It’s so great to learn how regional traditions come to be – and this story is no exception. I had never heard of pepperoni rolls before, but I love pepperoni pizza, so I was thinkin it must be a good thing. This recipe was sent to me by Kathleen, an innkeeper in West Virginia. She owns and operates The Gillum House. I love the story behind the pepperoni rolls, it shows the practicality and necessity of the times.
In the old days of mining, miners were paid by the ton of coal mined. There was no hourly wage, no lunch breaks. To sit down to eat meant less money to feed the family and pay the rent on the company house. Country Club Bakery in Fairmont, West Virginia invented a pepperoni roll that the miner could hold in one hand while he continued to work with the other. The bakery is still in business and still selling pepperoni rolls. I took some to a high school classmate in Las Vegas last year and he asked for the recipe. I doubt if Country Club Bakery gives that out so I sent him this recipe as my version (after testing it of course). Every bakery in this area makes pepperoni rolls.
When my Chicago cop daughter came to visit a few years ago, she took some Country Club Bakery’s pepperoni rolls home for gifts for friends. Now when she comes, she brings an empty backpack (for the orders) for the rolls.
Gillum House Rolls
2 packages active dry yeast (2 Tbls bulk yeast)
2 cups very warm water
½ cup sugar
¼ cup unsweetened applesauce (or softened shortening)
6 ½ to 7 cups all-purpose flour
In a large bowl put 2 cups hot tap water. Add yeast and sugar. When the yeast starts to clump and “bubble” add the egg and applesauce (shortening). Then add 3 cups flour and mix well. Add the remaining flour 1 cup at a time, mixing after each addition until dough is easy to handle. Cover with waxed paper and then with a damp (not wet) cloth. Put into the refrigerator. (If the cloth is kept damp, the dough will be good in the refrigerator for 4 to 5 days if it lasts that long.)
When ready to use, shape rolls and place in pans to raise, covered about an hour prior to baking. Pre-heat oven to 425 F. Bake 15 minutes until golden brown. Brush tops with butter and serve.
Gillum Pepperoni Rolls
Make a batch of Gillum House Rolls.
Pinch off a tennis ball size piece of dough. Flatten on a flour-dusted surface into a 4 x 6 or so rectangle (take more dough if needed).
Cut a stick of pepperoni into pieces approx 3 inches long and then cut into thirds or quarters or use pepperoni slices. Place 3 or 4 pieces of pepperoni (or a layer of slices) on the rectangle of dough and roll it up securing by pinching the ends to seal. Make at least 2 per person. Place on baking sheet sprayed with non-stick. Cover and let raise while oven pre-heats to 425 F. Bake 15 minutes until golden brown. Serve warm or cold. Great for packed lunches.