Nestled in the rolling hills and winding roads of West Virginia lies a culinary gem that has stolen the hearts of locals and travelers alike. This isn’t just another snack; it’s a symbol of the Mountain State’s rich cultural tapestry and industrious spirit. We’re talking about the iconic West Virginia pepperoni roll, a simple yet unique creation that tantalizes the taste buds while reflecting the state’s history.
A Tasty Morsel of History
The story of the West Virginia pepperoni roll begins in the early 20th century with the Italian immigrant coal miners. Seeking a lunch that was hearty, portable, and could be eaten underground without reheating, these workers found the perfect solution in what would become a statewide staple. The classic pepperoni roll brought together spicy sticks of pepperoni encased in soft, fresh bread, an ideal meal for miners who didn’t have the luxury of a warm lunch.
More Than Just a Roll
What sets the pepperoni roll apart from other similar snacks is its embodiment of West Virginia itself. It’s unpretentious, resourceful, and holds a certain homemade charm that can’t be replicated elsewhere. Unlike sandwiches or pizza slices, the pepperoni roll is self-contained, with the meat baked right into the bread. This not only keeps the pepperoni flavorful and moist but also prevents the need for additional packaging or utensils, aligning perfectly with the on-the-go lifestyle of its original consumers.
A Culinary Adventure
Today, pepperoni rolls come in various forms—from the traditional, with no cheese, to those stuffed with mozzarella or provolone. Some even contain peppers or marinara sauce, catering to modern palates while still staying true to their roots. Each bakery and kitchen across West Virginia adds its own twist to the recipe, inviting food enthusiasts on a savory journey through the state’s local flavors and family-owned businesses.
The Spirit of Innovation
While we won’t delve into the specifics of how to make your own pepperoni roll (that’s a guarded secret among bakeries), it’s worth noting the creative spirit behind it. Much like the hands that knead the dough and slice the pepperoni, innovation is baked into every aspect of this regional delight. It’s a testament to the adaptability and resilience of West Virginia’s communities, which continually reimagine and uphold their traditions.
An Enduring Legacy
The pepperoni roll isn’t just a snack—it’s a part of West Virginia’s identity and heritage. Whether you’re attending a Mountaineers game, exploring the state’s natural beauty, or passing through one of its many charming towns, the pepperoni roll is always there, offering a warm welcome. Its irresistible smell wafting from local bakeries promises not just a delicious bite, but a piece of West Virginia’s soul.
So, next time you find yourself within the borders of this beautiful state, do yourself a favor and grab a freshly baked pepperoni roll. Discover the uncomplicated, yet profound pleasure hidden within its golden crust—a treat that continues to unite generations and tell the story of a remarkable community.
West Virginia Pepperoni Rolls
- 2 packets dry active yeast 4 ½ teaspoons
- 1 cup warm water just lukewarm, not hot
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- 4 cups all-purpose flour + extra for rolling
- 3 large eggs
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 8 ounces sliced pepperoni
- 16 ounces shredded mozzarella cheese
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- ½ cup melted butter
- Set out an electric mixer with a bread hook. Add the yeast, lukewarm water, and sugar to the bowl. Allow the yeast to bloom (foam) for 10 minutes.
- Then turn the mixer on and add in the flour, eggs, and salt. Allow the mixer to “knead” the dough for 5 minutes.
- Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let the dough rise until it doubles in size. About 2 hours.
- Dump the dough out onto a well-floured work surface. Knead the dough into a log shape and cut into 20 equal pieces. (I usually cut it into 5 equal pieces, then cut each chunk into 4 equal pieces.)
- Set out 3 baking sheets and line them with parchment paper. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
- Sprinkle the dough pieces with garlic powder. One at a time, press and stretch each piece into a 6 inch circle. Sprinkle 2-3 tablespoon mozzarella cheese over the circle. Arrange 6 slices of pepperoni over one side of the dough.
- Stretch and roll the pepperoni side first, toward the other side. Try to keep the dough inside the roll thin, while leaving the exterior dough a little thicker. When you get close to the edge, tuck the ends under to seal in the cheese. Set the rolls on the baking sheet with the seam side down.
- Once all the pepperoni rolls are filled and tucked, spray several sheets of plastic wrap with nonstick spray and cover the rolls. Allow them to rise another 30 minutes.
- Gently brush melted butter over the top of each pepperoni roll. Bake for 15-20 minutes, until golden. Serve warm.
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