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Gracie's Pepper Rolls

Panini di Pepe alla Grazia

Makes About 3 Dozen

Gracie La Puma, a good friend of my family's, never arrived empty-handed on her frequent visits to our house; there was always just-baked bread or cookies "for the kids". Her spicy, black pepper-flecked rolls were my favorite. I could never eat just one; I doubt you will either.

I recently called her to get the recipe for those rolls. She is almost 90 years old, but her familiar voice came riveting over the phone as if she were standing right next to me. "Honeee, justa putta somma farina ina the wella; adda leetle yeast anda water and putta as mucha anice anda pepper youa wanta. Goda blessa honee. Howsa you maddar?"


2 tablespoons (2 packages) active dry yeast

2 1/2 cups warm (110º to 115ºF.) water

1 tablespoon Filippo Berio Extra-Virgin Olive Oil

1 tablespoon salt

1 tablespoon coarsely ground black pepper

1/4 cup anise seeds

6 1/2 to 7 cups King Arthur™ Unbleached, All-Purpose Flour

1 large egg beaten with 1 teaspoon water for egg wash

Sesame seeds


In a large bowl, dissolve the yeast in the water. Let proof until the yeast is foamy, about 10 minutes. Add the oil, salt, pepper, and anise seeds. Add the flour about 1 cup at a time, mixing it with your hands, until a ball is formed; you may not need all the flour. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead until elastic, 10 to 15 minutes. Put the dough in a lightly oiled bowl, cover with a clean towel, and let rise in a warm draft-free place for about 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 375ºF. Grease 2 baking sheets.

Punch the dough down. Break off 2-inch pieces of dough and shape them into round rolls. Place them 2 inches apart on the baking sheets and brush the tops with the egg wash. Sprinkle the tops with sesame seeds. Cover loosely with clean towels and let rise for 20 minutes, or until doubled in size.

Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until golden brown. Serve warm.

Note: To freeze, wrap the rolls individually in foil and seal them in plastic bags. They can be frozen for up to 3 months. Defrost in the refrigerator and reheat to serve.

This recipe is from CIAO ITALIA by Mary Ann Esposito, published by William Morrow and Company Inc., in 1991.


  1. Tom's avatar


    Can this pepper roll dough be made Ina twice baked baguette hard slice type
    Bread to dunk in coffee.?
  2. Jean's avatar


    This is a wonderful recipe. Was a big hit for Easter dinner. Thank you.

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