Behind the Counter
Before I start this, I want to explain that the manager at this M&E is very good at what he does, and he is “very” fast. I really don’t have any idea how I was able to take in the details that I did. My mind was literally reeling for hours afterwards. Not to mention that I think I was experiencing a pretty intense adrenaline rush just from having the opportunity that I did. I feel like I’m in shock and the details are just muddy. So I “may” have to make some retractions/additions later.
I had such an exciting experience.12-3-12 I had taken my mom to Me & Ed’s just after the lunch rush, so the place was empty. I had taken my remaining pizza to the counter to be boxed up and noticed the guy behind the counter was starting to sheet dough but the infernal dough bin was in the way. Sheer impulse took over and asked him if he was making dough and if I could watch. He seemed pleased by my interest and then good naturedly informed me that he charges a dollar.
He rolled the dough bin from blocking my view and then changed his mind and told me to just come back behind the counter.
The Owner was also there, he came over to ask; “How come you let “her” watch you make dough, but when “I” try, you complain?” he responded with a good natured smile and motioned me to come closer to the bench. So, the Owner found himself a place off to the other side, to watch as well.
I noticed the settings weren't marked on the side of sheeter (single pass), so I have no clue what it was set at. I don’t recall seeing a brand either, I just know it was white like an Acme and smaller than I've seen at RT.
The Manager pointed to the bin of dough behind me and said that it was the dough that had been in the refrigerator overnight. It had a grayish-tan hue, like old dough, but clearly wasn't blown dough because it was highly expanded and covered in somewhat thick gluten strands and air holes. It had a strong but typical fermented aroma.
The Manager already pulled the amount of dough needed for two batches; one was left on the counter while he worked with the other one. (it looked like it was a combination of fresh and scrap.)
The counter was already dusted with flour. The bench flour looked to be unbleached and finely milled, reminiscent of pastry or cake flour. Not like the Mondako “dusting flour” which is somewhat coarse.
The next thing was that he explained that the dough had to be “spanked”.
I had to have the most stupefied
look on my face, but oh well.
He began slapping the dough and explained that it “had to be spanked to be good”. - This might be a good time to mention that he spoke very quickly with a thick Asian accent and he struggled sometimes to find the right word. – They were literally firm, quick, flat handed smacks. At first I thought that this was to slap out any air bubbles, but there weren’t any, so it took me a bit to catch on to what was happening. It “appeared” that the dough was being flattened in the center to thin it (it didn’t require the oomph that the RT dough did.)
My Mom had taken the spot at the customer counter to watch, she said from her view it looked like he was actually slapping where the dough was to be folded and then he did a few in the center. To be honest, my Mom’s view was much farther back and this would have been more obvious from her view.
He dusted the sheet, he wasn’t using “a lot” of flour, it was a couple of 3 finger pinches that he sprinkled over the sheet, then he just quickly swiped his hand over the dough then pushed any excess onto the bench.
The dough was folded right side then the left side into a tri-fold.
Flour was sprinkled at the top of the sheeter, I couldn’t see whether or not this was directly into the moving rollers or just at the shelf close to the rollers.
The Folded dough was rotated 90 degrees and held onto while being ran through the sheeter. The shelf was kinda short. (He said “see, easy, right?”)
The dough wasn’t very long at this point, maybe 2 feet.
The dough was gently pulled so that it laid flat. Manager said “oops “ and pinched at a spot in the dough, it may have been a bubble since there was now a hole that he didn’t patch, but just patted flat
The spanking and flouring of the dough was repeated.
He was really emphasizing the “dough spanking”. Initially I thought this was more for comedic value, but after he kept mentioning it I was beginning to understand that it had some sort of relevance. (My Mom had returned a few days later to ask about it and he said that spanking wasn’t "necessary" …. but helps the dough rise. Mom asked “like kneading” he said “yes”. So your guess is as good as mine on this one.)
He did another sprinkling of flour and another tri-fold. (My memory is a little muddy as to whether or not the sheet was spanked or floured first.)
I mentioned that Me & Ed's crust has lots of layers and asked if it was because of the flour and he said “yes” nodding emphatically.
I’m pretty confident that he didn't change the roller settings, never saw his hands leave the dough. The dough didn’t develop much length until the final sheeting when he picked up the dough draping it over his arms and ran through the sheeter a final time without folding. (I confirmed this with my Mom who had the better view of the adjustment knob, but she also said she was having trouble catching everything, he was so fast.)
Its finished length was about 5-6 ft.
Starting at the right side, the Manger sprinkled on the flour and rubbed it in with very intentional
circular motions that reminded me of a scene from “Karate Kid” and repeated this in the center then finished at the left were I was standing. He followed by wiping away excess flour.
There was no docking at the bench, I don’t even recall a docker, and the crust doesn’t show any signs of being docked. So, I guess it’s not docked.
He grabbed a cutter ring and a bench scraper and cut around the die with the just a tip/corner. The scraps were tossed aside on the bench. The skins were stacked on a pizza pan without “anything” between so I asked if they stuck together. He said that the flour keeps them from sticking or it would be a mess. I pointed to the scraps and asked what they did with those. He said he’d show me. He placed the skins in a clear bag and he said he was taking them to the refrigerator. “see easy right?”
The manager said many times it was "easy" but the owner said that “he makes it look easier than it is”.
The Manager motioned me over to the bench as he grabbed the blob gassy dough, about the size of a volley ball. I’m not confident on that one because it wasn’t degassed and it was pretty slack. It also wasn’t weighed. I actually didn’t see a scale anywhere, but there might have been one in the back with the mixer.
I asked if that was the fresh dough and he confirmed.
I can’t recall how this came up, but he explained that the scraps will sheet much better than the fresh dough. He said the scraps make better dough. Boy, was he right. He just stretched the fresh dough to I dunno maybe 15 inches.. and plopped it on the counter and sprinkled it well with flour. The dough didn't resist not one bit. It acted like a high hydration dough, which was really messing with my mind. It reminded me a lot of the “batter method” yeast dough I use for doughnuts. He ran it through the sheeter and it really wasn’t pretty. It was dimply and blobby. "See?" he said.
He grabbed the scraps and kinda pressed them into a rectangle floured and ran that through the sheeter. "Much better huh?" It made a nice smooth sheet.
The fresh dough was laid on top of scrap dough with short ends tucked under the scrap, floured and sheeted.
He said that it didn’t matter which was on top (but I disagree. The scrap on bottom is going to be drier and crisp up better. Having the fresh dough on top at the sauce level would account for the moist doughier layer)
Then the whole thing was repeated as above.
This is where my dough sheeting lesson ended and conversation started with the Owner on the history.
We had to step out of the Mangers way, as he never stopped working. He asked if I wanted to see how it was baked, informed it would cost me another dollar as he opened the oven door and slid it into the oven with the pizza peel. “That’s it!”
::::::::::::: Making a standard pizza :::::::::::::
Skins do not look like there any rise at all and I believe they come straight from the refrigerator to the make station.
Corn meal on a wooden/gypsum type Pizza paddle
When they are making the pizza, they spread out a layer of cornmeal before laying the dough down.
Corn Meal is somewhere between coarse and medium.
Cups are used to portion the Toppings/cheese
::::::::::::: The oven :::::::::::::
The oven is stated as being exclusive to Me & Ed’s.
As a matter of fact, the brand embossing on the side of the oven Says “Me & Ed’s” which I don’t believe I have ever seen before.
Top and Bottom Decks were set to 550F
Despite the cornmeal, it looks like the skins occasionally stick to the fire brick and they have a scraping tool to help it release.
They also use a bubble popper.
The bottom crust stays crispy for an extraordinary amount of time. Even when it is in a box for delivery. There is nothing in the box to prevent it from steaming the crust soft either. But it softens by the next day.