The most useful pizzamaking lesson you'll ever learn.
This style of pizza has kind of become my specialty because a couple years ago someone on pizzamaking.com started a thread asking if anyone knew how to make a Tommy's clone. At the time, I had no clue how to clone Tommy's, but I gave it a try anyway. My first attempts were not even close, but I kept trying, using my failures as a learning tool. Two years later, I probably know more about how to make a vintage Tommy's-style pizza than anyone, possibly including the owners of Tommy's.
This post will teach you everything you need to know about how to make a near-perfect clone of the pizza Tommy's produced 20 years ago. (Nowadays Tommy's just isn't the same as it was back then. If you go to Tommy's today, it won't look like the pizzas in my pictures, nor will it be nearly as good as the pizzas in my pictures.)
|Whole Tommy's-style pepperoni pizza made at home. (This one didn't actually turn out|
quite like a Tommy's pizza, but it was my most photogenic whole pie, so I used it here.)
|Side view of a slice, showing separation between the laminates.|
After about a hundred attempts at cloning this pizza (if not more), I've finally settled pretty confidently on this dough formula:
100% KAAP flour
To make two 11" pizzas (or one 15" pizza), here's an appropriate dough recipe:
18.78 oz KAAP flour
10.52 oz Water
2.35 tsp ADY
2.73 tsp Salt
Special equipment you'll need for this pizza:
- A kitchen scale that measures in ounces.
- A perforated coupe-style pan, seasoned. Here's how to season the pan.
- Baking stone.
All right. So let's make one of these pizzas. The following directions are specifically to make one 11" pizza (although the recipe makes enough dough for two 11" pizzas or one 15" pizza).
Here's how to make the dough:
- Measure the appropriate quantity of yeast (2.35 tsp) and put it in your mixer bowl.
- Measure the appropriate quantity of 110-degree water (10.52 oz) and pour about 2 oz of it into the mixer bowl.
- Stir the yeast water to make sure there are not clusters (or clumps) of yeast.
- Measure the appropriate quantity of flour (18.78 oz) and set aside.
- Measure the appropriate quantity of salt (2.73 tsp) and add it to the flour.
- Use a wire whip or spoon to incorporate salt into the flour.
- 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 5 minutes, 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 this may mean your yeast is dead. So if your pizza ends up showing no sign of fermentation, buy some new yeast and try again.)
- Add the rest of the water to the mixer bowl.
- Add the flour/salt mixture to the mixer bowl.
- Place the mixer bowl in its place on the mixer and attach the dough hook.
- Mix the dough for about 3 minutes, or until it looks about like the dough in the picture below.
- If you've used the amount of ingredients called for in my recipe above, divide the dough into four 7.5-ounce pieces of dough.
- If you only intend to make one pizza, put two of the dough pieces in a ziploc bag and refrigerate. If you intend to make two pizzas, skip this step. (IMPORTANT: Each pizza you make will use two pieces of dough.)
- Place the pieces of dough that you'll be using on a pan that's comfortably bigger than the space occupied by the pieces of dough, with a couple inches between each dough piece, then cover the dough with a large plastic bowl (inverted).
- Let the dough rise at room temperature for about 4 hours.
|This is how the dough should look when it's finished mixing.|
Once the dough is ready to use, follow these instructions.
- Preheat your oven to 500 degrees, with a baking stone on the bottom rack.
- After the oven has preheated for about half an hour, place the pieces of dough on your work surface.
- Use your fists to flatten the two pieces of dough as much as you can.
- Coat each piece of dough with bench flour and set one of the dough pieces aside.
- Roll one piece of dough into roughly a square shape. If the dough sticks to the counter while you roll it, add just enough bench flour to keep it from sticking.
- As the dough reaches dimensions of about 10" x 10" (if you are making an 11" pizza), stop adding bench flour and allow the dough to stick to the counter a little as you roll it. (If you keep flouring the dough after this point, you'll never be able to roll it as thin as you need to.)
- Once the dough has reached dimensions of at least 14" x 14", dust the top of the dough with bench flour (as pictured below). It's OK to use a little more flour than I used in the pic.
- Fold the dough in half and dust the top with bench flour.
- Fold in half the other way, making the dough relatively square, with four layers of dough.
- Set this piece of dough aside and grab the other piece of dough.
- Repeat Steps 5-9 with the second piece of dough.
- When you're finished with all these steps, you should have two flat pieces of dough, each with four laminates.
|Two pieces of dough waiting to become a dough skin.|
|After smashing the pieces of dough (with my fists) until the dough is flat.|
|Roll the dough until it's almost as thin as possible, then add bench flour.|
|Fold the dough in half, then add bench flour.|
|Fold the dough in half the other way. There should now be four layers of dough.|
|Both pieces of dough after rolling and folding.|
- Stack one piece of dough on top of the other.
- Use your fists to press the two pieces of dough together.
- Using bench flour when necessary, roll the dough until it is just a hair bigger than your pan.
- When the dough is slightly larger than the pan, set the pan atop the dough and use a pizza wheel to cut off the excess dough.
- Weigh the dough. (At this point the dough will still be a couple ounces heavier than you ultimately want it. That is, it will probably weigh about 13 oz.)
- Roll the dough some more, until it is about an inch bigger than the pan.
- Trim and weigh the dough again. Continue this process until the dough is the weight you want. (Put the dough scraps in a bag and immediately into the fridge. If you intend to make another batch of this dough within the next few days, you can add small pieces of this dough to the next batch as it mixes. If you don't plan to make any more Tommy's dough, you can make a pizza out of the scraps at any time over the next few days.)
- Once you have trimmed your dough to the target weight of 11-11.5 oz, roll the dough just a little bigger than the pan you'll be using (because dough always snaps back to a smaller diameter after you roll it).
- If you are satisfied that your dough skin is as big as it needs to be, go ahead and spray the pan with nonstick spray, then place your dough skin on the pan. Note: This dough should not be docked.
- Adjust the dough skin with your hands to make it fit the pan.
- [Optional] If you don't want to bake the pizza until later in the day, it is OK to refrigerate the skin for up to at least 10 hours. When I do this, I put the skin on the sprayed pan and apply the sauce, to keep the dough from drying out while it sits in the fridge for hours. (Also, when I'm almost ready to bake, I remove the skin from the fridge 15 or 30 minutes before I intend to begin baking.) If you leave the dough skin at room temperature for very long (without refrigerating), the skin will continue to ferment (rise), and the pizza will end up bready, without any layers. If you refrigerate the skin for a couple hours (or longer), the bottom of the crust will likely blister while the pizza bakes.
|One piece of dough on top of the other, before rolling into a dough skin.|
|Using a pan as a template to cut the dough to the right skin size.|
|Showing how I use a pan as a template to cut the dough skin.|
|Dough skin on scale, showing that the skin weighs about 11 oz.|
Now let's top the pizza and bake.
- Top the skin with about 5 oz of sauce. Distribute the sauce all the way to the edge of the skin. (I normally would not use anywhere near this much sauce, but I can't taste this particular tomato product unless I use that much. I'll give you a sauce recipe below, and I'll also explain why I use this tomato product.)
- Add about 6.5 oz of provolone or mozzarella cheese. (I'm pretty sure Tommy's uses provolone, but mozzarella works just fine.) Make sure to apply the cheese all the way to the edge of the skin.
- Add whatever toppings you want above the cheese.
- Sprinkle parmesan or romano cheese over the top of the pizza.
- Open your oven door and set the pan on the baking stone (on the bottom rack).
- After about 7 or 8 minutes, start watching the pizza carefully through the oven window because the crust will probably begin to bubble at about this point. Once you start seeing bubbles, quickly use a grill fork to pop the bubbles. Close the oven door as soon as possible.
- Once the pizza has been baking for about 10 minutes, use a pot holder or pan grabber to pull the pan out from under the pizza. (If you did not thoroughly preheat your stone, the pizza may not be ready to leave the pan for another few minutes. If the pizza does not easily come off the pan, don't force it. Instead, give it a couple more minutes on the pan before pulling the pan and moving on to the next step.)
- Let the pizza finish directly on the stone for another minute or two.
- After this time is up, use a metal peel (or cookie sheet) to retrieve the pizza from the oven.
- Set the pizza on a screen or cooling rack for a minute before cutting.
- Cut the pizza. (For an 11" pizza, cut it into rectangles, using four cuts one way and two perpendicular cuts, as pictured.)
|Skin with sauce, showing that I use a lot of sauce on this one.|
|Dough skin topped with sauce, cheese, chicken, bacon, and jalapenos.|
|Overhead view of a pepperoni, bacon, and jalapeno pizza.|
|Overhead view of a cut pizza. 4 cuts by 2 cuts.|
And here are some more good pictures of Tommy's style pizzas I've made. Scroll below these pictures to find out how to make sauce for this pizza.
|Profile of a pizza just after baking.|
|Side view of a slice with a couple bites out of it, showing separation between the laminates.|
|Side view of a slice, showing separation.|
|This is how I remember the bottom of Tommy's crust when I was a kid.|
If you go to Tommy's today, it won't look like this.
|Bottom of a slice.|
|This is my favorite Tommy's clone pic because I think it shows how crispy|
and flaky the bottom of the crust is when you do it right.
|This is the one picture that shows I did it right: Lotsa little flakes from the|
bottom of the crust.
Now for the sauce recipe (which I haven't quite perfected yet):
1 28 oz can of Dei Fratelli crushed tomatoes
1/2 tsp dried basil
2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp salt
|Dei Fratelli crushed tomatoes.|
I want to make it clear that I don't particularly like Dei Fratelli crushed tomatoes. The only reason I use them is because I think they may be essentially the same product as the crushed tomatoes Tommy's uses for their sauce. Last time I ate at Tommy's, I did a little investigating in their dumpster. In their dumpster I found a box for Star Cross crushed tomatoes (see below). After I mentioned the details of the box on the Tommy's thread at pizzamaking.com, someone responded by saying Dei Fratelli may be the same product, since both products are packed by the Hirzel Canning Company of Toledo, Ohio.
Having gone through a few cans of Dei Fratelli crushed tomatoes, I feel pretty confident that they are very similar to the Star Cross crushed tomatoes (if they're not the same thing). Like I said, I don't think this tomato product is very good. But it's probably the right thing to use if you really want to clone Tommy's.
|Star Cross crushed tomato box 1.|
And here's something else I found in the dumpster, which I think is a very important part of cloning Tommy's. Usually it's very difficult to get pepperoni like this without buying an entire case (25 lbs), but PennMac breaks up cases of Ezzo pepperoni and repackages it in 1 lb bags. I'm not sure if the Ezzo pepperoni available from PennMac is GiAntonio or if it's some other Ezzo variety.
|I did some dumpster diving at Tommy's and found that they use|
Ezzo GiAntonio 38 mm pepperoni.
Tommy's menu indicates that their pizzas are available in sizes of 11", 13", and 15". However, if you order a 15" pizza at Tommy's, the pizza they bring you is only 14". And if you get a small box for your leftovers, the box is 10", not 11". This incorrect menu information is not an accident. It's not because Tommy's recently changed the sizes of their pizzas but haven't had a chance to update the menu. It's not because the pizzas shrink an inch while baking (because the pizzas don't shrink). Although I think their pizzas used to be 11", 13", and 15" once upon a time, their current menu's misrepresentation of sizes is clearly a deliberate attempt by Tommy's ownership to mislead their customers, and I have a big problem with that. You should too.
So next time you think about buying pizza from Tommy's, I invite you to instead try to make it yourself by following my instructions. (Joseppi's and Cappy's also lie about the size of their pizzas, so maybe I'll make an effort to figure out how to clone their pizzas soon, too.)
Update (10/1/12): Just after I finished writing this post, I saw that there was a relatively new post on the Tommy's thread at pizzamaking.com. The new contributor, fatzo, speculated that there may be red wine in Tommy's sauce, and I feel like he(?) just may be right about that, even though I had never thought about anything like that before. Something to think about. (If you read that post, go ahead and read the post right before it, too, also from fatzo.)
Update (10/2/12): This just occurred to me. I think I need to use a bleached all-purpose flour, rather than KAAP, which is unbleached.
I was just looking at some pics of an actual Tommy's pizza, and I realized how much whiter their pizza is than my clone. I was already aware of this, I guess, but apparently I needed to see the pictures again for it to register. So whenever I make another Tommy's clone, I will use a bleached all-purpose flour.