when school starts. Dinner happens earlier,
more meals are planned, and a lot of Sunday baking happens in preparation for the week ahead. Each week includes a cookie of the boy’s choosing, some kind of lunch foundation, and breakfast bread(s).
I’m sure I’ve mentioned this, but my last name is a misnomer. Baking and pastry really aren’t my thing because they require a delicate dance of chemistry and patience (what I call “excessively fiddly cooking”), neither of which is in my wheelhouse. Obviously, I do it anyway. Mostly, I do it because the results are much more satisfying than anything I can buy and I end up feeling weirdly triumphant about the whole mess.
This week, I tackled snickerdoodles and pepperoni rolls, then had fun(?) playing with Melissa Clark’s harvest muffins and Ted Allen’s onion bagels (from an old copy of Food Network magazine that I kept around just in case I ever decided to take on the bagel challenge). Have I mentioned my mad crush on Ted Allen? I’ve crushed on Ted since his Queer Eye days. It’s not a secret; when Ted did an event in Rochester that I couldn’t attend, the hubs very kindly (he really is one of the good guys) went and got me an autographed cookbook. He’s very understanding about my thing with Ted. I’m not entirely sure how Ted feels about it.
But enough of crushes and baking neuroses. Let’s take a little side trip to West Virginia, home of the pepperoni roll. Pepperoni rolls are iconic West Virginia food, and are considered to have originated as an easy, portable lunch for miners. They are also one of the boy’s current favorites–he calls them “fake Hot Pockets” and takes them for lunch, like, daily. No surprise, I’ve been making a lot of pepperoni rolls lately. They’re a basic olive oil yeast dough stuffed with pepperoni and mozzarella. The fat in the dough keeps them from going stale too quickly, and they travel very well. Also: if I can make them, anybody can.
1 Tbs yeast
1 cup warm (110-120º) water
1 tsp sugar
2-3 cups AP flour
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 tsp fine salt
32 slices of pepperoni
3/4 cup shredded mozzarella
- Stir the sugar into the water, sprinkle the yeast on top and let sit for 5-10 minutes until bubbly*
- Whisk the salt and 1 cup of the flour together in a large bowl
- Add the yeast and olive oil, stir together until something dough-like starts to form. Add in the second cup of flour 1/4 cup at a time until you have a workable dough.
- Sprinkle your countertop or other work surface with more flour, turn out the dough, and knead it for 5 minutes. Add more
flour as needed to prevent it from sticking to your hands, the counter, the cat. I tend to leave it slightly tacky because I want the final product to be less dense.
- Shape the dough into a ball
- Coat the inside of a large bowl with more olive oil–a tablespoon or so. Add the dough, turn once to coat the top, cover with a towel or plastic wrap and let rise in a warm, draft-free environment until doubled–about an hour.*
- When the dough is ready, pinch it into 8 equal pieces, shape them into balls and let rest for 10 minutes.
- After resting, use your hands to shape each piece into a 4×6 rectangle. Be careful not to get the center too thin–the pepperoni will break through and create an oozy mess.
- Place four slices of pepperoni across the center
- Top with 2-3 Tbs of mozzarella
- Fold lengthwise into thirds
- Fold over the ends, then flip onto your baking sheet (lined with parchment if you have it…it’s hit or miss around here)
- Let rise for another 20 minutes while the oven preheats to 375º
- When the oven is ready, bake for 20-25 minutes until lightly browned. Some of the cheese may melt out and brown–this is the best part, I think. Sometimes I even let the boy have it.
- Cool throughly, then refrigerate in an airtight container. They’re good cold, and even better after 20 seconds in the microwave.
You could probably just throw it all into a bowl and start mixing without doing this step, but I’ve lost too many batches of dough to dead yeast so I always proof mine ahead of time.
I find this dough to be fairly bullet-proof. If I’m short on time, I fill and shape after the first rise. If I’m in the middle of 15 other things, I’ll punch it down and give it a second rise. Both give me good results.
Although I make pepperoni rolls for the boy, this is adaptable to any kind of savory filling–broccoli and cheddar, spinach and feta, ham and swiss, heck maybe even peanut butter and jelly. Go crazy.