Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Lunchbox Lovin', and a trip down memory lane...

I know, it's amazing, I'm here, alive, AND posting recipes. My finals are over, so I should have a lot more to share with you guys now that time isn't such a hot commodity.

Today's recipe is so simple, I'm almost embarrassed to post it as my first "original" recipe on the blog, except it's so delicious there's nothing to be embarrassed about! This recipe is one that was inspired by my hometown, and my Mom. Good thing I introduced her, huh?

I grew up in NE Ohio, but, right now, I happen to live in Utah. Which, is a beautiful place, but probably one of the most generic, "white bread" places in the world. Now don't get me wrong, I happen to love white bread, nothing beats a plain old PB&J on Wonder Bread. And don't even get me started on the monstrosity that is "white wheat bread," BLECH! Anyway, what I'm getting at is that Utah County is very devoid of a lot of the immigrant communities I grew up around in Ohio. You want great Mexican food? You can find it on almost as many corners as a Mormon church. But, you want some delicious homemade Polish pierogis? You're SOL (which means "SORRRY out of luck," you crazy sinners, this is a revival, you know!). A quaint little Italian Bakery? Not a chance. Which, in my opinion, is a real tragedy.

I grew up near some really GREAT Italian bakeries, and pizza places (can anyone say Guido's in Chesterland? YUM!). Two of my favorites are T&T Bakery in Painesville, and Ianiro's, in Chardon, and if you're ever in NE Ohio, you MUST go there (and bring me back some Pizzelle's and Pepperoni Rolls!). You want great donuts? Biaggio's in Willoughby, but that's another post. This post is about something more savory, and more practical for your lover's (or your own) lunchbox. The number one specialty at these great Italian bakery's is something that is so incredibly simple, you can't believe how good it can be. They are called Pepperoni Rolls (say it with me now, pepp-er-oni-rolls, NOT pizza rolls), and if you want one from T&T bakery, you'd better be there at exactly 10:30 am, or they'll be sold out before you get one, and that would be a real travesty.


T&T and Ianiro's have two different takes on Pepperoni rolls, T&T's is cheese-less, completely reliant on the DELICIOUS bread they wrap around giant-sized pepperonis. Ianiro's, on the other hand, involves delicious bread, AND melty cheese, a winning combination in anyone's book. The husband and I don't agree on which is better, I prefer the simplicity of T&T's, and he prefers the melty goodness of Ianiro's, but really, let's face it, when you're talking about homemade italian bread, and perfectly seasoned pepperonis, is there really a wrong way? I think not.

Now, if you are unfortunately stuck residing somewhere outside a 200 mile radius of either of these two delicious bakeries (because I would SO drive 200 miles for a good pepperoni roll!), and in a location so white bread as to be completely devoid of immigrant bakeries, what are you to do? Suffer in silence, begrudging your locale? NO, my friends! Not if you're ingenuity is still make your own to hold you over until you can get into town, and get some deliciousness again.

Now, these pepperoni rolls are NOT as delicious as the one's they serve at my favorite Italian bakeries. And it's not because I'm not an Italian immigrant, it's because I'm using frozen bread dough here, and as good as it's gotten, nothing matches hand-kneaded bread in an Italian bakery. Again, this has nothing to do with laziness, it just never occurred to me before now to make my own bread. I think now that I have some more time, I might try it. When I do, I'll let you know how it goes.

Now, I don't know about you guys, but my husband has a job which affords him no lunch hour. He typically has 10-15 minutes to grab something in his car, between hospitals. Which either means fast food, or soggy bologna and white bread sandwiches, neither of which sounds like a good option to me. Put this together with my nostalgic longing for Italian baked goods, and my ingenious Mother (who came up with the idea), and you've got a winning recipe to makeover your lunchbox, or your lover's!

Now, you will notice a key difference in my original recipes, and the recipes I post from other websites, particularly in the measurements, or lack thereof. In true Southern style, I very rarely measure ingredients in family recipes. Mostly because my Mother never did, and neither did her mother, or hers, and so on and so on. I think there must be an edict somewhere that Southern women aren't allowed to measure ingredients when cooking savory dishes. It would be grounds for ejection in my Mother's kitchen, and I just can't risk that.

Also, I should note that while I prefer the cheese-less pepperoni rolls at T&T, when I make these at home I make them WITH cheese. The homemade bread is what really makes T&T's pepperoni rolls stand out, without that delicious bread, you really need the cheese.

Okay, onto the recipe.

1 loaf of frozen bread dough, thawed (I use Rhode's, but only because that's all my evil, giant-box store carries)
1 stick of butter
Italian herbs (I use Italian seasoning, rosemary, and garlic powder...LOTS of garlic powder.)
Shredded Cheese (I use whatever I have on hand, Parmesan, Asiago, Cheddar, whatever)

Preheat Oven according to directions on your bread. I think last time I did 375, but I'm not sure that's what Rhode's recommends...sue me, I like to live adventurously. And everything turned out just fine.

Melt your stick of butter in a bowl. Once melted, add your preferred herbs, and stir them together. Now, if like me, you thought 2 sticks of butter might be better than one, and are left with GOBS of melted herb butter, don't throw this stuff out! Place in small tupperware container, and stick in the fridge for next time you get the inkling to add some buttery herb deliciousness to your recipes.


Now, roll out your bread dough into a looooooong rectangle. This part is not easy, and requires a little muscle. Frozen bread dough does not particularly prefer to be rolled out, but don't worry about hurting its feelings, Just push a little harder, and use a little muscle. Incidentally, I'm 99.9% sure that this hard labor COMPLETELY makes up for the calories in the food you are about to eat. So, go with it, and enjoy your cardio. I typically break the loaf into two halfs, to make the last steps easier, which means I get TWICE the workout.

-This reminds me of an important tool you MUST have in your kitchen. A good, heavy, MARBLE rolling pin. I don't want to see any of you using those flimsy $2 wooden ones from your favorite big box store. NO. They just will not do. They don't work very well, and they always make me think of wooden splinters getting stuck in my food. Nasty. You need to invest in a good quality, marble rolling pin. It will make ALL the difference in the world for so many of the recipes I will share with you. So, take the money you're about to save on fast food lunches, and put it towards one of these babies:
Oh, and I just did a quick google search, and you can get one of these babies for $11, so no excuses!

Once your dough is rolled out, spread some of the melted butter/herb mixture over it, until it looks nice and golden. Then, add some of your shredded cheese, sprinkling until you think there is enough. Then, add some more, just because. Layer your pepperonis, until you have enough to satisfy your craving. Add a bit more cheese, because you really can't have too much melty goodness.


Then, you're going to roll this entire thing up, longways, kind of like a jelly roll. Go slow, the pepperoni makes it so that the bread doesn't easily stick to itself, and you don't want to dislodge it all.


Once it's all rolled, cut it into 3-5 inch sections, and place on greased baking sheet. Cut vent holes in the top of each pepperoni roll, spread on some more butter/herb mixture (because really, you can't have too much butter. And before you get your panties in a wad about calories, don't forget all the cardio you did, rolling out the dough).


Place in your hot oven, and bake until they look done. About 15 minutes or so, usually. They come out with pepperoni, and cheese sticking out the sides, and smelling HEAVENLY.


Place in a ziploc bag, and store in the fridge up to 1 week. Place one of these babies into your lover's (or your own!) lunchbox next week, and see how quickly your fast food bill starts to decline! Because who's going to trade one of these for grease laden fast food?

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