Saturday, February 7, 2015

Smoky Vegetarian Pepperoni Rolls

It was the Super Bowl! Time for some snacks. These rolls are based on the pepperoni rolls native to West Virginia, but they have a twist: instead of meat pepperoni, they have the veggie kind, and instead of regular cheese, they have smoked. This year, I added herbs and spices for a flavorful bite. You'll want to dip these in pasta sauce--I like fra diavolo or puttanesca; something with an edge. This recipe makes enough for a party, but if you're making rolls for one or two, you may want to halve the recipe.

makes about 24 rolls




3 cups water
1 Tbsp sugar 
2 packets yeast
1 1/2 Tbsp salt
6 1/2 cups white flour
olive oil
2 packages veggie pepperoni (I prefer Yves)
4 cups shredded smoked provolone
ground black pepper
red pepper flakes
dried basil
dried oregano



Heat the water in a saucepan until it is wrist temperature. Add the sugar and yeast. Let sit for 10 minutes.

In a bowl, combine flour and salt. Mix with yeast water. Knead until the dough is smooth and elastic. I like to coat my hands with olive oil as I'm kneading. When the dough is pliable and smooth and responds when poked, with that living quality yeast dough takes on, coat it with olive oil, pat some around the inside of the bowl, and let rise. I like to put a damp cloth over the bowl and set it in a barely-warmed oven. The rising should take 1-1/2 hours, until the dough has doubled in bulk.

Once the dough has risen into a puffy mass, punch it down and roll it up again. Divide into four rounds. At this point, you can save the dough for later by coating each round in olive oil, sliding it into a one-gallon plastic bag, sealing the bag TIGHTLY, and putting the bag in the refrigerator. You want to make sure to seal the bags oh-so-tightly because, any gap, and you'll open your refrigerator to an oozing dough monster that has snaked out and expanded to engulf other food items. You may want to open the fridge and punch down the dough in each bag every so often until the dough has chilled into submission.

Pepperoni Rolls

40 minutes before you want to bake your rolls, set your oven to 500. Put your pizza stone, pizza pan, or other pizza-baking device in the oven so that it heats up and gets all ready to produce a crispy crust for you.

Get out your grated cheese, your pepperoni, and your spices. If you wish, divide pepperoni into four piles.

Obtain a large sheet of parchment paper and lay it on a flat surface. Sprinkle plenty of cornmeal on the parchment paper. Take your first round of dough, lay it on the cornmeal, and turn it to coat it on both sides. Smush it horizontally into a long, flat shape. Lay another sheet of parchment paper on top and then roll out the dough with a rolling pin until the dough is flat and vaguely rectangular. This is not an exact science, and the dough doesn't need to be paper-thin (maybe 1/8-inch thick). You want about a four-inch width. Remove the top sheet of parchment paper and cover with a layer of grated cheese. Sprinkle with pepper, red pepper flakes, basil, and oregano. Then, layer with pepperoni. A single line of continuous, slightly overlapping pepperoni is fine. Again, not an exact science.

When you have the right balance of pepperoni, cheese, and spices, roll the dough lengthwise into a long, thin cylinder. Pinch the ends closed. Cut the cylinder into segments with a knife: maybe five or six. If you want, you can create dimpling in each segment by pressing the blade of the knife down a few times without breaking the dough.

Place the pizza rolls on a third sheet of parchment paper and repeat the process with the other three rounds of dough.

Pull out your pizza stone or baking sheet and--very carefully--place your pizza rolls on top. Put the stone back in the oven and bake for 15-20 minutes, or until lightly brown.

Remove from oven and serve with dipping sauce. Your kitchen will smell like Sicily.


  • This seems like a lot of effort, but it's really quite easy.
  • I usually like to add whole grain flour to anything I bake. Not this time, though. Whole-wheat pepperoni rolls sounds downright un-American.
  • In the past, I used smoked mozzarella instead of provolone. Smoked provolone has more flavor and a meatier texture, in my opinion, but mozz will do if that's what you have. 
  • I estimated four cups of cheese, but I grated mine right on top of the dough, so I'm not sure. You may want to go the Tipsy Crumpet route and improvise until it feels right. Tip: you can't really overdo it, but you can underdo it.
  • The recipe I used said to boil some water and put it in a baking pan underneath the pepperoni rolls to create a steamy atmosphere. The oven sauna seemed to create a tender, airy texture, but the bottoms of the rolls weren't as crusty as I wanted. You can try this or not; the rolls will be scrumptious either way.
  • You will end up sweeping up a lot of cornmeal. But those golden crunchy bits add the perfect bit of texture the final product. Viva Quaker!


4 stars. A great snack, and leftovers will keep for about a week in your fridge in an airtight container. Don't microwave, though; this is one snack best reheated to toasty perfection in the oven. 

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