As one who has done a lot with trying to reverse engineer and clone pizzas of others, in nearly all cases without even having tried the pizzas, I have a question of a general nature: What approach and steps do you take to reverse engineer and clone someone else's pizza, such as ones sold by Tommy's Pizza? Since you appear to have access to Tommy's pizzas, do you at some point do a side-by-side comparison? And do you do any metrics (weight, size, amounts of dough, cheese, sauce, etc.)?
Those are some tough questions, and itís pretty new territory for me to attempt cloning anyoneís pizza. I havenít eaten Tommyís in a couple years, so Iím relying exclusively on memories here. Having said that, I realize this pizza may not be as close to Tommyís as I think it is. Regardless, the last one I photographed looks a million times better than the ones in my previous pics, donít ya think?
When I found this thread and decided to try to replicate Tommyís, I based my first batch of dough on what I know about how certain amounts of certain ingredients will affect the final product. For example, I was pretty sure I needed a relatively stiff dough, with high gluten flour, because Tommyís pizza is rigid and kind of dense. After making a couple pizzas with high gluten flour, though, I started to think a weaker flour might be better because my crusts were coming out hard and tough. (It turned out that I was right the first time; I was just wrong about some other things.)
I also looked through a lot of the cracker crust threads to gain some clues, even though I think Tommyís is slightly different than a standard cracker crust. (The only pizza Iíve ever had that I consider a cracker crust is Pizza Hut thin. Iíve had Shakeyís a few times, but Iíve never thought of Shakeyís as a cracker crust. It seems doughier/chewier to me.)
Honestly, I donít fully understand everything Iíve done to reach this point. Some of it came through knowledge I already possessed, while some of it came through suggestions on this thread and others. Additionally, there was at least one accident, when I intended to use KA flour but ended up using All Trumps because Iím just so programmed to scoop flour out of the 10-gallon container near my scale. I was on autopilot when I did it; I didnít even realize Iíd used the wrong flour until it was mixing.
One thing that helped me was my willingness to use extreme amounts of certain ingredients. For example, my first batch of dough contained 1 TBSP of oil (2.98%). Since I almost never use oil in my usual dough, and because I know why
I donít use oil, a hunch told me I should double the oil for my second attempt at replicating Tommyís dough, which is nothing like my usual dough. At about the same time that I started considering using a lot of oil, Briterian mentioned croissants and Papageorgio replied by suggesting the addition of some Crisco. So I doubled the oil to 2 TBSP (5.95%), which made the next batch of dough seem better but still not right.
Right about then, it occurred to me that Tommy's crust bears a minor resemblance to a Chicago deep dish crust. Itís the flaky thing, I think. So, knowing almost nothing about how to make a Chicago deep dish, I went over to the deep dish threads and analyzed some of the more popular dough formulas. One thing stuck out right away: Chicago deep dish dough has TONS of oil. So instead of increasing the oil for my next batch of dough by another 1 TBSP (or 2.98%), I went gonzo and decided to use 2.5 times as much oil as Iíd used in my most recent batch of dough. So for the next batch I upped the oil to 5 TBSP (14.88%). With this drastic change, I knew this dough would end up either very right or very wrong.
It ended up a lot closer to what I was looking for. That was bingo moment #1.
Stuck in a stalemate for the next couple batches, I was thrilled that Iíd come so far, but I knew I still had a long way to go. I was able to rule out certain methods, like using a perforated pan or screen, because there are no perforation or screen marks on the bottom of a Tommyís pizza. I swayed back and forth on how I felt about some other methods and procedures, like retarding the dough and omitting the pan. But repetition and analysis ended up solving those problems for me.
To describe what I mean by analysis, I thought about what kind of procedures would make sense if I was running an operation like Tommyís. I needed simple, efficient procedures that would be easy to teach a new guy. This isnít New York City, where even the average consumer can probably whip up a pretty good pie, but Tommyís is also not a large operation that requires a commissary or a strict assembly-line model. Tommyís is not a small carryout and delivery unit, either; itís a pizza-oriented restaurant with [pretty bad] table service, usually from older women who have worked there for 30 years.
Anyway, I solved some of the procedural problems by just putting myself in the place of the Tommyís crew. But I still wasnít getting what I wanted. So a couple days ago, I gave it another try. I thought I had most of the major issues figured out, but I was still getting a pale, hard crust, and the crust laminations were splitting apart on the edge during baking, probably because I was baking the pizzas almost immediately after rolling the laminated dough. Since I didnít want the laminations to come apart on the edges, I decided I should let the dough rest for a little while after rolling it. But previous experiments had already shown me that this rest period must be done in a cooler because room temperature will turn it into an airy, non-laminated crust.
Also, in a busy pizzeria, it doesnít make much sense to roll a skin every time someone orders a pizza. It makes more sense to plan ahead and roll out at least enough skins to get you through your next rush. That is, it makes sense to roll the dough well before the rush begins, like in the morning, when you have time for prep work. And thatís why I decided I should roll the dough, then refrigerate. (So far it seems to work, as long as the dough is used within several hours of sheeting.)
But I still wasnít close to replicating Tommyís. To solve the problem of pale crust, I tried adding some sugar. It worked. To solve the problem of tough crust, I think itís important to avoid handling the dough too much, because handling the dough too much overdevelops the gluten in a way that I think would cause problems even with a sheeter. Also, the lower hydration of my most recent batch (37.5%) was another accident that seems to have worked out right (as long as you donít handle the dough too much).
Collectively, this was bingo moment #2.
Regarding your side-by-side comparison question: Nope, I havenít done it because I havenít had Tommyís in so long. Iíd like to make a trip there soon, though, especially now that Iíve spent so much time trying to replicate their pizza. (I live 20 or 25 miles from the nearest Tommyís, so itís not exactly convenient.)
With the metrics question, Iím just going entirely by feel right now. 9 to 9.5 ounces of dough seems to be about right for a 10Ē pizza, but itís so hard to get it right because you have to start out with excess dough, then cut it. Obviously a sheeter would make it much easier to get the thickness right.
My memory tells me Tommyís uses a lot of cheese; provolone, according to their web site (which is also very common in Ohio). I think 5.5 oz is about right for the 10Ē pizza. (Iím inclined to think their topped pizzas use the same amount of cheese as their cheese pizzas.)
I think I put about 4 oz of sauce on last nightís pizza, but the sauce I used is nothing like what they use. I havenít even started trying to figure out their sauce yet. I pretty much always use San Marzanos because itís hard to make a bad pizza with good tomatoes. Of course, some pizzas just donít translate well with San Marzanos, but they work pretty well with Tommyís. The only thing I can really say about their sauce is that there is a presence of oregano in it. (I got my first can of 6 in 1 the other day, which I havenít opened yet. Seeing that itís so popular on these boards, Iím curious to see how I like it.)
The Bridgford pepperoni stick blends real nice with the flavor of San Marzanos , Grande mozzarella, and the flavorful crust Iíve created here. (Iíve tried Ezzo pepperoni before, and I prefer the Bridgford, but only from the 1 lb stick. The bagged stuff isnít the same thing.) I think a Tommyís pizza would have about 50 percent more pepperoni than what you see in my pic, too.
Iíll probably be back here in a week with news that Iím even closer, but for now Iím really happy with this latest experiment. I tend to be my own toughest critic, but I thoroughly enjoyed my dinner last night. This was a memorable pizza. Iíd even say it was better than Tommyís.