Hogeland's Homemade Hoagie Rolls

Freddy Mercury had nothing on my friend Max. Max, who worked at the local record store, gave Queen’s summer breakout single six stars on his scale that only went to five, and had us howling with his superbad imitation. ‘Dynamite with a laser beam; Guaranteed to blow your mind. Anytime.’ He cocked his air guitar at the waitress coming to take our orders, and did an exaggerated bow as we cheered.

We were clustered around a picnic table in the shade of an undersized beach umbrella, on the deck of our latest find: a shack of a restaurant, more like the kind of sandwich joint you’d expect to find down at the shore than a few blocks east of Main Street in Conshohocken. At a little past noon the heat was rising into the 80’s, and promised to push past 90 that day. Our ride, a yellow ’67 Impala, sat ready at the curb.

Guys noshing steaks at a sandwich shop near Philadelphia.

The waitress tossed a handful of napkins onto the table and reached into her apron for straws. ‘Be right back to feed you, boys,’ she said as she flipped her ponytail. ‘Though I think you’ve got enough ham here already.’ She stopped her turn midstride and looked witheringly at Max.

My friend closed his mouth and studied the drops of sweat on his mug of root beer. In light of her superior age (probably 19) and body shape (curvy), we quietly did the same.

But Max couldn’t control himself. By the time the waitress came back with our food, he was out of his seat and hamming for us again. Max’s air guitar, bent high up over his shoulder, nearly collided with the waitress as she came up behind him with a big tray of sandwiches. He had the grace to blush as he helped her steady the tray and, in a heroic act distinctly unlike the Max we knew, he helped her to unload the steaks and subs. Then, in the spirit of the Three Stooges, he got down on his knees to ask her forgiveness. The waitress rolled her eyes, flipped her ponytail again, and strode off. We hooted as she took a last pathetic look at Max.

Max sat down as if nothing at all had happened, and dug into his lunch with a grin that lit the table. The heady scent of yeasty rolls filled my senses. We bathed in the happy fug of adolescence.    

My 17th summer – as all summers eventually do – floated away. That shack is long gone now, replaced with yet another high tech building. These days you’ll have to go a little farther off Main Street to get an authentic sandwich experience.

But one thing remains constant: as long as the Conshohocken Italian Bakery keeps churning out their lovely rolls, somebody is going to keep filling them with great things. That means there will always be another sandwich shack, ready for a new adventure. And who knows then what will happen?

;

Homemade Hoagie Rolls

 

Makes 6 rolls, 9” long

14 hours for overnight rise (8 hours for fast rise)

 

2 teaspoons dry yeast (+ 1 teaspoon for fast rise)

4 teaspoons sugar

½ cup water at 100°

 

14 ounces (2 ¾ cups) unbleached all purpose flour

6 ounces (1¼ cup) High Gluten flour

2½ teaspoons salt

¼ teaspoon ascorbic acid, available as Fruit Fresh

2/3 cup whey*

2/3 cup water at 100°

 

½ cup extra flour for bench work

2 Tablespoons of cornmeal to coat pans

 

Necessary for producing high-rising rolls:

2 heavyweight cookie sheets or jelly roll pans

6 quarry tiles or a pizza stone to line oven rack

 A good spray bottle to create steam

A humid 80° environment

 

*To make whey: 32 ounces of plain low-fat yogurt will yield 2/3 cup whey in about 2 hours. Line a strainer with paper towels or several layers of cheese cloth and set it over a shallow bowl. Pour in the yogurt, cover lightly and set it to do its stuff in the refrigerator. The whey will drain from the yogurt and collect in the bowl. Measure the whey carefully before adding to the dough.

(The resulting strained yogurt is great drizzled with honey for breakfast. You can also mix it with shredded cucumber, salt, garlic and thyme to make tatziki – our favorite Greek dip.)

Forming the gluten cloak

Make the dough: In a large mixing bowl, stir together yeast, sugar and ½ cup of warm water. Let sit for 10 minutes until foam forms on the mixture. Add 20 ounces of flour, salt, ascorbic acid, whey and water and mix to form a cohesive mass, scraping down the sides of the mixing bowl as necessary.

Knead for 10 minutes, using as little extra flour as possible to keep the dough from sticking to your counter and hands. Clean out the mixing bowl.

First rise: You can start these rolls in the morning (using an extra teaspoon of yeast in the dough) and let rise, lightly covered, for 4 ½ hours at room temperature. In order to have the rolls ready for lunchtime, however, it’s best to make your dough the evening before and let it rise, covered, in a 55° environment overnight. Set the dough at room temperature for an hour or two in the morning before continuing. By this time either method will yield dough that has roughly tripled in bulk.

Second rise: Punch down the dough and turn it out onto a lightly floured work surface. Push the dough into a fat snake and fold it into thirds. Gently push the dough into a fat snake shape again, letting it rest for a few minutes as it resists. This method will elongate the gluten, yielding the best rolls. Fold in thirds, put back in the mixing bowl, cover lightly and let sit at room temperature (70°) for 1½ hours, until nearly doubled in bulk.

Hoagie rolls resting after their first shaping

Shape the rolls: Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. Gently shape into a snake again, tucking the long outer edge over itself and squeezing in to the bottom seam by using your fingers. Your emphasis from here on out is to create a gluten cloak, a continuous skin on the top and sides of the rolls.

When the snake of dough is about 2 feet long, cut it in half. Form each half into an 18” snake and cut it into three equal pieces. You will now have 6 portions of dough, each weighing between 6 and 6½ ounces. Tuck into cigar shapes and let them rest for 15 minutes.

Sprinkle cornmeal onto the cookie sheets or jellyroll pans and have them handy. Warm your 80° humid environment. (See Creating an 80° Environment at the bottom of Aunt Marie’s Dinner Rolls for details on how to do this.) Your environment should include a pan of hot water.

After your rolls have rested, flatten them somewhat to expel the largest gas bubbles, and then fold them gently into torpedoes of dough that are 9” long. Pull the gluten cloak over each roll evenly and tuck into one long seam. Put three rolls on each pan, seam-side down onto the cornmeal.

Hoagie Rolls ready for the oven

Third rise and preheat: Let finished rolls rise for 1 hour to 1 hours 10 minutes in an 80° humid environment. Line the center rack in your oven with a pizza stone or quarry tiles and preheat the oven to 450° a half hour into this rise. Have a good spray bottle with water in it beside the oven.

Bake with steam: Put a pan of rolls directly on the quarry tiles or pizza stone and quickly spray the hot sides and bottom of the oven with 6 or 7 squirts of water. Clap the door shut to keep in the heat and the steam. Bake rolls for 10 minutes without opening the oven door. Turn oven off for 2 more minutes, and then remove rolls to a rack to cool. (As oven temperatures and spray bottles vary, your results may as well. Rolls are ready when the crust is medium brown.)

Repeat with the other pan of rolls.

To make a Ham Hoagie: Split a cooled hoagie roll nearly in half and open it like a book. Sprinkle with a small amount of olive oil and some oregano. Lay on 2 or 3 pieces of thinly sliced Swiss cheese, as much sliced ham as desired, and a line of sliced salami. Cover with lettuce and tomatoes and a bit more oil and herbs. Use the blade of a long knife to squash the lettuce and tomato into the ‘spine’, cutting through the meats and cheese if desired, in order to close the sandwich.

Serve with frosty mugs of root beer and enjoy in any available sunshine.

Hit it Max. Air Guitar!

Many thanks to the Conshohocken Italian Bakery for advice on this recipe. If you live nearby, run – don’t walk – to their bakery.

 

Ham Hoagie made with a fresh Homemade Hoagie Roll

20 comments to Hogeland’s Homemade Hoagie Rolls

  • WOW really great, but is it safe to spray the oven with water? Is it OK if it’s electric?

  • Mardy

    Why don’t you rename them “Homemade Hogeland Rolls” and add YOUR amazing twists????

  • If your oven’s hot enough and the spray fine enough, the droplets will turn to steam instantly. Alternately, you can put a cast iron skillet on a low shelf, heat it with the oven, and throw 2-3 ounces of water into it just after putting in your rolls. This method creates a smaller burst of steam, but it all helps!
    As to the name change, I agree and I’m very pleased to call these my signature sandwich rolls. Thanks for the suggestion!

  • Steve

    Too good for a hoagie!

  • Great bread recipe here, love to make a sandwich with these!

  • I have got to give this a try. Thank you so much for emailing me and letting me know :D

  • Looks like a regular Amoroso’s Roll!

  • What great looking rolls, and excellent detailed instructions. I am going to attempt to cook them in my wood fired pizza oven. I think i will take the coals out, and make it a white oven. Is this what you would suggest? Whey seems to make everything better, so can’t wait to try these out.

  • I almost added a woodfired aspect to this post, but nixed the idea based on one problem. If you try to move these rolls in their near-finished rise, they want to collapse.
    As long as you keep the rolls on the pans, and put the pans directly into your woodfired oven, I think you’re okay. Because of the lack of steam, you may want to gently brush them with water before commiting them to the fire.
    Let me know how it goes!

  • This has inspired me. I’ll be making some rolls this weekend!!

  • Thanks so much for the answer :)

  • Canuck Jim

    Many thanks for posting this recipe; it’s kind of close to the heart. As a teenager, I lived for some years near Conshohocken, on the steep banks of the Schuykill River. “Conshie,” as it was called, was definitely not the neat, restored culinary mecca it is now, but it was a center for hoagie and cheese steak roll production, made in what were probably highly illegal wood fired ovens built on the backs of some of the row houses. These were unadvertized mom and pop Italian operations, and they supplied the hoagie and steak joints in Shawmont, East Falls, Mt. Airy. You could even get wonderful Sicilian pizza if you talked to mom nicely.
    Back then, the big gun for hoagies was Red’s in South Philly (9th and Wharton), while the cheese steak king, Pat’s, was just about across the street. (Still running today.) But there were lots of mighty good pretenders elsewhere; just look for the line-up outside the door, any time.
    If you’re back in the neighborhood, check out the Whitehorse Inn on Bethlehem Pike for a cheese steak hoagie, not bad, not bad at all.
    Thanks for bringing this all back to me. I’ll definitely give them a try, wood fired, of course.
    CJ

  • JCC

    Thanks so much for this hoagie roll recipe. We moved from the Philadelphia/Delaware area to the mid-west. I have been searching high and low for a good sandwich roll out here and nothing compares to the hoagie roll. I was SO excited to find this recipe. Can’t wait to try it!

    Now if you could find me a recipe for the good ol’ tomato pie, I will be in heaven. Thanks again for posting this. Love it.

  • Jen

    I am from Brookhaven,PA, just south of Philadelphia, and a military wife, having moved all around the country (currently in WA). One of the things I miss most of all about home is the rolls, (and the soft pretzels). I saw your recipe and had to try it. I’ve tried Peter Reinhardt’s recipe for hoagie rolls, and while they tasted wonderful, they were not the same as the rolls back home. I gave your recipe a try over the weekend and the rolls were delicious. But mine were not light and airy like the Amoroso/Buono Bros rolls from home. But I did not use the humid 80 degree environment like you suggest. Were your rolls very airy? I will try again for sure with the warm humid environment. I was also wondering what the whey and the asorbic acid does here. Can you share? Thanks for the recipe!

  • Yes, these rolls come out moderately airy with a thin crust that fully develops 2-4 hours after baking if left to cool at room temperature. And, yes, it’s very important to create an 80 degree moist environment for the final rise. Once that has occurred, you can’t move these rolls or they will collapse.

    You might be interested in going to the Fresh Loaf, where my recipe has been featured in a slightly different form. There you can follow a more in-depth discussion on ingredients and methods. See http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/21448/real-italian-hoagie-rolls.

    One thing to keep in mind – this recipe is reproducing methods used in an industrial bakery, where specific environments are important. If you follow the steps exactly, you will end up with an excellent finished hoagie roll!

  • Mine weren’t nearly as beautiful as yours but they taste wonderful. I think I rushed the rise a little. I will try the over night version next time. :)

  • [...] under my hands in creating the perfect Italian hoagie roll as I remembered it from my youth (see Hogeland’s Homemade Hoagie Rolls for more on that), I imagined another roll, one just a bit more robust. Ready to take on [...]

  • Beauties, each and every one. What’s the texture like, kinda soft?

  • Chris

    Eating the sandwich I made with this hoagie roll while i type this up.

    YUM A+

  • Andrew

    Can you use whey powder instead of the liquid whey? Whey powder can be purchased, and I am not sure if substituting the liquid whey for powder whey will change the consistency of your recipe.

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