Once I’d announced that I’d be making pepperoni bread to take to our neighbor’s New Year’s Eve party, folks started saying things like, “Oh, that’s from West Virginia!” or “Yeah, that’s the state snack of West Virginia.” Well, I had never heard such a thing, so I went straight to the oracle at Wikipedia.
UPDATE: Here’s another spin on this dish: Homemade Pizza Bread with Ragu®
Turns out, items very similar to what I was taking as a snack live in cellophane bags at almost every gas station and convenience store in West Virginia! Who knew? Well, some folks did. Turns out that pepperoni rolls are a West Virginia coal miner’s best friend. Kinda like a pasty: hearty pastry wrapped around savory or sweet filling (and sometimes pasties had one-side-savory and one-side-sweet, sort of like a precursor to Wonka’s flavor changing gum). But in this case, it was soft white bread dough wrapped around a hunk or shreds or slices of pepperoni. When baked, the oils would permeate the bread.
Like I said, this is the first I’d ever heard of its origins, but if I ever go into coal mining, I now know what to take for lunch so I’ll fit in with the rest of the crew!
Many of the recipes I’ve seen for pepperoni bread involve frozen dough, jarred pizza sauce, shredded mozzarella and pepperoni slices. And that’s it. You either roll out the dough, layer on the toppings and roll it up like a big cinnamon roll (no slicing–you bake it in a big snake) or you arrange the toppings in layers in the center third of the dough and then cut an equal number of strips into either side of the dough. Then, you Fake Braid them together. I just found out today from Fan Rich that this is called a Ladder Braid which sounds much classier than Fake Braid. Either way, you just fold the strips over, alternating sides, until the fillings are completely enclosed and the loaf looks all beautifully braided. Magic!
I didn’t want to go the frozen dough-jarred sauce route, so I decided to Up the Ante a bit. I made some really concentrated pizza sauce that wouldn’t leak all over everything when baking (some recipes put the sauce on the side as a dip rather than baking it in). I got some lovely fresh mozzarella along with a block to shred, and I added some extra flavor to the dough itself.
It turned out well, but Fan Phyllis (who baked along and whose Ladder Braid was much more attractive than mine) and I both thought that the bread needed more filling. We on purpose didn’t overload it because we didn’t want it to leak, but then we were left with Not So Much Filling. So, the choices are to a)make the rolled up version, thus sacrificing the Awesome Ladder Braid or b)just add more of all the fillings to the center and hope it doesn’t spring a leak. I am leaning towards Plan B mainly because I love the look of the ladder braid.
So, however you choose to get cheesy-saucy-pepperoni-y goodness into your bread is pretty much up to you. But please do give this a shot, especially if you’ve never had it before. It’s tasty stuff.
My inspiration recipe came from The Two Bite Club. They rolled theirs up, by the way, so swing on by to see.
Here’s what I did to what they did.
For the Dough
- 8 oz warm water
- 2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 13 oz bread flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 rounded teaspoon active dry yeast
- 1/4-1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
- several grindings of black pepper
- 2 Tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
For the Pizza Sauce
- 3 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic, , smashed
- 1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- several grindings black pepper
- 1 28 oz can diced tomatoes
To Assemble and Bake
- 1/4-1/3 cup sauce
- 1 round fresh mozzarella, , sliced
- sliced pepperoni, (how much is up to you)
- about 4 ounces grated/shredded mozzarella cheese
- More extra virgin olive oil, , for brushing
For the Dough
- If you are sure of your yeast, just dump everything in your mixer together. If you're not sure, proof it in the warm water. Once it's happily bubbling away, add all the other ingredients.
- Fit the mixer with the dough hook and turn it on to medium low speed. The dough hook will eventually incorporate all the ingredients and then knead the dough.
- Check the dough occasionally by stretching it. It should be pretty smooth and extensible when you're done--a total of about 10 minutes.
- The dough will be kind of soft, so make sure you have oil up your hands and the dough.
- Turn the dough out and shape it into a ball.
- Spray the mixing bowl with pan spray or oil and then drop the dough back in, smooth side up. Spray the top of the dough and then cover to let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 1/2-2 hours, depending on the temperature in your kitchen.
For the Sauce
- Heat a small saucepan over medium heat.
- Add the oil--it looks like a lot, but it'll be okay.
- Add the garlic and let the garlic get some nice color. Watch is closely so it doesn't burn. Some lovely deep golden brown patches are what you're shooting for.
- Dump the tomatoes in, juice and all.
- Season with salt, pepper and Italian seasoning.
- Turn the heat down to medium low and continue to cook until almost all the liquid is gone. You can stir occasionally during this process, but mostly it will take care of itself.
- Taste for seasoning and adjust if necessary.
- Puree using an immersion blender (it's really not enough to put in the regular blender). You can always choose to keep it chunky, if you want.
- Let cool to room temperature.
To Assemble and Bake
- Once the dough has doubled, press out all the gases and then turn it out on a pan-sprayed surface.
- Roll the dough out to about a 12"x15" rectangle (no need to whip out the ruler).
- Spread the sauce in a strip about 3" wide down the center of your rectangle. Top with sliced mozzarella, pepperoni and the shredded mozzarella. Repeat the layers of cheese, pepperoni and cheese once more (to get extra meaty-cheesy goodness. Or you can just stop at the first layering).
- Use a pizza cutter to cut 1" strips in towards the filling. Stop the cuts about 1" from the filling to help guard against blowouts.
- Fold some of the dough over the top and bottom edges of the filling to keep it from leaking, and then cross the strips over, one over the other, all the way down until the loaf is completely Sewn Up.
- Use a couple of large spatulas to transfer the loaf to a baking stone or a greased cookie sheet.
- Brush the top of the loaf with olive oil and cover. Let rise for about 35-45 minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 375F
- Once the dough has risen again nicely, bake on the center rack until the internal temperature in the center of the loaf reaches 205F, give or take just a few degrees.
- Remove the loaf from the oven and brush again with some olive oil.
- Let cool and then serve at room temperature or reheat to serve hot. Don't serve it straight from the oven, or the dough won't have had a chance to set up and will taste gummy.
And there you have it. Good stuff, friends. I hope you give it a try, either rolled up or Ladder Braided or even made like a “regular” pizza. And if you are planning on going into coal mining, you definitely should take some of this for lunch.
Have a lovely day, all!