Tuesday, November 6, 2012

My first attempt at cloning Shakey's

Three days ago I decided it was finally time for me to try cloning Shakey's pizza. Having only ever eaten at Shakey's four times (between 2006 and 2012), it seemed pretty inevitable that figuring out how to make a good Shakey's clone would require a ton of time and effort. However, there are a lot of very good Shakey's clues available on internet message boards, written by people who once worked at Shakey's, as well as some good espionage results from people who have never worked at Shakey's. So good news: After making only one batch of Shakey's clone dough so far, I've already made some pretty incredible pizza. I won't go so far as to call it a Shakey's clone yet, but I'd say it's pretty close.

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Sorry, I haven't taken a lot of pics yet. But what I have, I'll share. Besides, I'll eventually write another post about cloning Shakey's, with pics to document almost every step.

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The above pic is of my first attempt at cloning Shakey's, as are the next two pics. This pizza (crust) was good, but my second attempt with the same dough was much better. (There are a few pics of the second pizza below.)

Open this pic in a new window to get a better look at the crust.
As you should see, I used cornmeal on the bottom of the crust. Won't do that again.

You can probably tell that this pizza was a little thicker than a real Shakey's pizza.
Still, it was very good, and the excessive thickness helped me
figure out how to make a better pizza the next day.

The next three pics are from my second pizza, which was made of the same dough as the first pizza. I made some minor changes in how I handled the dough for this pizza, including rolling it thinner than I rolled the first pizza.

I recommend opening each of the following three pics in a new window so you can zoom in close enough to see what made this pizza so awesome.

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The formula I used for this dough was as follows:

100% Pillsbury bleached all-purpose flour
40.02% Water
1.33% Active dry yeast
1.53% Salt
6.67% Oil
1.63% Sugar

And the recipe to make 34 oz of dough:

22.49 oz Pillsbury bleached all-purpose flour
9 oz Water
3 tsp Active dry yeast
2 tsp Salt
2.25 oz Oil
3 tsp Sugar

I don't feel like writing all the procedures right now, but I may edit this post to add instructions because there's some pretty important information you need to know if you're going to try to make this kind of pizza (like dough management and how to laminate the dough skins). Regardless of whether I post instructions here, there will eventually be instructions somewhere (probably in a future post). Please come back later to see if I've added anything.

Update (6/11/13)

I actually spent quite a while working on this kind of pizza last fall, eventually making a fantastic Shakey's clone, as well as many similar pizzas that were all pretty phenomenal. There are just so many small changes you can make with this kind of dough/crust, all of which lead to similar but slightly different versions of a Shakey's-style pizza. I have a lot of very useful notes somewhere in this computer (and probably some pictures, too), and maybe someday I'll dig them up and reveal some useful information.

Update (8/5/13): I just found a picture I had pretty much forgotten about.

Standing in front of Shakey's in Redlands, California (10/6/08).

Also, having done a ton of investigating, I'm almost positive I have figured out almost the exact formula for Shakey's dough.

100% AP Flour
40% Water
1.1% Instant dry yeast
1.5% Salt
4.36% Shortening (or possibly as much as 6%)
1.51% Sugar

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Best-yet Malnati's style deep dish pizza

[Update (8/26/13): Even though the instructions in this post are very good, I think I've learned a lot about deep dish since publishing this post. Consequently, I may write an even better best-yet post pretty soon.]

After baking a deep dish pizza every day for at least a month, making slight changes with every pizza and every batch of dough, I'm confident that I've created a near-clone of Malnati's deep dish. Better yet, I can teach you how to make a near-clone of Malnati's.

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I've made a few conscious decisions to stray from what I know is "the right way" to make Malnati's style deep dish (like using only corn oil in the dough, instead of using corn oil and olive oil). Still, this stuff is primo, and you will not find another source that can teach you how to make a better Malnati's style deep dish pizza. If you don't believe me, just scroll down and look at the pictures. Then go look at actual Malnati's pictures. (Just realize that not all of those pics are actually of Malnati's pizza. Also, you may notice that real Malnati's pizzas look a little different than the pizzas shown in Malnati's advertising/menu pics, just as my pizzas look a little different than their ad/menu pics. There's a reason for that.)

Removing the first slice from a Malnati's style deep dish pizza that just came out of
the oven. Hopefully you can see the melted mozzarella oozing from the sides of the slice.

Slice of a Malnati's style deep dish pizza.

Here's some good news: This style of pizza is very easy to make and very hard to screw up, but only if you follow the instructions of someone who knows what they're talking about, like me (or Ed). As long as you have a scale and a pan that resembles a deep dish pan, you should be able to make a very good deep dish pizza. And if you don't have a scale, you need to get one because it is impossible to accurately measure ingredients by volume (measuring cups). Furthermore, if you don't have a scale, it is impossible to measure the proper amount of dough to use for any particular size of pizza. I'm here to help you make great pizza that you can reproduce any time you want, not merely edible pizza that will be different every time you make it. It's easier to make good pizza than it is to make bad pizza, but only if you make a choice to forget everything you think you know and, instead, follow these instructions precisely. And if your first pizza doesn't come out as good as you hoped, try again. You'll do better with each try.

The dough formula for this pizza is very simple. As you read the short list of ingredients, you will surely notice that I include neither cornmeal nor salt in this dough. Here's why: Contrary to what you've heard almost everywhere else, Malnati's dough (i.e., real deep dish dough) contains neither cornmeal nor salt. Here's proof.

So anyway, here's my formula (and here's a post that will help you understand what it means). Update (8/20/13): You might want to decrease the hydration by about 5% because my formula creates a very soft dough, which I'm beginning to think may be too soft.

100% Pillsbury bleached all-purpose flour
58% Water
22% Corn oil

To make 18 oz of this dough (which is a little more than enough for two 9" pizzas), use the following recipe:

9.97 oz Pillsbury bleached all-purpose flour
5.78 oz Water
2.19 oz Corn oil

If you need to make a different quantity of dough, or if you have a metric scale, just go to the dough calculator on pizzamaking.com and plug in the percentages I've listed above, as well as figures that more appropriately suit your needs. This calculator is very easy to use. If you have any trouble understanding how to use it, just mess around with it for a few minutes.

Specialized equipment you'll need for this pizza:
  • A kitchen scale that measures in ounces.
  • A tin-plated steel deep dish pan or an aluminum cake pan. If you don't have either kind of pan, just use whatever you can get your hands on. Here's a post that teaches you how to season a deep dish pan. (Scroll down to below the picture of a pan with tools in it.)
  • Baking stone (optional but recommended).

Here are step-by-step instructions for how to make this dough by hand. I've worked hard to try to make these instructions easy to follow yet informative at the same time. I have included additional information in many of the picture captions, so be sure to read the captions if my instructions aren't clear. Start by gathering your ingredients: Pillsbury bleached all-purpose flour, ACTIVE DRY YEAST, corn oil, and 110-degree water.
  1. Measure the appropriate quantity of yeast (0.5 tsp) and put it in a custard dish or small bowl. Optional but recommended: Add a pinch of sugar to the yeast.

  2. 1/2 teaspoon of yeast with a pinch of sugar.

  3. Measure the appropriate quantity of 110-degree water (5.78 oz) and pour about half an ounce into the custard dish. Stir the yeast water.

  4. Immediately after adding less than an ounce of 110-degree water to the yeast and stirring.
    Notice that you can clearly see the grains of yeast, as they have not been hydrated yet.

  5. Measure the appropriate quantity of flour (9.97 oz) and set aside.
  6. Measure the appropriate quantity of corn oil (2.19 oz) and set it aside. (The yeast jar in the following pic is just there for scale, to give you a good visual idea of how much corn oil to use.)

  7. Showing about 2.2 oz of corn oil and a jar of yeast (for scale).

  8. When the yeast water is foamy on top, as pictured below, move on to the next step. (Even if it's not foamy after hydrating for ten minutes, go ahead and move on to the next step, but be aware that your yeast may be dead.)

  9. Yeast water after hydrating for 10 minutes. You cannot see any grains of yeast, and the top
    is somewhat foamy and bubbly. This is a clear sign that the yeast is 1) fully hydrated,
    and 2) alive. This indicates that it's time to mix the dough.

  10. Add all the liquid ingredients to your mixing bowl (water, yeast water, corn oil).

  11. Water + yeast water + corn oil.

  12. Add the flour to the mixing bowl.

  13. After adding 9.97 oz of all-purpose flour to the wet ingredients.

  14. Stir the mixture until it all comes together into a cohesive mass of dough.

  15. I mixed the Malnati's style deep dish dough entirely with the spoon.
    It just takes a minute or so.

  16. If you have a plastic dough scraper, use it to gather any small pieces of dough that may be sticking to the sides of the bowl.

  17. Even though the Malnati's style deep dish dough mixes up pretty cleanly, I used a plastic
    dough scraper to gather all the little bits of dough that stuck to the bowl.

  18. Place the dough in a sealable plastic bag and refrigerate (unless you plan to make a pizza within the next 3-5 hours). If you plan to make a pizza within the next 3-5 hours, move on to Step 2 of the next section of instructions.

  19. Even though I may have used this Malnati's style deep dish dough later the same day,
    I still bagged it all up and put it in the refrigerator.

OK, so that's how you make deep dish dough by hand. You can use this dough as soon as three hours after you mix it, but if you keep it refrigerated you can use it at any time over the next 48 hours (or possibly longer). The following instructions are useful either if you plan to make the pizza considerably later in the same day or if you plan to make the pizza a day or two later. (If you plan to make the pizza as soon as possible, follow these instructions immediately after you mix the dough, but give the dough at least 3 hours to rise in the pan and make minor intuitive changes when necessary.)

The following instructions are to make exactly one 9" deep dish pizza.
  1. A couple hours before you intend to bake a pizza, remove your bag of dough from the fridge.
  2. Remove the dough from its bag and scale 8.2 oz of dough. (Put the remaining dough back in the fridge.)

  3. About 8.5 oz of Malnati's style deep dish dough, which is a little more
    than my guidelines suggest for a 9" pizza. (It worked just fine.)

  4. Optional: Grease the pan by pouring a little corn oil or pure olive oil into the pan you'll be using. Even though I think Malnati's oils their pans pretty liberally, I prefer to oil the pan very lightly or not at all. The following picture shows a pretty heavily oiled pan.

  5. Oiling the pan before placing the dough inside to warm up or rise. Even though I think
    this quantity of oil is probably pretty representative of how much oil Malnati's uses, it
    is more oil than I intended to use, and it is more oil than I prefer to use. I have used both
    corn oil and pure olive oil to oil the pan, and both work fine.

  6. Place the dough in the pan.

  7. I distribute the oil evenly throughout the pan before placing the dough in the pan.
    This is about 8.2 oz of Malnati's style deep dish dough, and it's in a 9" pan. Usually when I
    put dough in the pan, the dough is cold because it has been in the fridge for a day or two.

  8. Cover the pan. After an hour or two, set your oven to bake at 450 degrees, with a baking stone on the bottom rack.
  9. After the oven has preheated for at least half an hour, uncover your pan. The dough should be noticeably bigger than it was when you put it in the pan, but it shouldn't be anywhere near double the original size.

  10. The same dough as the previous picture, but exactly two hours later. Notice that it has
    clearly risen over the 2-hour warm-up period, but it hasn't even come close to doubling.
    This is when I prefer to use it, but it's OK to give it another two or three hours.
    I'll show a five-hour rise of similar dough toward the end of this post.

  11. Flatten the dough so it occupies the entire bottom of the pan, then crimp the outer edge of the dough so it reaches about 1-1/4" up the side of the pan. (Brush some melted butter onto the dough if you desire. I can't taste any difference when I do this.)

  12. Malnati's style deep dish dough after forming. The sides go up to about 1-1/4".

  13. Place about 6 oz of sliced mozzarella on top of the dough, then add sausage or any other toppings atop the cheese.

  14. Small pieces of raw sausage on top of 6 oz of sliced mozzarella. (Don't be afraid
    to do this. The sausage will cook.) Malnati's probably uses a little more sausage than I did.

  15. Spoon or ladle about 9 oz of chunky canned tomatoes atop the cheese and toppings. (Scroll way down to learn about the tomatoes I think are perfect for this pizza.)

  16. This is about 9 oz of tomato strips on what will soon be a 9" Malnati's style deep dish
    pizza. I use this tomato product straight out of the can. Even though most of my
    other pics show enough tomato to cover the cheese entirely, I like to use a little
    less than that; sometimes even less than what I've used in this pic. If it looks a
    little wet to you, it's because it is a little wet. That's OK. I have also tried using
    these tomatoes with a heavy puree to make it less watery, but it was nowhere
    near as good as using the tomatoes straight out of the can.

  17. Sprinkle romano or parmesan cheese on the tomatoes, as well as some oregano if you like oregano.

  18. After shaking a little parmesan cheese onto the tomatoes.

  19. Place the pan in your 450-degree oven and bake until the outer edges have slightly browned and pulled away from the side of the pan. (This should generally take about 22-25 minutes.)

  20. Baking a Malnati's style deep dish pizza on the bottom rack in the oven,
    on a preheated stone at 450 degrees.

  21. Remove the pizza from the oven and cut it. (You can cut it right in the pan and serve it in the pan, which is standard if you dine in at Malnati's, or you can remove the pizza from the pan and cut it on a peel or cutting board.)

  22. Malnati's style deep dish pizza, immediately after baking for 29 minutes at 425 degrees.
    Showing pan gripper in action. I've come to prefer baking at 450 degrees for 22-25 minutes.

    Malnati's style deep dish pizza with one slice gone.

And here are some other pics of finished deep dish pizzas:

Bottom of the Malnati's style deep dish pizza.

Profile of a Malnati's style deep dish pizza slice.

Whole Malnati's style deep dish pizza.

Profile of a Malnati's style deep dish pizza.

Whole Malnati's style deep dish pizza.

Whole Malnati's style deep dish pizza, with pepperoni under the sauce.

The following information is my suggested dough, cheese, and sauce weights for every size between 6" and 14". The formula I've used to calculate these numbers is not perfect, but I think it's pretty close. If the sides of your pan are sloped, you should use the pan's bottom diameter.

Even though I have six different sized deep dish pans, I've only used the 9" pan since I began my quest to perfect deep dish pizza. This means the ingredient weights I list for a 9" pizza are more trustworthy than every other size. Consequently, I'll list the suggested 9" ingredient weights before every other size.

9" deep dish pizza
8.16 oz of dough
6.00 oz of cheese
9.06 oz of tomatoes

6" deep dish pizza
3.82 oz of dough
2.59 oz of cheese
3.91 oz of tomatoes

7" deep dish pizza
5.09 oz of dough
3.57 oz of cheese
5.39 oz of tomatoes

8" deep dish pizza
6.53 oz of dough
4.71 oz of cheese
7.10 oz of tomatoes

10" deep dish pizza
9.97 oz of dough
7.45 oz of cheese
11.25 oz of tomatoes

11" deep dish pizza
11.97 oz of dough
9.06 oz of cheese
13.68 oz of tomatoes

12" deep dish pizza
14.14 oz of dough
10.82 oz of cheese
16.35 oz of tomatoes

13" deep dish pizza
16.49 oz of dough
12.75 oz of cheese
19.25 oz of tomatoes

14" deep dish pizza
19.02 oz of dough
14.83 oz of cheese
22.39 oz of tomatoes

Attention: My recommended dough weight creates a pizza that's probably too thin for most people's tastes. Having made many more deep dish pizzas since I wrote this post, I've made some changes to the suggested ingredient weights of a 9" pizza, which I've described in the update at the bottom of the post. As you may have guessed, I prefer the updated weights, even though I'm not sure if they accurately reflect the weights of a real Malnati's pizza.

Sauce for deep dish pizza

For deep dish sauce I use Stanislaus Saporito Filetto di Pomodoro (tomato strips, pictured below), uncooked and with nothing added. Sometimes I use the tomatoes straight out of the can, but I'm beginning to prefer a sauce that's slightly less chunky. To make the tomatoes slightly less chunky, I pulse them a couple times in a food processor. Pulsing them just a couple times keeps them chunky but makes the chunks a more appropriate size. It really is that easy.

Unfortunately, you probably will not be able to find a store that stocks these tomatoes. (If you live in central Ohio, you can get them at Carfagna's, on 161 just east of I-71.) If you are unable to find this brand of tomatoes, I suggest buying canned whole tomatoes. You can either coarsely chop them on a cutting board or pulse them about five times in a food processor.

A lot of knowledgeable home pizzamakers use cans of diced tomatoes mixed with cans of crushed tomatoes, but in my opinion diced tomatoes are too firm to make a good deep dish pizza. Also cans of diced tomato contain way too much water. Whole tomatoes are softer and fleshier than diced tomatoes, and they are almost always packed in puree. So not only do I consider them better tomatoes for this kind of pizza, but it also takes a lot less work to prepare them.

Important: Do not cook the tomatoes. If you want the tomatoes to be less watery, just drain the water (or preferably, drain some of the water).

Stanislaus Saporito Filetto di Pomodoro (tomato strips).
If you can find a place that sells this by the can, buy it.
You can get a very similar product here.

Stanislaus Saporito Filetto di Pomodoro tomato strips. This product works very well
for deep dish. You don't have to use this particular tomato product, but this and the
next pic give you a good idea of what kind of tomato product you want
to use for Malnati's style deep dish pizza.

Another way of showing you the texture of these tomatoes.

Updates and Improvements (12/11/12)

I've made some serious improvements since composing the rest of this post, beginning with a slight formula change:

100% AP flour
52% Water
0.5% ADY
22% Corn oil

To make a little more than enough dough for two 9" pizzas (20 oz), here is a dough recipe:

11.46 oz AP flour
5.96 oz Water
0.57 tsp ADY
2.52 oz Corn oil

Here's a procedural change that seems to work much better than what I've instructed above: Once you've measured all the dough ingredients, add the flour to the mixing bowl, then add the corn oil to the flour. Whisk to incorporate the oil uniformly into the flour. Once you've done that, add the water and yeast water, then mix as normal.

IMPORTANT: One thing I cannot emphasize enough: UNDERMIX THE DOUGH!!! Basically just mix the dough until it all comes together. (It will still be very lumpy when it's finished mixing.) Once you reach this point in mixing, if there are still small pieces of dough and oily clumps of flour on the side of the mixing bowl, just scrape them off and add them to the main piece of dough. DO NOT KNEAD THIS DOUGH, as gluten development is a very undesirable characteristic with this style of dough.

Get it?

After much trial and error, I now think it's better to use more dough and cheese per pizza than I've instructed above. For a 9" pizza, here are my current dough and topping weight recommendations:

8.5 to 9 oz of dough
7.5 oz of sliced mozzarella
Raw sausage by feel (optional)
8-10 oz of uncooked, chunky, fleshy tomatoes

Note: 7 oz of cheese seems to be the magic number. That is, if you use more than 7 oz, you'll end up with a gooey, beautiful mess of cheese that oozes off each slice when you remove the first few slices from your cut pizza. But if you use any less than 7 oz, the magic probably won't be there. If you want mega mega gooey cheese, try using 9 oz of mozzarella.

One last thing: I've been baking my most recent deep dish pizzas at 470 for about 17 minutes (rather than 450 or 425 for 22-28 minutes). I think I like the pizzas better this way, but I haven't decided for sure yet.

Update (6/11/13)

Someone on pizzamaking.com followed these directions and started a thread about it, which includes at least one picture. Even though most of the posts on that thread seem to be about how I'm a total dick, you might still find it somewhat interesting. (I think maybe I'm glad I was banned, because I'm a better person now than I was when I wasted most of my time on that site.)

Also, a reader of this blog (in Japan, where it's very hard to find ingredients for this kind of pizza) sent me a couple pictures of the pizzas he made after following these directions several months ago. I intend to write a new post eventually, highlighting his results (and hopefully other people's results, too), but it might take me a while to find the motivation. If there is anyone else out there following these directions, I'd love for you to share your results, too. Thanks.

Update (7/31/13)

Here's something I just found that mentions me and links to this page. It's from John Dellavechia, the same person who mentioned this post on pizzamaking.com. His pizzas look real good and have much better photographic quality than mine.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Deep dish pans, accessories, & how to season DD pans

I received a small delivery of deep dish pans a few days ago. To the best of my knowledge, these American Metalcraft 8000 series pans are either identical or functionally identical to the pans used at Malnati's and other major players in the Chicago deep dish scene, specifically because they are made of tin-plated steel. The 6", 9", and 12" pans are each 1-1/2" deep, and the 14" pan is 2" deep. The picture below shows the pans in their arrival condition, only minutes after the UPS guy delivered them (on Friday, October 12, 2012).

Unseasoned American Metalcraft tin-plated steel pans in 6", 9", 12", and 14".

Most of the pans in this series are available in depths of either 1-1/2" or 2". However, 13", 14", and 16" pans are only available in depths of 2". I chose to order the shallower pans (for the applicable sizes) because I've been able to tell by watching Marc Malnati on TV that his pans are 1-1/2" deep. Also, since I had been using a 2" deep aluminum pan for my deep dish pizzas, I've already known for a while that the extra 1/2" depth makes it kinda difficult to judge the appropriate height to pull up the sides of deep dish dough.

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The picture below shows my 12" pan (left) and my 14" pan side-by-side, to demonstrate the difference between a 1-1/2" pan and a 2" pan.

The 14" pan (right) is 2" deep, while the smaller pans are 1-1/2" deep.

The next picture shows my two pan grippers. I've had the one on the left for a couple years, but I've never liked it because it's difficult to open with one hand (even though the whole point of using a pan gripper is to make pan retrieval a one-handed process). Also, when I use this one, I don't feel confident that I won't end up dropping the pizza. Thankfully it hasn't happened yet.

The gripper on the right arrived with my pans the other day. I've wanted one like this for a long time because I've used them before (when I worked at Pizza Hut). Unfortunately, this kind of pan gripper seems to be less commonly available than the one on the left, at least locally. So I finally ordered one from a restaurant supply vendor on the internet. And I'm glad I did because this gripper is much easier to use than the other one. In addition to completely surrounding your fingers (which makes the gripper easier to open), the red gripper also springs open if you don't apply enough pressure to keep it closed. Another bonus is that this gripper makes it very easy to securely pick up pans holding considerably more weight than an average deep dish pizza.

Pan grippers in a 12" deep dish pan.

Even though I've already written a post specifically about seasoning pans, I'm going to talk a little more about seasoning because these pans are considerably different than the cutter pan I seasoned in the other post.

Before beginning the seasoning process with my new deep dish pans, I washed and rinsed the pans. After rinsing, I dried the pans with paper towels and placed the pans in a heated oven to vaporize whatever water remained.

To keep from getting unwanted kitchen debris on my pans as I prepared to season them, I placed a couple paper towels on the island counter in my kitchen. I placed my 6" pan and my 9" pan on the paper towels and dripped a small amount of corn oil on the inside of each pan. I used my fingers to coat the inside of each pan, including the sides, very lightly with the oil. Next I flipped the pans so they were upside down, and I coated the bottom and outer sides of the pan. Again, very lightly.

If you want to see how little oil I used, take a look at the fourth pic in my original post about how to season a pan. The following pic shows my 9" pan before beginning this process.

9" pan before seasoning.

After coating the two pans very lightly with oil, I went outside to the grill, which was still unlit. I placed each pan on the grill with the top side down, then lit the grill with the burners on high and closed the grill's lid. Since I hadn't preheated the grill before bringing out the pans, I stayed beside the grill for a few minutes, until the thermometer indicated that the grill was over 350 degrees. At this point I turned the burners down to almost their lowest position, then went inside and set a timer for 20 minutes.

After a couple more minutes, I went back outside to make sure the temperature of the grill had increased to a little over 400 degrees, which it had. 400 to 500 is a good temperature window for seasoning pans. The grill needs to be over 400 so it can burn the oil on the pan(s), but if you allow it to get too hot (600?), it will vaporize the new layer of seasoning, leaving you with a like-new pan.

After my 20-minute timer went off, I went outside and flipped the pans so the bottom side was down. The pans were already pretty well seasoned at this point, both inside and out, but I wanted to give the bottom of the pans some exposure to the flame. So after flipping the pans, I set a timer for 10 minutes. When this timer went off, I turned off the grill and kept the pans inside the grill while the grill cooled down.

The next pic shows my 6" pan and my 9" pan after I retrieved them from the grill.

6" and 9" pans after seasoning once.

As you can probably tell by looking at the picture above, the pans were dark after the first seasoning session, but they weren't nearly black. So I oiled them up and put them in the grill again. And again. And again. If you lost track, I ended up seasoning these pans four times.

While I was seasoning the pans over and over, I began to wonder what would happen if I applied a slightly heavier coat of oil to the pans.

The first time I ever tried to season a pan, maybe ten years ago, I used exponentially more oil than I've instructed you to use (and only on the inside of the pan) because that's what the geniuses on Food Network told me to do. However, it didn't work. Yes, the oil did eventually burn and darken the pan. But this "seasoning" was a thick, icky coating on the pan, and small pieces of the coating soon began to flake off (or break off).

At the time, I didn't know anything about what I was doing, or even why I was doing it. I just figured Emeril knew what he was doing, and I figured he gave me perfectly fine instructions, which I somehow screwed up.

It wasn't until years later that I began to have any idea that: 1) The procedures I used to season my pan were horribly wrong, and 2) I did it horribly wrong because I was given horrible instructions. In fact, it was less than two years ago (shortly after I joined pizzamaking.com) that I finally had the first clue about why people even bother seasoning pizza pans. And here's that lesson. (Prior to two years ago, I never really used pizza pans because the only kind of pizza I ever made didn't require a pan.)

As you can see from reading Peter's (Pete-zza's) quick intervention (and then my response), sometimes all it takes to trigger a vast learning spurt is a small foundation, or an idea. Just by asking me if the bottom of my pan was all carboned up, Peter somehow made me reassess everything I thought I knew about seasoning pans. Unintentionally, he forced me to start thinking about the purpose of seasoning a pan, which I had never done before.

That one little question was all I needed to teach myself how to season pizza pans, then how to get better at seasoning pizza pans, and how to mop up after myself if I've seasoned a pan wrong, and to better understand the whole concept of seasoning pizza pans. Pretty cool, huh?

And that's what led me to prefer using as little oil as possible when I season pizza pans. Because if you only use enough oil to barely coat the surface of the pan, you end up with very thin layers of seasoning, which don't break off or flake off. (For a perfect example of flaky seasoning, check out this picture of my poorly seasoned pan, which is what led Peter to explain seasoning to me. Also, check out how bad my Tommy's clone looked back then.)

[End digression.]

The other day, as I slowly worked on seasoning these deep dish pans, using an extremely small quantity of oil each time I put the pans in the grill, I began to wonder what would happen if I used a little more oil to season the pans. Not a lot of oil, but noticeably more than I've instructed you to use.

So I tried it. But I only did it on the inside of the pans because I didn't really care if I ended up with less than perfect results on the inside. The results: It seems to have worked just fine, and it may have saved me from having to go through a few extra seasoning sessions. Consequently, for the final two seasoning sessions, I went ahead and used a little more oil on the outside of the pans, as well as the inside. This seems to have been a good decision.

Considering what I learned while seasoning my pans the other day, I'm now gonna tell you to do something I have twice told you not to do:

Go ahead and use a little more than the bare minimum amount of oil if you want. Just don't use a ton of oil. And remember that even though I know a lot about making pizza, as well as things related to making pizza, there's a lot I don't know. I'm learning a lot of this stuff just by doing it. So even though I'm always learning better ways of doing things, it doesn't mean everything I instruct you to do is the best way to do it. (Hey, it happens.) So I encourage you to question my instructions, either to yourself or to me.

(In case you've wondered, I don't enjoy talking shit about Emeril or any other celebrity chef. Surely they know a ton more than I know about cooking, and surely they're all nice people who truly want to help others become better cooks. Regardless, they don't know crap about pizza. Still, they all pretend to know what they're talking about whenever they deal with pizza, which not only keeps people from advancing as pizzamakers but also sets them back and holds them back, often for years. Yes, that happened to me. Yes, it pisses me off. And yes, you do need to know this to keep it from happening to you, too.)

Here are a couple more pictures, showing one of the pans after four seasoning sessions.

9" pan after more than one seasoning session in the grill.

Well-seasoned 9" pan inside an unseasoned 12" pan to show contrast.

Having used the 9" pan twice so far, one thing that has surprised me is that both of the pizzas stuck to the pan and have been very difficult to remove. The second pizza even ended up half upside down on my cutting peel because a large chunk of the crust basically merged with the pan, even though I oiled the pan pretty liberally.

I don't get this. This has never happened to deep dish pizzas I've baked in the aluminum pan. And interestingly, I've never oiled my aluminum pan when I've used it to bake deep dish pizza. Rather, I hypothesized that there was enough oil in the dough to keep the crust from sticking. And until now, I've never had any reason to question this hypothesis.

Since I seasoned this pan so well before I ever used it, one unintended result of this sticking problem is that I have sorta proved (at least to myself) that seasoning a pan has absolutely nothing to do with creating a nonstick surface.

Update (8/23/13): The sticking problem has never really happened again since I mentioned it last year.

And one more thing, which is sorta related to the rest of this post's content: From what I understand, cast iron skillets are also supposed to be seasoned. However, seasoning cast iron skillets (and possibly frying pans) is an entirely different concept than seasoning pizza pans. What I'm sharing with you here does not apply to cast iron skillets or frying pans. In fact, I don't know anything about cast iron skillets or frying pans, because I'm a pizza guy, not a chef. Like I've said elsewhere, there's a big difference between "pizza guy" and "chef." However, most chefs still seem to think they know everything about pizza, even though most of them know essentially nothing. I don't play that game.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Deep dish with semolina

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Semolina and a hand.

Whole deep dish pizza, made of dough with semolina in it.

Every passionate pizzamaker knows the most widely spread pizzamaking myth is that deep dish dough has cornmeal in it. We'd never go so far as to start a fight with anyone for spreading this myth, but it does piss us off pretty seriously that people continue to spread the myth; people like the hosts of America's Test Kitchen, as likeable as they are, as well as celebrity chefs on Food Network.

The issue is not so much that these people continue to spread this harmless bit of misinformation (because we all spread misinformation sometimes, accidentally). Rather, the issue is that they spread this myth so confidently, even though a little research should lead anyone to at least question the 'conventional wisdom' that says deep dish dough has cornmeal in it. The issue is that these people either don't take their research leads seriously or they don't even bother starting the research. (My guess is a little of both.) Instead of taking their research seriously, they just tell you whatever they feel like telling you, with almost no regard for whether or not it's true.

Another issue is that these celebrity chefs hold positions of authority, which means people trust them to know what they're talking about. People trust them so much that we never even consider doubting what they tell us, even when their information is horribly untrue.

In contrast to every celebrity chef I've ever watched, the members of pizzamaking.com are the most passionate and knowledgeable pizzamakers anywhere. They devote a big chunk of their lives to discovering the secrets of making great pizza and sharing those secrets with anyone who wants to know them. Yes, we're obsessive about it. We're even willing to make ourselves look like snarky pricks if that's what it takes to help people learn the hard-to-find truth about pizzamaking.


Since I've already established that real deep dish pizza dough does not contain cornmeal, what about semolina?

Several years ago, a pizzamaking.com member visited a deep dish pizza joint that used semolina in their dough. Shortly after this, the member began a thread about making "Malnati's style" deep dish dough with semolina. As far as I know, semolina had never really been discussed as a prospective deep dish dough ingredient by pizzamaking.com members prior to this. However, this thread eventually became the definitive "Malnati's style" deep dish thread on pizzamaking.com, as signified by the 'sticky' that keeps this thread visible to anyone who views the main page of the Chicago Style boards.

So deep dish dough with semolina must be amazing, right? I mean, if it has become the go-to dough formula for the people I've already described as the most knowledgeable group of pizzamakers in the world, it must be the real deal, right? Which means semolina must be an essential component of making a perfect Malnati's clone. Right?


Having made deep dish pizza out of dough containing 20% semolina each of the last two days, I want to make it clear that adding semolina to the dough does not make the dough more like Maltnati's than dough without semolina. In fact, it makes the dough less like Malnati's than every other deep dish dough I've ever made (none of which contained semolina).

Now, I can understand why a lot of people might like a pizza made out of this dough, but I'm puzzled as to why this dough is so popular among the users of pizzamaking.com. Here's why it puzzles me: It tastes like it has cornmeal in it.

So let me get this straight, pizzamaking.com members who specialize in making 'Chicago Style' pizza:

It's a sin to put cornmeal in deep dish dough, but it's perfectly acceptable to add semolina to deep dish dough, even though semolina contributes nearly identical characteristics as cornmeal?

And let me get this straight: Y'all think it's OK to call this type of pizza 'Malnati's style' even though Malnati's deep dish dough doesn't have semolina in it; even though Malnati's crust doesn't taste like it has semolina in it; even though you're basically spreading misinformation to people who think you're giving them the answers they've been trying to find for years?

I don't have a problem with pizzamaking.com members liking this dough. My problem is that they call it something it's not.

My issue is not so much with BTB, the member who began the thread (and who surely had no idea it would become the definitive Malnati's thread). My issue is with the supposedly-knowlegeable users and moderators who allowed this thread to become a major source of misinformation to anyone who ends up at pizzamaking.com hoping to learn how to make an "authentic" Malnati's style deep dish pizza. (But BTB certainly should not have given the thread such a misleading title.)

It took me one attempt at making this pizza to know it wasn't a good representation of Malnati's style, which is why I don't call it 'Malnati's style.' And you wanna know how easy it was for me not to mislead people into thinking this dough makes a Malnati's style pizza? It was even easier than misleading people, because I had to type two fewer words. (That is, I didn't have to type either 'Malnati's' or 'style.')

I've made it no secret that I think pizzamaking.com is a fantastic web site, but I now feel comfortable saying its Chicago Style section is very amateur and misleading. There is a lot of good information on the Chicago boards, but there is a whole bunch of bad information, too; mostly from people who portray themselves as die-hard defenders of everything Chicago.

So no, I'm not telling you to put semolina in your deep dish dough. But I'm not telling you not to, either. I'm just sharing my opinion about how my pizzas turned out when I used semolina, and I'm letting you know that if a dough has semolina in it, it's not Malnati's style.

Here's the dough formula I used for my deep dish with semolina:

80% Meijer AP flour
20% Bob's Red Mill semolina
(100% total flour)

52% Water
0.5% ADY
1% Salt
22% Corn oil

And here's a recipe to make 20 oz of this dough:

9.12 oz bleached AP flour
2.28 oz Semolina
5.93 oz Water
0.57 tsp ADY
0.66 tsp Salt
2.51 oz Corn oil

No step-by-step instructions for this one because I've already written them elsewhere. (If you need instructions, click on the deep dish tag.) Also, I don't really want you to make this dough. If you want to make deep dish pizza, make it right.

(Also, to the best of my knowledge, the pizzeria using semolina was in Florida, not Chicago. Take whatever you want from that bit of information.)

Here's another picture of the first pizza I made with this dough. Yeah, I know it looks just like every other deep dish pizza I've shown. That's why I'm only showing you two pics.

One slice missing.

Monday, October 8, 2012

How to make a perfect Donatos clone

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The picture below is from my very first attempt at cloning Donatos. If you are familiar with Donatos, then you know this pizza looks just like a Donatos pepperoni pizza. (And yes, it did taste like Donatos.) If I can do it in one try, relying on incomplete information to guide me, then you can surely do it by following my detailed instructions.

Immediately after baking.

Nice golden color on this undercrust shot.

Having worked at Donatos for about a year and a half, I know a lot about how Donatos operates. However, even though I worked there for that long, it was impossible for me to learn anything about how they make their dough because Donatos makes their dough off-site, in a commissary, before a distributor delivers it to the stores in boxes of pre-sheeted frozen discs.

When I decided to attempt to clone Donatos, I started by gathering information shared by people who had already tried cloning Donatos. The formula here seemed like a pretty decent place to start. However, having handled thousands of actual Donatos dough skins, I could tell just by looking at the formula that the hydration percentage was way too high, as Donatos dough is pretty stiff (and because 54% hydration does not make a stiff dough, especially if the dough also contains a lot of oil and eggs, as this dough does). So I changed the 54% hydration figure to 35%, in addition to making a few other minor changes. I omitted dried dairy whey and nonfat dry milk because I didn't have any available. (Even though the pizza turned out fine without these ingredients, if I'd had them, I would have used them.)

So here's the formula I used:

100% All Trumps high gluten flour
35% Water
10.8% Egg
0.5% ADY
1.3% Salt
3.8% Canola Oil
0.93% Sugar

I only listed All Trumps flour because that's what I used when I attempted to clone Donatos. If I ever attempt to make this kind of pizza again, I'll almost certainly try a bleached all-purpose flour. So go ahead and use all-purpose flour.

Here's a recipe that will make 30 oz of dough, which is enough for two 14" pizzas:

19.67 oz Flour
6.88 oz Water
2.12 oz Egg (I think this was one whole egg.)
1 tsp ADY
1.94 tsp Salt
0.69 oz Oil
1.61 tsp Sugar

Special equipment you'll need for this pizza:
  • A kitchen scale that measures in ounces.
  • A 14" perforated aluminum coupe-style pan, seasoned.
  • Dough docker (but a fork will suffice).
  • Pizza wheel.
  • Baking stone (optional but recommended).

And here's the instructions for how to make this pizza:
  1. Measure the appropriate quantity of yeast (1 tsp) and put it in your mixer bowl.
  2. Measure the appropriate quantity of 110-degree water (6.88 oz) and pour about 2 oz of it into the mixer bowl.
  3. Add a pinch of sugar to the yeast water.
  4. Stir the yeast water to make sure there are no clusters (or clumps) of yeast.
  5. Measure the appropriate quantity of flour (19.67 oz) and set aside.
  6. Measure the appropriate quantity of salt (1.94 tsp) and add it to the flour.
  7. Measure the appropriate quantity of sugar (1.61 tsp) and add it to the flour.
  8. Use a wire whip or spoon to incorporate salt and sugar into the flour.
  9. Measure the appropriate amount of egg (2.12 oz, or 1 egg) and set aside.
  10. Measure the appropriate amount of oil (0.69 oz) and set aside.
  11. Check the yeast water. If it is foamy, it means the yeast is alive and hydrated, so move on to the next step. If the yeast water is not foamy, wait 5 minutes and check again. After you check the yeast again, go ahead and move on to the next step, even if the yeast water is not foamy. (The yeast is probably fine, but be aware that if the yeast water has not become foamy, it may mean your yeast is dead. So if your pizza ends up showing no sign of fermentation, buy some new yeast and try again.)
  12. Add the rest of the water to the mixer bowl.
  13. Add the rest of the ingredients to the mixer bowl.
  14. Place the mixer bowl in its place on the mixer and attach the dough hook.
  15. Mix the dough for about 5 minutes, or until all the ingredients are distributed evenly throughout the dough.
  16. Divide the dough into two pieces, with one of the dough pieces weighing about 16 oz.
  17. Give each piece of dough a few kneeds and round them into dough balls.
  18. Let the dough balls rest at room temperature for two hours, covered or in a bag.

After the dough balls have rested at room temperature for a couple hours, begin turning the dough into skins, following these steps:
  1. Set the smaller dough ball aside.
  2. Use your hands to flatten the larger dough ball, in preparation for for rolling the dough.
  3. Roll the piece of dough with a rolling pin until the dough is slightly larger than 14". Try not to use much flour while rolling the dough, and try to keep the dough as circular as possible.
  4. When the dough is just larger than 14", place your 14" pan atop the dough.
  5. Using a pizza wheel (pizza cutter), trim the dough around the circumference of the pan.
  6. Remove the excess dough and weigh the dough skin. At this point, the weight of the dough skin should be around 14.62 oz. But if it's still heavier than that, continue rolling and trimming until the dough skin weighs about 14.62 oz.
  7. When you've trimmed the dough skin down to about 14.62 oz, sprinkle a little cornmeal on your work surface and place the dough skin atop the cornmeal. Also, place the dough scraps under the second dough ball (because you'll need this dough to make the second dough ball weigh enough to make another 14" skin.)
  8. Roll the dough skin lightly, until it is slightly larger than the 14" pan (because the skin will shrink back down to about 14").
  9. Once you feel confident that the skin will not shrink to smaller than 14", dock the dough with either a docker or a fork.
  10. If you will only be making one pizza today, find a way to cover both the top and bottom of the skin with plastic wrap. (Since you won't be using this skin for at least a day, you want to make sure the skin does not dry out in the refrigerator.)
  11. Put this skin in the refrigerator. Keep it flat, if possible.
  12. Repeat Steps 2-9 with the second dough ball.
  13. Spray your perforated pan with nonstick spray (optional). Here are a couple pics of how your seasoned pan should look:

  14. Showing the top of a seasoned 14" perforated aluminum pan. This American Metalcraft pan
    is very similar to the pans they use at Donatos.

    Showing the bottom of a seasoned 14" pan.

  15. Place the skin atop the pan, with the cornmeal side of the dough as the bottom of the skin.

  16. Trimmed skin on a pan. The skin shrank at least half an inch after I trimmed it.
    If you follow my instructions, this should not happen to you.

  17. Spray the top of the dough skin with nonstick spray.
  18. Leave the skin at room temperature for at least a couple hours before assembling a pizza.

At least half an hour before you intend to begin assembling the pizza, set your oven to 500 degrees and preheat. When the oven has preheated for at least half an hour, begin assembling your pizza.

  1. Add 8 oz of sauce to the top of the dough skin.

  2. After adding 8 oz of sauce to the dough skin.

  3. Pick up the pan and tilt it so the sauce flows to the edge of the skin.

  4. Donatos uses gravity to distribute their sauce on the dough skin.

  5. As the sauce reaches the edge of the skin, turn the pan almost like a steering wheel and let the sauce flow along the edge of the skin until the sauce covers the entire skin, from edge to edge.

  6. Using gravity.

    Using gravity.

    Done using gravity.

  7. Add 7.68 oz of provolone (or mozzarella) to the sauced skin, from edge to edge. If you are making a cheese pizza, add a little more cheese (because when you order a cheese pizza at Donatos, you're actually ordering an extra cheese pizza, which is why a cheese pizza costs the same as a 1-topping pizza). I don't know exactly how much is the right amount of cheese for extra cheese. Probably another 2 oz or so.

  8. 7.68 oz (0.480 lbs) of provolone cheese.

  9. If you're making a pepperoni pizza, add 4.8 oz of pepperoni (or 0.300 lbs). If you plan to use more toppings than just pepperoni, use 3.52 oz of pepperoni (or 0.220 lbs). (The topping weights I've listed here are the exact weights they use at Donatos. If I did not list a weight, it's because I don't know what the weight should be. Even though I listed a weight for the dough skin, I don't know the exact weight of a 14" Donatos dough skin. However, I do know the weight I listed is very close.)

  10. 4.8 oz (0.300 lbs) of pepperoni. I used very thinly-sliced Bridgford pepperoni stick.

  11. Just before you put the pizza in the oven, shake a mixture of romano cheese and oregano over the top of the pizza. My memory tells me this mix should be about 80% romano and 20% oregano. Or maybe 75/25.

  12. Sprinkled with a romano and oregano mix just before baking.

  13. Bake at 500 until the cheese and toppings look like they're done. If the toppings are done but the crust is not done, remove the pan and allow the pizza to finish baking directly on the stone for another minute or two.
  14. When the pizza is finished, use a peel or a cookie sheet to remove the pizza from the oven.

  15. Just after baking.

  16. If you made a cheese pizza or a 1-topping pizza, use 5 cuts by 2 cuts (as shown below). If you topped with more than one topping, use 4 cuts by 2 cuts.

  17. 14" single-topping pizzas are cut 5 cuts x 2 cuts. If there had been more toppings,
    this pizza would have been cut with 4 cuts x 2 cuts.

  18. Eat.
If you refrigerate the other dough skin, be sure to remove the skin from the fridge at least a couple hours before you intend to use it. As soon as you remove the skin from the fridge, place the skin on a pan with the cornmeal side down. Then spray the top side of the dough with nonstick spray and leave uncovered at room temperature until you top the skin.

After that, top and bake as I've already instructed.

Here are some more pictures of my attempt at cloning Donatos:

Profile of the pizza after some pieces have been removed.

Showing the bottom of one slice.

Showing the rigidity of this pizza. (This one was probably a little too rigid.)

Showing what it's like beneath the cheese and pepperoni.

Reasonably close up profile shot of a slice.

Here's a very good recipe for Donatos sauce:

12 oz Tomato paste
20 oz Water
1/2 tsp Basil
1/4 tsp to 1/2 tsp Salt

A couple more things:

Donatos uses Biery provolone cheese. I'm not sure what kind of pepperoni they use, but if you can get your hands on Ezzo GiAntonio 38mm pepperoni, you'll like it. (You can order this pepperoni in 1 lb packages from PennMac.)

I've still only tried to clone Donatos once so far (two pizzas), but as I already said, I pretty much nailed it. Here's a link to my first post (of many) in a Donatos thread on pizzamaking.com. I tried to use this blog post to recap everything I shared on pizzamaking.com (in a more ordered fashion), but I may have missed some details. So you might want to check out what I had to say there.

I may have more to add to this post.