The most useful pizzamaking lesson you'll ever learn.
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
3.8% Canola Oil
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:
- Measure the appropriate quantity of yeast (1 tsp) and put it in your mixer bowl.
- Measure the appropriate quantity of 110-degree water (6.88 oz) and pour about 2 oz of it into the mixer bowl.
- Add a pinch of sugar to the yeast water.
- Stir the yeast water to make sure there are no clusters (or clumps) of yeast.
- Measure the appropriate quantity of flour (19.67 oz) and set aside.
- Measure the appropriate quantity of salt (1.94 tsp) and add it to the flour.
- Measure the appropriate quantity of sugar (1.61 tsp) and add it to the flour.
- Use a wire whip or spoon to incorporate salt and sugar into the flour.
- Measure the appropriate amount of egg (2.12 oz, or 1 egg) and set aside.
- Measure the appropriate amount of oil (0.69 oz) and set aside.
- 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.)
- Add the rest of the water to the mixer bowl.
- Add the rest of the ingredients to the mixer bowl.
- Place the mixer bowl in its place on the mixer and attach the dough hook.
- Mix the dough for about 5 minutes, or until all the ingredients are distributed evenly throughout the dough.
- Divide the dough into two pieces, with one of the dough pieces weighing about 16 oz.
- Give each piece of dough a few kneeds and round them into dough balls.
- 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:
- Set the smaller dough ball aside.
- Use your hands to flatten the larger dough ball, in preparation for for rolling the dough.
- 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.
- When the dough is just larger than 14", place your 14" pan atop the dough.
- Using a pizza wheel (pizza cutter), trim the dough around the circumference of the pan.
- 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.
- 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.)
- Roll the dough skin lightly, until it is slightly larger than the 14" pan (because the skin will shrink back down to about 14").
- Once you feel confident that the skin will not shrink to smaller than 14", dock the dough with either a docker or a fork.
- 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.)
- Put this skin in the refrigerator. Keep it flat, if possible.
- Repeat Steps 2-9 with the second dough ball.
- Spray your perforated pan with nonstick spray (optional). Here are a couple pics of how your seasoned pan should look:
- Place the skin atop the pan, with the cornmeal side of the dough as the bottom of the skin.
- Spray the top of the dough skin with nonstick spray.
- Leave the skin at room temperature for at least a couple hours before assembling a pizza.
|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.|
|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.
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.
- Add 8 oz of sauce to the top of the dough skin.
- Pick up the pan and tilt it so the sauce flows to the edge of the skin.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.)
- 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.
- 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.
- When the pizza is finished, use a peel or a cookie sheet to remove the pizza from the oven.
- 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.
|After adding 8 oz of sauce to the dough skin.|
|Donatos uses gravity to distribute their sauce on the dough skin.|
|Done using gravity.|
|7.68 oz (0.480 lbs) of provolone cheese.|
|4.8 oz (0.300 lbs) of pepperoni. I used very thinly-sliced Bridgford pepperoni stick.|
|Sprinkled with a romano and oregano mix just before baking.|
|Just after baking.|
|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.
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.