Author Topic: Donatos Pizza - anyone got a recipe?  (Read 54928 times)

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Offline Wazatron

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Donatos Pizza - anyone got a recipe?
« on: February 20, 2006, 10:35:31 PM »
Hi all - I’m originally from Columbus, Ohio the home of Donato’s Pizza.  For me, Donato’s is just the best pizza there is.  They’ve franchised since (for a brief and ugly time were owned by McDonalds – thank goodness McD’s sold back to the original owner who quickly restored the quality) and are now throughout the midwest.  However…

I now live in Denver, and there’s just NOTHING out here that is remotely similar to Donato’s pizza.  I would love to be able to make my own Donato’s out here, but just have no idea where to start.  I’ve searched the forums here and there’s only one mention of Donatos, so I might be out of luck here too!

Anyhow, for those who have never had or heard of Donato’s it’s basically a very thin and crispy crust – but not brittle, like cracker crust.  It has a slight chewyness to it.  The big thing is that the toppings go “edge to edge”, leaving no ring of crust – just more pizza!! They use their own family recipe for both sausage and pizza sauce.  I’m not worried about trying to duplicate the sausage, but the sauce is definitely something that could make or break a good Donato’s Style pizza.

Anyhow, I thought I’d take a crap shoot to see if there were any other Donato’s fans out there, and to see if anyone had any Donato’s recipes that they have tried. 

Thanks all!


Offline Flagpull

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Re: Donatos Pizza - anyone got a recipe?
« Reply #1 on: February 20, 2006, 10:46:10 PM »
Hehe....

I have a similar post in the "American" Forum.

I too am from Columbus but thankfully there is one of the newer franchises about an hour from me in the Philadelphia area.

Trust me, it is still as good as it used to be.


The only "secret" I know is that they use provolone cheese....BUT I DO HAVE HOPE FOR US WAZZATRON!

I e-mailed Donatos to see if they would ship me sauce/dough/ingredients, and, of course they do not.

The guy did say to keep checking the website as SOON they will be shipping pizzas! Woo!


Offline Wazatron

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Re: Donatos Pizza - anyone got a recipe?
« Reply #2 on: February 20, 2006, 10:52:53 PM »
haha - yeah! I'm not alone!!  I email them every month begging them to build a franchise out here.  ;D  No luck, of course.  Every time I go back home I eat there almost every day too. 

I've been looking over the thin-crust forums, and there's definately some good stuff out there to try... but we'll see.

And for shipping their pizzas... hopefully they'll ship out to Denver!!   :-D YES!!!!!
« Last Edit: February 20, 2006, 10:54:39 PM by Wazatron »

Offline RedGreene

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Re: Donatos Pizza - anyone got a recipe?
« Reply #3 on: March 08, 2006, 01:18:49 PM »
I love Donato's pizza.  I will be making trip to Columbus in a few weeks for the State basketball tournament and will definitely make a stop at Donatos.

Offline elsegundo

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Re: Donatos Pizza - anyone got a recipe?
« Reply #4 on: March 08, 2006, 11:53:28 PM »
If you can send a picture of Donatos pizza it would help. My suspicion is you have a laminated dough that has little yeast. Please post a picture when you can.  thanks.

Offline Wazatron

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Re: Donatos Pizza - anyone got a recipe?
« Reply #5 on: March 13, 2006, 01:35:26 PM »
I've asked a friend to take some close-up pictures the next time he has Donato's (he's still in Columbus) so I will post what I get from him whenever he gets them sent to me.

My profile pic is Donato's, but that's of course not all that detailed. :)


(here's another from their website)
« Last Edit: March 13, 2006, 02:13:15 PM by Wazatron »

Offline Wazatron

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Re: Donatos Pizza - anyone got a recipe?
« Reply #6 on: June 26, 2006, 01:05:31 PM »
Hello again - elsegundo hopefully you're still roaming around out there, as I was finally able to get back to Columbus and get some Donatos pizza! I took plenty of pictures, and will post a few here.

I also tried to do more research into Donatos and here's what I found out. Actually, here's a quote I found about the dough:

"Grote's father, a butcher, created a special sausage recipe, and his mother made the dough. The pizza dough is still made from the original family recipe, using milk and eggs."

I've seen eggs mentioned in various posts here, but most people seem to think they're not important with the right flour. At any rate, I haven't seen any that use milk and eggs. I will say that it makes sense - the dough has does crisp up real nice, especially around the thin-thin edges and still maintains a slightly chewy texture.

They also use a specially designed warming cabinet which lets the yeast rise properly in a temperature- and humidity-controlled environment. They also use a conveyor oven system on (I believe) perforrated pizza disks.

So that's that! elsegundo if you're able to reply and help me out I would be forever grateful to you! I would absolutely love to be able to make a Donatos style pizza out here in Denver and satisfy my home-grown cravings more than 1-2 times a year!

If you'd like any other pictures or have any other questions please let me know!

Offline scott r

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Re: Donatos Pizza - anyone got a recipe?
« Reply #7 on: June 26, 2006, 02:06:08 PM »
Wow, that looks a lot like the sir pizza I grew up with in Pittsburgh.  I always knew there was something special with the crust.  Maybe Donatos is a similar recipe?  I think Pizza king is also similar, as it is supposed to have some connection to Sir pizza.

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Re: Donatos Pizza - anyone got a recipe?
« Reply #8 on: June 26, 2006, 02:24:19 PM »
Wazatron,

Maybe you have seen this thread, http://www.pizzamaking.com/forum/index.php/topic,1872.msg16506.html#msg16506, but there is discussion at that thread of using both milk and eggs in a pizza dough, including a link to a Correll dough recipe that calls for using both milk (in dry form) and eggs. Usually the objection to using eggs is because of cross contamination concerns. That's a problem that is unique to commercial operations and shouldn't concern you in a home setting.

From the photos you posted, I would guess that a sheeter or press of some sort is being used because of the absence of a pronounced rim. I would also guess that, from the round "spots" on the bottom of the crust, a perforated pizza disk is being used. Do you know whether a sheeter or press is being used? Also, do you know at what point in the production of the dough the proofing equipment is used? And whether the dough is docked at any point? Do you know if the dough is being cold fermented in a cooler, as opposed to room temperature?

You mentioned that the crust is crispy at the edges and also chewy. Can you describe other characteristics of the finished crust--textural, flavor, sweetness, saltiness, etc.? I would guess that Donatos is using a baker's grade dry milk and eggs that may be in a form other than fresh. Do you know offhand whether fresh eggs are being used?

The key to reverse engineering any pizza dough is to get as much information as possible, no matter how trivial. It's like solving a puzzle. Without enough pieces of information, it is extremely difficult to replicate the target product.

Peter

« Last Edit: July 28, 2006, 05:14:47 PM by Pete-zza »

Offline Wazatron

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Re: Donatos Pizza - anyone got a recipe?
« Reply #9 on: June 26, 2006, 06:50:23 PM »
As usual, thanks for the great info Pete!

I'll try to do some more research into their process, get back in touch with my friend who used to work there.

As for the crust, the bottom is crisp enough that the pieces hold their shape pretty well, as opposed to being floppy. The edges get dark enough to snap/crisp, though the overall crust is not flaky/crackery at all - no crust-crumblies when you're done. There's definitely a strong cornmeal texture/taste though I've never been able to really tell if it's in the dough or just padded into the crust on the bottom - you can see it peppered on the crust in the picture of the bottom-side of the slice (d2.jpg).

I would say it's more on the sweet/cornmeal side of taste - definitely not a bread-like flavor at all. It's hard to equate something else that it would be like... my repository of pizza descriptors isn't very big. :) I'd almost say English muffin like (crisp crust, spongy/soft interior), though without any big air pockets or holes. I don't think I've ever had a pie there with any sort of bubbles or air pockets/holes. Very flat and smooth sheet of crust.

For such a thin pizza it has some amazing contrasts in textures with each bite, which is one of the reasons why I think their crust is so good.

I’m also pretty sure it’s docked (mostly due to no big bubbles ever), and you can kind of see that in the texture of the dough with the ingredients pulled off (d4.jpg).

Again, thanks for your help and I’ll keep doing some research. Maybe other Donatos fans will see the post again and help me describe it as well!!

« Last Edit: June 26, 2006, 06:59:55 PM by Wazatron »


Online Pete-zza

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Re: Donatos Pizza - anyone got a recipe?
« Reply #10 on: June 26, 2006, 07:52:03 PM »
Wazatron,

Can you taste either the eggs or the milk products in the Donatos crust? I'm betting that they are using frozen pasteurized eggs and dry milk products. I think it would be impractical, especially in a chain as large as Donatos, to use completely fresh eggs and milk, not only because of cross contamination issues but because the potential for problems and miscues is high if you have to rely on low-cost labor to make the dough. Fresh eggs and milk are just too tricky to handle.

In both cases--eggs and milk--there has to be a threshhold value relative to the weight of flour to be able to detect them in the finished crust. That is why I asked the question above about being able to detect an egg or milk taste in the finished crust. If you can't taste them, then one has to wonder why Donato's hypes them at their website and just about everywhere else. Maybe it's a promotion gimmick to make it seem that they have differentiated their pizzas from everyone else.

Eggs and milk products are also a pain to deal with in the oven because they cause so much browning, and quickly, especially when accompanied by sugar. As you may have noted in the thread I linked you to, it's hard to get both crispiness in the crust and softness in the middle without excessive crust coloration. You might check with your contact, but I think the skins are sheeted or pressed, docked, put on dark pizza disks, put in the proofer, and sauced, cheesed and topped to order, and then baked. The proofing would allow the dough to become gassy and look to the oven more like an insulator and, with a long, low-temperature bake (say, 425-450 degrees F), could develop the crispy crust yet retain some softness in the middle. That could account for the "English muffin" characteristics you mentioned, without being flaky or cracker-ish or having irregular-shaped/sized holes. The crust would also be firm, and not floppy.

I believe Donatos is using conveyor ovens from Lincoln. Trying to replicate in a home oven what is done in a Lincoln conveyor oven with an egg- and milk-based dough formulation is a challenge in itself.

It would be useful to determine whether there is any corn meal used, either in the dough or applied externally in some way. I would think it would be messy to work with corn meal in a disk/conveyor setup.

Good luck with your sleuthing.

Peter
« Last Edit: September 07, 2006, 10:15:58 PM by Pete-zza »

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Re: Donatos Pizza - anyone got a recipe?
« Reply #11 on: June 27, 2006, 08:36:29 PM »
Wazatron,

Following up on my last post, I did some research to see what else I might find about Donatos' dough and procedures. I found this post, http://www.pmq.com/cgi-bin/tt/index2.cgi/read/6896, in the PMQ Think Tank archives, and it seems to support several of my points on how one would make the pizzas. The notion of using ring-like cutters to cut the skins to size (7", 12" and 14") seems logical, and is the way, in fact, that Round Table does it (see Reply 5 at http://www.pizzamaking.com/forum/index.php/topic,1911.msg17492.html#msg17492).

My research turned up very little about using cornmeal in a conveyor environment using screens or disks, so this leads me to believe that the corn meal is rolled or pressed into the dough somehow. I also learned that the skins are pre-sauced and cheesed in advance of a rush of orders, and that the ovens that have been used in the past are the E-Flow and Lincoln. (See http://www.pmq.com/mag/2002fall/donatos.shtml.) E-Flow was bought by Lincoln, so it is not clear which ovens are now being used. In a home oven environment, you would have to use either a screen or disk to bake a Donatos dough/pizza clone.

Peter
« Last Edit: July 28, 2006, 05:17:52 PM by Pete-zza »

Offline Wazatron

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Re: Donatos Pizza - anyone got a recipe?
« Reply #12 on: June 27, 2006, 09:28:09 PM »
Hi there Pete - thanks for the info! I also have some information that I was able to find out with research.
Based on their nutrition guide the list of ingredients for the dough is:
Bleached flour (malted barley flour, potassium bromate), water, eggs, vegetable oil(soybean oil with lecithin, sorbic acid, TBHQ (antioxidant not to exceed 0.02%)), salt, maltodextrin, whey solids, nonfat dry milk, sugar, yeast, sodium metabisulfite (dough conditioner), modified food starch, cornmeal.

So yeah, not much corn meal at all. I'm also not really sure what some of the "commercial" ingrediants do/are for or how to replicate them at home (TBHQ, maltodextrin, metabisulfite, etc).

A few other things that stick out to me:
"Bleached Flour" - woudl that just be AP? Different flour types are obviously so crucial to the finished product I woudln't know where to start with that.
Actually, I suppose a number of things stick out at this point, mostly due to not seeing them in many recipes - modified food starch, whey solids, etc.

This certainly will be challening but with everything I see here I'm excited! Thanks for pointing out those posts as well - I'm going to start scouring for a dough recipe to start with and then build/modify based on the results. Any additional help on making sense of the ingredients and forumlating a recipe based on everything we know would, of course, be super appreciated!

I'm also in Denver wich is, of course, over 5,000 ft in elevation which I know can affect baking quite a bit.

Thanks for everyone for their help, especially you Pete (go figure!!  :D)!!!! Getting closer!!

« Last Edit: June 27, 2006, 09:38:06 PM by Wazatron »

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Re: Donatos Pizza - anyone got a recipe?
« Reply #13 on: June 27, 2006, 11:14:09 PM »
Wazatron,

That's great information and will move the ball down the field a lot. The first thing I would do is strip away all the additives and preservatives from the list of ingredients. Many of the additives and preservatives are to be able to create a product that can be formulated and shipped to different Donatos locations or their commissaries and be easy and safe to use in a normal store environment. You shouldn't need them in a home environment, and even if you wanted to use them you wouldn't be able to get them in user-friendly quantities anyway.

You may not be aware of this, but, under law, the ingredients are required to be specified by their predominance in the total ingredients list, on the basis of weight. This will make it easier to come up with a dough formulation. If we strip away the additives and preservatives for the purposes of a home application, we are left with bleached/bromated flour, water, eggs, vegetable oil, salt, whey solids, nonfat dry milk, sugar, yeast, and cornmeal. It's hard to say whether the flour is all-purpose flour or not. It could be bread flour also. But the reason for the flour being bromated is now quite obvious to me. It is because of the proofing of the skins. Bromates strengthen the dough and allows it to retain its volume better during proofing, just before the bake. I think I would start with all-purpose flour and see if that does the trick. As for some of the other ingredients, I would use whole fresh eggs in lieu of pasteurized eggs, simply because of availability of the fresh eggs, maybe a light olive oil or canola oil in lieu of the soybean oil, and instant dry yeast (IDY) because of its convenience.

What we are still missing is some of the production details. It now seems to me that the skins may be formed by running dough through a sheeter (I assume only once, not several times as is done at Round Table) and cutting the skins out using a ring-like cutter, one for each size of skin. If docking is used, the docking can be done before the skins are cut or possibly after the skins are cut. The skins could then be put on perforated disks and allowed to proof in a high-temperature, high-humidity environment. For our purposes, there would be no need to pre-sauce or pre-cheese. Somewhere along the way, possibly on the work bench, corn meal is worked into the dough. Any clarification on these aspects of dough management would be most helpful. It would also be nice to know if the dough is a same-day dough or a cold fermented dough. Either should work but the ingredient quantities will vary depending on the approach used.

Is there any particular size of pizza that you are interested in making? Ultimately, size won't matter if we are able to come up with a workable formulation because we should have the baker's percents to work with to come up with other sizes. If your contact can provide any correspondences between dough weights/skin weights and pizza sizes, that would also be a big help. I tend to think that Donato's makes their skins like Round Table does, in which case that type of information may not exist at the worker level. The two most important pieces of information that would be needed or be of greatest value in coming up with a dough formulation are the weight of a skin (any skin) and the corresponding pizza size. Otherwise, a fair amount of experimentation may be required.

Peter
« Last Edit: July 13, 2006, 06:24:40 PM by Pete-zza »

Offline Wazatron

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Re: Donatos Pizza - anyone got a recipe?
« Reply #14 on: June 28, 2006, 08:26:00 PM »
Well I was able to talk to my friend, and he wasn't able to answer a lot of the questions. Donatos, as I'm sure many places, tries to keep as much of the "process" out of the hands of the workers.  This is what he was able to tell me:

"We didn't make the dough onsite at Donatoes, it was shipped in and stored in a freezer. Then we put them in a special sort of de-thawing device. The dough was on cylinderical, perforated trays. The dough rose (not much) when cooked. "

Sounds like all the forming of the crusts was done offsite and they got them all ready to go on the trays - sounds like an expensive way to operate?

Online Pete-zza

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Re: Donatos Pizza - anyone got a recipe?
« Reply #15 on: June 28, 2006, 09:51:09 PM »
Wazatron,

I'm not at all surprised by the way things are done at Donatos. Many of the bigger chains do similar things, but often the dough that is delivered to individual store locations is fresh dough, not frozen. It does make sense to centralize the dough making at Donatos because of their unique dough formulation, especially the use of eggs. To the best of my knowledge, no major pizza chain uses eggs in its dough formulations, and I wouldn't be the least bit surprised to learn that Donatos is the only one of any consequence to do so.

In looking at the ingredients list, eggs show up fairly high in the rank ordering of ingredients. Since Donatos makes a point in its promotional materials about using eggs, I would think that maybe the eggs can be detected in the dough, either the actual taste or a "richness" that comes from using the eggs, much like eggs in a brioche or a challah bread. Can you actually "taste" the eggs? If you can, then that means the eggs represent at least 5% of the weight of flour used in the dough formulation. Knowing the answer to that question will help establish the rough percentages for some of the other ingredients.

The dry milk powder is farther down the ingredients list and appears to be at levels that would be undetectable in the crust from a flavor standpoint. It should help with the crust browning, but compared with the eggs, whey solids and sugar, its contribution to browning should be slight.

One matter that still puzzles me is how and when the skins are proofed. They can't be proofed on screens because the dough would seep into the crevices of the screens, so that means that disks may be used. But, even then, I think the disks would have to be solid, or else there is something else used during proofing.

Peter
« Last Edit: July 28, 2006, 05:46:31 PM by Pete-zza »

Offline Wazatron

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Re: Donatos Pizza - anyone got a recipe?
« Reply #16 on: June 28, 2006, 10:43:57 PM »
I've been hesitant to outright say you can taste the egg to make sure I'm not just saying it to say it, or remember tasting egg because I want to remember tasting egg... but I must say that yeah, you can taste egg. It's not so much an "eggy" flavor, but there's a definite richness and dairy-type taste that I haven't tasted in any other dough, which makes sense if so few places use eggs. One of the reasons why I've always liked them so much is their incredibly unique flavor and texture to the dough, and in thinking about it I can really only attribute that to eggs - especially after all the various recipes I've tried here at home from this wonderful website.

I wish I could add more insight into the proofing, but aside from continued web scouring (which I've done a lot of already! :) ) I'm pretty much out of resources. It might be trial and error time on my part! ha!

I must say, this is very exciting!  :-D  :pizza:

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Re: Donatos Pizza - anyone got a recipe?
« Reply #17 on: June 28, 2006, 11:03:31 PM »
Wazatron,

What can you tell us about the sauce, like ingredients, whether it is thick or thin, sweet, distinctive, bland, etc. My recollection from the Donatos website is that the only cheese used on their pizzas is Provolone. Is that correct?

Peter
« Last Edit: July 13, 2006, 06:26:06 PM by Pete-zza »

Offline Wazatron

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Re: Donatos Pizza - anyone got a recipe?
« Reply #18 on: June 28, 2006, 11:23:56 PM »
As for the sauce, the ingredients are (from the same source as the dough):

Tomato paste, water, sugar, salt, citric acid, xanthan gum, aquaresin paprika, basil, ground basil.

I think that aquaresin paprika is simply a pre-liquefied form of paprika – is that correct?

It is a much thicker sauce than most pizzas have and it is distinctly sweet, but not overbearingly so.

And yes, they use 100% provolone cheese. It has a sharper flavor and a slightly higher fat content than mozzarella.

I read a couple online reviews of Donatos which I thought might help. They were actually two negative reviews, but I understand what they were saying based on their expectations.

One review said the ‘za was pretty greasy. I’ve never thought it was overly greasy, and have had many greasier pizzas, but if you get the “original” then it’ll definitely be greasy. The big claim-to-fame on the Original pizza is that they use over 100 peperonis on each pizza. Add to that a higher fat content cheese and you’re going to have a nice greasy pizza, there's just no way around that!  >:D

One person described it as “undercooked” which again, I could see that description coming from someone expecting a crisp bread-like thin crust. This review kind of re-enforces the egg content and what I was saying earlier about a soft spongy middle while maintaining a crisp and brown crust/bottom.

It defiantly seems to be the kind of pizza that you either really really love (me, haha) or really hate and never get the fascination.

Other “noteworthy” ingredients.
The pepperoni always stood out, though I’m such a newbie at recognizing pepperoni types I couldn’t begin to say what it was like. The pictures probably give a better description than I could. I do know they buy their pepperoni from a 3rd party vendor. Though I guess it would be pretty dern tough making your own. Ha.

They always use fresh mushrooms, which is awesome compared to many places who use rubbery canned ‘shrooms.

The sausage is also great – large chunks made from another “homemade” recipe of the Grote family. I haven’t spent much time thinking about the sausage at this point, figuring that could always come later.

Most of the other ingredients seemed pretty standard.
« Last Edit: June 28, 2006, 11:27:03 PM by Wazatron »

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Re: Donatos Pizza - anyone got a recipe?
« Reply #19 on: June 29, 2006, 12:29:56 PM »
Wazatron,

It stands to reason that the Donatos sauce would be thick, especially if skins are to be pre-sauced. Otherwise, the sauce could migrate into the dough and form a gum line. The Aquaresin paprika is a liquid version of paprika that, from what I learned from a Google search, is apparently used in sauces primarily for color.

Peter
« Last Edit: July 13, 2006, 06:26:37 PM by Pete-zza »