Author Topic: Mellow Mushroom Pizza found in Atlanta and surroundin areas...Recipes?  (Read 223183 times)

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Online Pete-zza

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Re: Mellow Mushroom Pizza found in Atlanta and surroundin areas...Recipes?
« Reply #25 on: August 15, 2011, 08:23:28 PM »
Biz,

As a veteran of many reverse engineering and cloning projects, I think that, absent insider information, you cannot realistically reverse engineer and clone a commercial dough/pizza in a reasonable time frame without numbers. Numbers means weights, dimensions, nutrition information and ingredients lists from which the pecking order of the ingredients, by weight, can be ascertained. Concentrating on flavors and color is subjective in nature and, in the abstract, can mean endless experiments to achieve the desired end results. Moreover, flavors and color are largely a function of the precise ingredients used. Often these ingredients are not available to the average home consumer at the retail level. The best marriage is to come as close as possible on the dough formulation and the ingredients actually used to make the dough and the rest of the pizza that is to be cloned.

On the matter of the flour, when I researched that specific ingredient in the context of the MM dough, I saw references to the flour being 1) a high gluten flour, 2) a Vitamin E enriched high gluten flour with wheat germ, and 3) whole wheat flour. I think it is safe to rule out whole wheat flour because, while containing the E Vitamin (alpha tocopherol), and while containing wheat germ and a fairly high protein content (in some cases as high as 15% or more) that can contribute to dough and final crust color, whole wheat flour does not have the gluten forming characteristics of most high protein refined white flours and it cannot yield a dough with the forming, stretching and tossing characteristics as shown in the videos referenced earlier.

Wheat germ by itself, whether raw/crude or toasted, contains a fair amount of Vitamin E (see, for example, the Nutrition Facts for the Kretschmer toasted wheat germ supermarket product at http://www.quakeroats.com/products/more-products-from-quaker/content/cereals/kretschmer-toasted-wheat-germ.aspx). By contrast, regular refined white high gluten flour, while enriched with various B Vitamins, does not contain Vitamin E (see, for example, the specs for the General Mills All Trumps high gluten flour at http://www.gmiflour.com/gmflour/flour.aspx?type=Espring#50121). If the above analysis is correct, then a Vitamin E enriched high gluten flour with wheat germ seems to me to be the most logical combination of ingredients.

As the MM chain expands, it would also be entirely logical and natural for the flour used by the various MM stores to be a blend made especially for MM. It is also possible that, if the molasses is in dry form, it also can be included in the flour blend (actually a pre-mix) along with yeast (if IDY) and salt. In a home environment, you would have to experiment with blends of wheat germ and high gluten flour and molasses and introduce the yeast and salt in the normal manner.

The increased dough coloration that some writers mentioned can come from the wheat germ and the molasses used by MM in its doughs. Since the MM red sauces do not contain added sugar (there are natural sugars in the tomatoes used to make the sauces, however, and small amounts in mozzarella cheese), this is one of those instances where having the Nutrition Facts for the MM dough would give us a rough idea as to how much molasses is likely to be used in the dough. It would help, of course, to know whether the molasses is in liquid or dry form since that can also affect the math.

Malt, both in liquid and in dry form, and nondiastatic in nature, has been used before in commercial doughs. A good example is the early Sbarro NY style pizza dough. I have used the liquid form of malt and it will add color to both the unbaked dough and the final crust and crumb. If liquid malt can have that effect, then molasses should have a similar effect. I would stick with the molasses for your experiments.

Peter

EDIT (4/15/14): For the most recent link to the GM All Trumps flour, see http://professionalbakingsolutions.com/product/all-trumps-enriched-flour-50-lb/50111000

EDIT (9/1/14): For the Wayback Machine version of the Kretchmer item, see http://web.archive.org/web/20120106133435/http://www.quakeroats.com/products/more-products-from-quaker/content/cereals/kretschmer-toasted-wheat-germ.aspx



Offline Biz Markie

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Re: Mellow Mushroom Pizza found in Atlanta and surroundin areas...Recipes?
« Reply #26 on: August 15, 2011, 10:50:47 PM »
As a veteran of many reverse engineering and cloning projects, I think that, absent insider information, you cannot realistically reverse engineer and clone a commercial dough/pizza in a reasonable time frame without numbers.

Totally agree. . . I was just sayin that I don't know if I'm capable of truly reverse engineering this sucker, though it does sound like fun.  

Is it the case that without detailed nutritional information we can't really make progress outside of trial and error subjectivity?

I'd be willing to get an MM pie for laboratory purposes but sounds like it wouldn't do a whole lot to help the cause without knowing more about what's in the thing.

In the meantime, thanks for the additional info and logical deductions based on what we do know at this point.

(Coincidentally, I made some poolish baguettes from BBA tonight and it seemed that they almost had an MM taste to them.  The recipe uses finely sifted whole wheat flour - an approximation of clear flour.  Not sure if this was a fluke or due to the Germ/Vitamin E type of thing we've discussed.  I should also point out it's been a while since I've had an MM pie so my memory may be off.  Either way,  I agree that MM definitely doesn't use all whole wheat flour, but I have seen it postulated that a small % may be used.)

Online Pete-zza

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Re: Mellow Mushroom Pizza found in Atlanta and surroundin areas...Recipes?
« Reply #27 on: August 16, 2011, 10:12:35 AM »
I was just sayin that I don't know if I'm capable of truly reverse engineering this sucker, though it does sound like fun. 

Is it the case that without detailed nutritional information we can't really make progress outside of trial and error subjectivity?

I'd be willing to get an MM pie for laboratory purposes but sounds like it wouldn't do a whole lot to help the cause without knowing more about what's in the thing.

Biz,

Having nutrition information is helpful although by itself is not as useful as one might think because nutrition information can be hard to analyze and there are a lot of quirky things about nutrition facts and the way that that information is created (mostly using specialized software for this purpose). My preferred combination for reverse engineering and cloning purposes is having an ingredients list and nutrition information. Also very helpful is actual pizza data such as the weight of the target pizza and its size (diameter), thickness, number of pepperoni slices, estimated amounts of sauce and cheese, etc., since these help define the physical characteristics of the pizza. Specific brands of ingredients is also good to know, since that also helps define the ultimate dough formulation and final pizza configuration. Unless MM has changed things since they have expanded their scope of operations, I think we pretty much know the ingredients used to make the dough--flour (most likely high gluten flour with wheat germ), spring water (or its equivalent), molasses, salt, yeast and oil. It would be helpful to know whether the MM dough is a same-day dough fermented at room temperature or cold fermented since that should help us determine how much yeast to use. If MM makes its doughs in its stores, that information might be obtainable from workers in the stores.

I might add that I did not intend that you personally do the reverse engineering and cloning of a target MM pizza. I am willing to help you with this to the extent that I am able. I am handicapped because I have never had an MM pizza to be able to analyze it and, hence, have to rely on others who have had such a pizza to tell me if a clone is successful and, if not, why not. Perhaps other members who have played around with MM clones may be able to add something to the effort. What I have in mind at the end of the exercise is an MM clone dough formulation with baker's percents, ingredients, etc., for you to test and experiment with. I am not big on just running one experiment after another testing one thing after another hoping to hit paydirt. That is far too much like work, and is not fun for me.

Peter

Offline Biz Markie

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Re: Mellow Mushroom Pizza found in Atlanta and surroundin areas...Recipes?
« Reply #28 on: August 16, 2011, 11:05:35 AM »
Ahh yep. . . I follow you. 

I think i'd like to start by visiting a store and seeing what kind of info I can gain from them, if any.

Then perhaps I'll get the "lab pie" so we can take some measurements, etc.

I suppose I'll keep you posted!  In the meantime maybe some other members will come up with some info.

Offline wucactus1

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Re: Mellow Mushroom Pizza found in Atlanta and surroundin areas...Recipes?
« Reply #29 on: August 17, 2011, 11:17:15 AM »
mellow sells dough balls...small is $3 and medium $4.  The dough actually comes in balled and frozen, in one day batches.  No effort is put in to keeping them at a consistant temp throughout the day as well...

Offline Biz Markie

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Re: Mellow Mushroom Pizza found in Atlanta and surroundin areas...Recipes?
« Reply #30 on: August 17, 2011, 01:45:40 PM »
mellow sells dough balls...small is $3 and medium $4.  The dough actually comes in balled and frozen, in one day batches.  No effort is put in to keeping them at a consistant temp throughout the day as well...

Holy Toledo, Batman!!   :o

How did you come across this info?  Do you work there?

I did call my local MM and at first the girl was like "hmmm I don't think so" but she went and asked and sure enough, they do sell the dough.

She quoted prices of $4 for small, $6 for medium, and $8 for large.  She said they are kept at room temp, as you stated.

I tried to get a little more info out of her by asking if the dough they use in the restaurant is made fresh or arrives frozen in balls.  She said "a little of both."  I didn't want to press the issue so left it at that.

Pete - where does this put us for our reverse engineering project?  I would think this is a quantum leap forward!  Maybe I could get some ingredient/nutritional info when purchasing a ball . ..

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Re: Mellow Mushroom Pizza found in Atlanta and surroundin areas...Recipes?
« Reply #31 on: August 17, 2011, 01:49:14 PM »
She quoted prices of $4 for small, $6 for medium, and $8 for large.

 :o :o :o :o

$8 for a dough ball?!? What the...

Offline Biz Markie

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Re: Mellow Mushroom Pizza found in Atlanta and surroundin areas...Recipes?
« Reply #32 on: August 17, 2011, 02:25:12 PM »
:o :o :o :o

$8 for a dough ball?!? What the...

Yeah, not sure if you've got MM in your neck of the woods, but their pies are REALLY pricey. .. like $20 bucks for a large House Special.

But maaaaannnnnn they're tasty.

Online Pete-zza

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Re: Mellow Mushroom Pizza found in Atlanta and surroundin areas...Recipes?
« Reply #33 on: August 17, 2011, 02:37:55 PM »
I did call my local MM and at first the girl was like "hmmm I don't think so" but she went and asked and sure enough, they do sell the dough.

She quoted prices of $4 for small, $6 for medium, and $8 for large.  She said they are kept at room temp, as you stated.

I tried to get a little more info out of her by asking if the dough they use in the restaurant is made fresh or arrives frozen in balls.  She said "a little of both."  I didn't want to press the issue so left it at that.

Pete - where does this put us for our reverse engineering project?  I would think this is a quantum leap forward!  Maybe I could get some ingredient/nutritional info when purchasing a ball . ..

Biz,

I did a Google search and was able to confirm that there are MM stores that do sell dough balls. I also saw a piece at http://thecriticalelephant.blogspot.com/2007/04/downtown-athens-eating-tavern-at-arch.html that confirms that MM uses frozen dough balls, at least in some stores. Using frozen dough balls is becoming quite common, including in some pizza chains. For example, Pizza Hut has been using frozen dough in its stores for several years, and Donatos has been using frozen dough it its stores for some time. There are also many independent pizza operators--more than most people know--that also use frozen dough balls, from places like Lamonica's (which ships all around the country, including to the Costco pizza food courts) and Rich's, to name just a couple such outfits that make frozen pizza dough balls. It would help to know where MM is getting its frozen dough balls. Some chains use commissaries to make dough balls for several stores but you usually need enough stores to justify a commissary. Some pizza operators contract with local sources for its dough needs. There is no reason why the dough balls can't be fresh or frozen. However, the big commercial frozen dough ball companies use very expensive equipment for flash freezing dough balls that have a window of usability of up to six months.

Being able to purchase a dough ball from MM might help to compare with a dough ball that you might make. But not all chains have Nutrition Facts for their pizzas. For example, Buddy's, a small regional pizza chain in the Detroit metro area, put up a web page for that purpose at http://www.buddyspizza.com/nutrition.asp, but when I emailed them to find out when that information would be available I was told that it was not imminent. I was hoping to use that information to analyze the Buddy's pizzas. If MM doesn't already have Nutrition Facts or similar information for its pizzas, you aren't going to get anything from MM store workers.

Peter


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Re: Mellow Mushroom Pizza found in Atlanta and surroundin areas...Recipes?
« Reply #34 on: August 17, 2011, 05:27:45 PM »
Following up on my last post, I did some more searching and found photos apparently taken at the MM in Nashville, TN and showing what appears to be dough making commissary, at photos 43-46 at http://www.mobile.mellowmushroom.com/nashville/gallery/show/photo/108777623450#/store/gallery/nashville/show/photo/108777593450. In photo 44, one can see bags of flour at bottom left of the photo. Note also the large containers of spring water in photo 54. MM has ten stores in TN. So, maybe MM does use a commissary business model. That would allow them to make and ship both frozen and fresh dough balls to their stores.

It also looks like the set of photos at flickr at http://www.flickr.com/photos/jasongriset/1336195609/in/set-72157601895895177/ and at http://www.flickr.com/photos/tikiloti/3298173733/in/photostream/ contain some photos of the MM dough balls/skins.

Peter

EDIT (9/13/14): Since the above links no longer work, and were not archived at the Wayback Machine, some of the photos mentioned above can be seen starting at Reply 278 at http://www.pizzamaking.com/forum/index.php?topic=3940.msg155911#msg155911 and starting at Reply 1410 at http://www.pizzamaking.com/forum/index.php?topic=3940.msg172823#msg172823; unfortunately, the flickr photos are no longer available and were not archived at the Wayback Machine.

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Re: Mellow Mushroom Pizza found in Atlanta and surroundin areas...Recipes?
« Reply #35 on: August 17, 2011, 06:27:36 PM »
So, maybe MM does use a commissary business model. That would allow them to make and ship both frozen and fresh dough balls to their stores.

MM does use a commissary. According to the last paragraph in the article at http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m3190/is_41_40/ai_n26707254/, MM stores in the Atlanta area get fresh dough balls and all of the other stores outside of that market get frozen dough balls.

Peter

Offline Biz Markie

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Re: Mellow Mushroom Pizza found in Atlanta and surroundin areas...Recipes?
« Reply #36 on: August 17, 2011, 07:05:04 PM »
Wow, Pete!

That's amazing info. thanks so much.

I feel like we're really getting some great info but not really sure how we get at the dough formulation.  I guess other than what we feel are the sure-fire ingredients - HG Flour, Wheat Germ, Molasses, yeast, oil, salt - sans nutrition info or insider info, all we can do is trial and error. . .? 

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Re: Mellow Mushroom Pizza found in Atlanta and surroundin areas...Recipes?
« Reply #37 on: August 17, 2011, 07:09:16 PM »
In the interest of pizza science, there are two nutritional guides that I have seen.  How accurate or where they came from I don't know.

1) http://www.myfitnesspal.com/nutrition-facts-calories/mellow-mushroom
2) http://www.livestrong.com/article/364574-mellow-mushroom-nutrition-guide/?utm_source=popup&utm_medium=1
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Re: Mellow Mushroom Pizza found in Atlanta and surroundin areas...Recipes?
« Reply #38 on: August 17, 2011, 07:40:08 PM »
In the interest of pizza science, there are two nutritional guides that I have seen.  How accurate or where they came from I don't know.

1) http://www.myfitnesspal.com/nutrition-facts-calories/mellow-mushroom
2) http://www.livestrong.com/article/364574-mellow-mushroom-nutrition-guide/?utm_source=popup&utm_medium=1

Gene,

I consider outfits like myfitnesspal.com and livestrong.com to be essentially diet/nutrition "content farms" or "community created content" entities that are created to link people to articles and advertising based on searches and search terms. Not long ago, I discussed how content farms basically operate at Reply 204 at http://www.pizzamaking.com/forum/index.php/topic,13686.msg140103/topicseen.html#msg140103. Often the information is incomplete and not particularly useful as a result. Also, it isn't also always clear what the provenance of the information is. If I am going to spend a lot of time studying and analyzing nutrition information, which I do, I want it to be reliable and from a good source. As it so happens, livestrong.com, which has its fingers in a lot of pies, is affiliated with Demand Media, which is mentioned in the post referenced above.

Thanks anyway for your efforts. I appreciate it.

Peter

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Re: Mellow Mushroom Pizza found in Atlanta and surroundin areas...Recipes?
« Reply #39 on: August 17, 2011, 08:04:48 PM »
I feel like we're really getting some great info but not really sure how we get at the dough formulation.  I guess other than what we feel are the sure-fire ingredients - HG Flour, Wheat Germ, Molasses, yeast, oil, salt - sans nutrition info or insider info, all we can do is trial and error. . .? 

Biz,

I think it is very helpful to understand MM's business model and to know that the dough balls used by MM come in fresh and frozen form. If I had to guess, I would say that the dough formulations for the fresh and frozen dough balls are possibly different, especially with respect to the frozen dough balls. For our purposes, and to simplify matters, I think we should concentrate on the fresh dough balls.

Two pieces of information that would be helpful at this point are the weight of a typical MM baked pizza, for example, a medium (14") pizza, and the corresponding dough ball weight for that pizza size. You get the first piece of information by buying and weighing an MM pizza. The best choice is a plain cheese pizza but a pepperoni pizza is OK too so long as you note the size (diameter) and number of pepperoni slices. You should be able to get the second piece of information (the corresponding dough ball weight) by calling your local MM store. If they are willing to sell dough balls, they should be willing and able to tell you their weights. I would ask them for all of the dough ball weights, not just the one for the 14" pizza. That way, we can see if the thickness factors are the same or different for the different pizza sizes. If the MM store won't give you that information, you can call another MM store to see if you can get the information or just buy a dough ball, such as one for the 14" size. In my experience, the amounts of sauce and cheese used on 14" pizzas, especially for chain pizza, fall within a fairly narrow range and should serve as a good starting point for those ingredients.

With the above information, I think we should be able to come up with a test dough formulation for you to play around with. There is no guarantee that you will achieve the results you are looking for but you have to start somewhere. It is never easy to reverse engineer and clone someone else's pizza in the absence of insider information. To drive home this point, you might check out the NJ Boardwalk Pizza reverse engineering/clone thread at http://www.pizzamaking.com/forum/index.php/topic,9068.0.html. There are currently 738 posts in that thread spread over 37 pages and we still haven't nailed it.

Peter


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Re: Mellow Mushroom Pizza found in Atlanta and surroundin areas...Recipes?
« Reply #40 on: August 29, 2011, 01:00:30 PM »
Biz,

I spent this past weekend in Jacksonville, FL, and on my way to my hotel I came upon a Mellow Mushroom on Jacksonville Beach (http://www.mellowmushroom.com/jacksonvillebeach#/store/index/jacksonvillebeach) or Rte 1A just north of Ponte Vedra. Since it was about lunchtime and I hadn’t yet had lunch, I thought that it would be a perfect time to try a MM pizza and to try to gather more intelligence on the MM style of pizza and hopefully contribute something of value to this thread.

Upon entering the building, I asked to be seated near the ovens where workers were busy making pizzas. Unfortunately, there was a rather tall counter in front of the workers that obscured the bench work but I was able nonetheless to see the workers twirling the skins for the pizzas. There were a series of double deck Blodgett deck ovens behind them, with several workers, all male but for one girl, making the pizzas. I would say that they were of college age. In fact, it appears that many MM stores are near college campuses, giving them access to low-cost labor. That suggests that the MM dough is such as to be capable of being formed into skins and made into pizzas by unskilled labor with modest training since it cannot be expected that college students are likely to be motivated to stay on the job for long. The workers I saw looked like they were actually having a good time, as though they really didn't have jobs. The design of the restaurant was hip and colorful design-wise, with a lot of beer being consumed by diners (MM stores typically have a large selection of beers) and a lot of background music and TVs scattered throughout the store to entertain the diners.

I ordered a 10” (four slices) pepperoni pizza, which is about all that I thought that I could handle given that I was scheduled for a big dinner later that night. It took some time for the pizza to arrive at my table (maybe about a half-hour) but the place was quite busy and I was actually happy for the delay because it gave me more time to watch the workers.

When the pizza arrived, I approached it as though I was performing an autopsy. I examined all of the physical, coloration and textural characteristics of the pizza, and I smelled and tore apart and tugged and stretched the crust and crumb, and tasted all of the components, isolating them for taste purposes as much as I could. Based on the notes I took, here is my critique.

The pizza that I ordered had an exceptionally large rim, actually quite bulbous and considerably larger than any pizza I can recall as having had before in a pizzeria. To begin, the rim was not uniform in height, as is shown, for example, at the various MM websites I visited. Some parts were significantly taller than others, as though the worker who made the pizza had not formed a rim of uniform size and height before dressing and baking. There were a lot of small blisters on the rim. As I reported earlier in this thread, all of the MM stores outside of Atlanta use frozen dough balls. This is also true of the Jacksonville Beach MM location. Frozen dough balls usually contain a lot more yeast than fresh dough (because freezing of the dough kills off some of the yeast) and are more prone to overfermenting, resulting in a rather short period of usability (typically about 2 days for defrosted flash frozen doughs). If I had to guess, I would say that the dough that was used to make my pizza was on the long end of the fermentation cycle and that is why the rim had the profusion of small fermentation blisters. I would actually view that as a good thing because the longer fermentation contributes favorably to the final crust texture, flavor, aroma and taste because of the increased fermentation byproducts.

The rim of the pizza was also quite dense. It was not light and airy, which might have indicated a relatively high hydration. Moving from the rim to the center of the pizza, the crust got thinner but it was also more tender and a little more airy with larger alveoles and maybe a bit on the underbaked side but in a pleasing, satisfying way (for example, it was not pasty or gummy). The color of the top crust of the pizza was a light to medium brown. The bottom crust was considerably darker and it evidenced the use of cornmeal in the formation of the skin. I later learned that the frozen dough balls that are sent out to the MM stores from the MM commissary have some cornmeal on the bottoms of the dough balls. However, I later saw that cornmeal was also on the bench.

The crumb of the crust was a light brown color. I was told later by one of the workers that the color of the crust and crumb (and also for the unbaked dough) was due to the use of molasses. I don’t recall seeing any specks of wheat germ in the crumb but I suppose it is possible that, if actually used, it is processed to reduce its particle size and blended into the main flour (said to be a high gluten flour) so that it is not visible in the finished product. The crust itself was quite chewy. The bottom of the crust itself was not cracker-like or particularly crispy. I was able to bend a slice of the pizza and, upon releasing it, it returned to its original position. There was no permanent crack in the slice. The crust was flexible and pliable.

From a taste standpoint, I could clearly detect sweetness in the finished crust. It was sweeter than the Papa John’s clone pizzas that I have made using around 4-4.5% sugar (table sugar) or versions made using honey at around 5%. I will have more to say on the molasses and other parts of the MM pizza I had below, but I did not find the molasses flavor to be overwhelming in any way. Also I did not find the crust to be overly salty to my palate but the sweetness of the crust may have masqueraded the saltiness to some degree. I understand that the rims of MM pizzas are brushed with butter (I have read that it can be garlic butter) and sprinkled with Parmesan cheese after baking but if the crust of my pizza was buttered, I did not detect the presence or taste of butter (or garlic). On my pizza, there was just a light sprinkling of Parmesan cheese, to the point of almost being undetectible. I love Parmesan cheese, so I would have liked more on my pizza.

I counted 11 pepperoni slices on my 10” pizza. I have read that MM pre-cooks all meats and drains them of excessive fats and oils. I don't know it that is done with pepperoni slices, but I did not detect much in the way of surface fat on the pizza I had.

Overall, I liked the pizza quite a bit. I ate three of the slices and had my server package the remaining slice to take back with me to the hotel. Fortunately, my hotel had a small refrigerator where I was able to hold the final slice to bring back with me to Texas (in an insulated container) to re-taste when I got back home to see if the crust of the slice became tough and whether it retained its sweetness. (As it turned out, the crust did get tougher but the sweetness persisted and the slice reheated well but obviously was not as good as a fresh slice.)

When I was done with my pizza, I approached the work area where the workers were busy making pizzas and struck up a conversation with them. I asked several questions to gauge the depth of the workers' knowledge about the MM dough. It became evident quite quickly that they knew little about the dough balls themselves. However, one of the things I did learn is that the pizzas are baked in the Blodgett deck ovens at 550 degrees F. I was told that the actual bake time varied depending on how many pizzas were in the oven at any given time and how often the oven doors were opened and closed but that the bake time could be as long as 10 minutes. I was also able to see the workers form skins, and I noticed that an effort was made to make a distinct, upstanding rim before stretching and tossing to get the final skin size. (For examples of how this is done, see the videos at and http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3mRNUt4XbdM.) One skin that was formed by the young lady actually developed a hole in it but she quickly patched it and went on to finish dressing the pizza. If one is able to achieve an oven temperature of 550 degrees F, I think there is a reasonable chance of achieving good results in a standard unmodified home oven. This is something I discovered when I made my Papa John's clone pizzas using my basic unmodified electric home oven.

As I was ready to leave the restaurant, another worker happened to join the group and, hearing my discussion with his associates, seemed receptive to answering more of my questions. I told him that I had never seen a pizza dough like theirs before and asked him if he could tell me more about it. He said that the dough was “just a regular dough” using unbleached flour but had molasses in it, which gave the dough and crust its characteristic light brown coloration and taste. When I asked whether the water used to make the dough was reverse osmosis water or something similar, he said no, that it was actually spring water (the pizza boxes themselves say “Spring Water Dough”). He also said he knew the dough ball weights, which he gave to me. Later, I found the costs (pre-tax) of the dough balls, which they do offer for sale at this particular MM. On the way home on the plane, I was able to calculate the thickness factors based on the dough ball weights that were given to me. Here is a summary of the information on the dough balls (pizza size, corresponding dough ball weight, cost and corresponding thickness factors):

10”, 14-16 ounces, $4, TF = 0.17725-0.20372
14”, 24 ounces, $5, TF = 0.15591
16”, 28 ounces, $6, TF = 0.13926

As you can see, there is a wide variation in thickness factor. This is quite wide although it is common to use different thickness factors where multiple pizza sizes are offered. In the case of MM, for example, it is possible, I suppose, that as the pizza size goes up, the thickness factor goes down so that the pizzas bake within a fairly standard period of time irrespective of what goes on the skins. I am also sure that the MM oven tenders learn how to move pizzas in and around the oven to achieve the desired end results. For your purposes, I think I would go with the 14” size. If you decide to purchase a frozen (or fresh) MM dough ball, I'd like to know the weight of the dough ball you purchase to see if the above weights are correct inasmuch as I tend to be skeptical of what workers in stores who are away from where the dough is made tell me (I am a trust and verify type). I may also call an MM store myself to see what answers I get there, if any.

Here is some other information to consider in relation to your clone experiments.

Hydration. Judging from the chewy, fairly dense crust, especially at the rim, I would say that the hydration perhaps isn’t all that high. I would guess around 56-57% or so. I would say that the 550 degrees F bake temperature may help with the oven spring despite a lower hydration value. A relatively low formula hydration value is also perhaps a good idea if relatively inexperienced kids who may not be around for long are to open up dough balls.

Yeast. If I had to guess, I would say that the MM dough is likely to contain a lot of yeast, to assist in producing a good oven spring, especially if the hydration of the MM dough is on the low side as I suspect. Also, as previously noted, frozen dough balls typically contain an excess of yeast, a part of which has to be available when the dough is defrosted (which is typically done overnight in the cooler) to promote some fermentation. About the only fermentation that a frozen dough gets is during defrosting and during the bench warm-up time before using to make pizzas. I don't have any idea of how the fresh doughs are used in the Atlanta-area MMs.

Salt. I did not detect anything in the crust to suggest that the amount of salt in the dough was on either the high or low side. Remember, also, that salt is also imparted to the palate by the sauce, cheese and pepperoni slices. When in doubt, and absent any evidence to the contrary, my practice is to use about 1.75%, and adjust upwardly or downwardly for future efforts based on the final results. A lot of this involves personal preference and how salt levels are perceived on the palate.

Molasses. Since the MM crust was quite sweet, I think I would start with a value of 6%. Molasses is mainly sucrose (about 70%) with the rest being glucose and fructose, which, as simple sugars, are more readily available for the yeast to use as food. Molasses is also said to be less sweet than table sugar. You perhaps don’t want to use too much molasses because that might cause the bottom crust to finish baking prematurely and turn a dark brown or even burn before the rest of the pizza is finished baking. Too much molasses might also be overwhelming from a taste standpoint. However, you want enough to produce the desired degree of sweetness and crust/crumb coloration. Since molasses is about 22% water, as can be calculated from the data at http://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/sweets/5573/2, if you use a liquid molasses, which would be my personal preference over the dried form, it may be necessary to adjust the hydration value to compensate for the water content of the molasses. However, at the single dough ball level, I would not expect the difference to be material but that is something that can be tested. If used at a high enough level, the molasses should also coat the gluten strands and increase the plasticity of the dough and improve dough volume and handling.

The MM Sauce. I found the sauce to have a pleasant sweet tomato-ey flavor. There was some salt in it but it might have been balanced by the overall sweetness of the pizza crust. I did not detect any herbs in the sauce that overwhelmed the natural tomato flavor of the sauce. I thought that the amount of sauce was just right for my taste. According to the article at http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m3190/is_41_40/ai_n26707254/, in the past, at least, it was reported that MM used only fresh-pack tomato products for its pizzas. If that is true today, that usually means fresh-pack tomato products from Stanislaus, Escalon, San Benito or maybe a smaller outfit that sells canned fresh-pack tomato products that are naturally sweet. Generic MM literature frequently states that no refined white sugar is used in their sauces. So, unless a different form of sugar/sweetener is used in the sauce (which I did not detect), the sweetness must be the natural sweetness of the tomatoes themselves. Also, as I noted in Reply 18 at http://www.pizzamaking.com/forum/index.php/topic,3940.msg149648.html#msg149648, at least back in 2003 MM used only tomatoes, spices and water for its pizza sauce. If you can't find fresh-pack tomato products from the above companies, you might try the Pastene Kitchen Ready crushed tomatoes, if they are available to you, or the Wal-Mart crushed tomatoes, with maybe some added sugar to enhance their sweetness, even though they would not be my first choice for this application.

The MM Cheese. It was earlier noted that MM apparently uses a part-skim, low moisture mozzarella cheese (MM refers to the mozzarella cheese they use as being "reduced fat" or "low fat"). When I was researching that part of the MM pizza, I came across a fairly recent post in a yelp review where the owner of a MM in Tempe, AZ said that his store uses a Premium mozzarella cheese from Saputo (see the reply of Jay B. to Ken C. at http://www.yelp.com/biz/mellow-mushroom-tempe?rpp=40&start=40). The Saputo Premium mozzarella is a foodservice product, as noted at http://www.saputousafoodservice.com/Products/CheeseType.aspx?id=31. However, if you look at the bottom of the page just linked, you will see several other brands of mozzarella cheeses produced by Saputo. I have seen the Frigo, Stella and Dragone mozzarella cheeses at the retail level and I think that a low-moisture, part-skim version of any of these cheeses should be an acceptable substitute for the Saputo Premium mozzarella cheese. Saputo also offers a mozzarella cheese brand called Golden State (see Reply 171 at http://www.pizzamaking.com/forum/index.php/topic,14928.msg151772.html#msg151772) but I have not seen it in any store near me. It may be a Left coast brand. I found the amount of cheese used on my pizza to be just right.

Earlier in this thread I made reference to an article at http://www.nbcdfw.com/the-scene/food-drink/Mellow-Mushrooms-House-Special-Recipe.html where the dough balls weight is 12 ounces (which is the correct weight for a 10” pizza), and 3 ounces of sauce and 4 ounces of mozzarella cheese are used. The cheese is stated to be “extra cheese” so a normal amount for a simpler 10" MM pizza might be somewhat less, maybe 3 ounces or so. So, for a basic MM 10” pizza, equal amounts of sauce and cheese by weight might be reasonable amounts. If those values are reasonably correct, then one can scale up the quantities of sauce and cheese to larger size pizzas based on the surface areas of the larger size pizzas.

On the matter of sauce and cheese quantities, as you might expect, reviewers of the MM pizzas, on yelp and elsewhere, often complain that there is too much or too little sauce and/or cheese. These are personal preferences that I usually ignore when I am trying to reverse engineer and clone a particular pizza. Knowing the final weight of a given size MM pizza is more useful to us to help us determine how much sauce and cheese to use. Of course, we will have to have the correct dough ball weight and account for losses in weight during baking of the pizza. Based on my experience with the Papa John's clones, I would place the weight loss at around 8-9%, or maybe a bit more for an MM clone, depending on the total total unbaked pizza weight, and total bake time and temperature.

I hope that the above serves as a backdrop for what you would like to do. Once you have had a chance to digest the above information and have concluded your own research on a real MM pizza as previously discussed, I think we should be able to come up with an MM clone dough formulation for you to test out.

Peter

Note: The dough ball information other than cost given above turns out to be incorrect. For details and the correct information, see Reply 42 at http://www.pizzamaking.com/forum/index.php/topic,3940.msg151482.html#msg151482

Online Pete-zza

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Re: Mellow Mushroom Pizza found in Atlanta and surroundin areas...Recipes?
« Reply #41 on: August 30, 2011, 07:15:20 PM »
Following up on my last post, I called a Fort Worth MM and asked whether they sold the dough balls used for their pizzas. I was told that they do not sell the dough balls. When I asked if the dough balls used to make their pizzas were delivered to the store frozen, I was told that they are not and are made fresh in the store. Apparently it does not make sense to ship frozen dough balls all the way from Georgia to Texas.

Peter
« Last Edit: August 30, 2011, 07:24:53 PM by Pete-zza »


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Re: Mellow Mushroom Pizza found in Atlanta and surroundin areas...Recipes?
« Reply #42 on: August 31, 2011, 12:46:18 PM »
After posting Reply 40 above, I decided to double check the dough ball weights given to me by one of the MM workers during my recent visit since I have learned that store employees who are remote from the issue often do not give out correct information. To check the information that was given to me, I called MM's corporate office in Atlanta and spoke with one of their employees. She said that my question was not a corporate one and suggested that I call the Jacksonville Beach MM store directly since each store operates somewhat differently and not all MM stores sell dough balls. So, I called the Jacksonville Beach MM and posed my question to the gal who answered the phone. She had one of the workers weigh the dough balls for the three pizza sizes (10", 14" and 16"). As it turns out, the information I posted in Reply 40 was incorrect. I have set forth below the corrected dough ball weights along with the corresponding thickness factors. They are as follows:

10", 12 ounces, TF = 0.15279
14", 18 ounces, TF = 0.11693
16", 24 ounces, TF = 0.11937

The above numbers indicate that the crusts made for the 14" and 16" sizes are thinner than the Papa John's clone pizzas. The crust for the 10" will be thicker.

So, the moral of the story is to trust and verify. I have posted a note in Reply 40 to link to this post for the correct numbers for the different size MM dough balls.

Peter

Edit (1/21/12): It now appears that the above dough ball weights and thickness factors may not be correct. For the most recent post on this matter, with dough ball weights taken by one of our members, Chicago Bob, see Reply 1071 at http://www.pizzamaking.com/forum/index.php/topic,3940.msg168252.html#msg168252

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Re: Mellow Mushroom Pizza found in Atlanta and surroundin areas...Recipes?
« Reply #43 on: August 31, 2011, 03:34:50 PM »

When the pizza arrived, I approached it as though I was performing an autopsy. I examined all of the physical, coloration and textural characteristics of the pizza, and I smelled and tore apart and tugged and stretched the crust and crumb, and tasted all of the components, isolating them for taste purposes as much as I could. Based on the notes I took, here is my critique.

Peter

Note: The dough ball information other than cost given above turns out to be incorrect. For details and the correct information, see Reply 42 at http://www.pizzamaking.com/forum/index.php/topic,3940.msg151482.html#msg151482.


Peter,

You sure are doing great detective work for Biz and others that might want to try a Mushroom Mellow pizza!  :)  I really had to chuckle when you posted "when the pizza arrived, I approached it as though I was doing an autopsy."  I know you always do great job in reverse-engineering pizzas!

Norma
« Last Edit: August 31, 2011, 05:01:49 PM by norma427 »

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Re: Mellow Mushroom Pizza found in Atlanta and surroundin areas...Recipes?
« Reply #44 on: August 31, 2011, 04:33:42 PM »
Norma,

There is a real advantage to being at a pizza place in person. But my visit also told me that you have to be careful about what employees tell you. I think sometime they try too hard to please you with an answer, especially if you are a customer or prospective customer, and they end up telling you things with sincerity but that are wrong. I had hoped to get more information on the flour but I knew that it would be fruitless to ask the workers at the MM store because the answer is back in the Atlanta commissary. That is the benefit of a commissary business model. The workers in the stores are just pizza assemblers. I remember when my server first asked the workers making the pizzas if they knew the weights of the different dough balls and they just looked at each other and said Huh? Only one worker ventured to answer and he was wrong.

Peter

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Re: Mellow Mushroom Pizza found in Atlanta and surroundin areas...Recipes?
« Reply #45 on: August 31, 2011, 05:19:08 PM »
Norma,

There is a real advantage to being at a pizza place in person. But my visit also told me that you have to be careful about what employees tell you. I think sometime they try too hard to please you with an answer, especially if you are a customer or prospective customer, and they end up telling you things with sincerity but that are wrong. I had hoped to get more information on the flour but I knew that it would be fruitless to ask the workers at the MM store because the answer is back in the Atlanta commissary. That is the benefit of a commissary business model. The workers in the stores are just pizza assemblers. I remember when my server first asked the workers making the pizzas if they knew the weights of the different dough balls and they just looked at each other and said Huh? Only one worker ventured to answer and he was wrong.

Peter

Peter,

I know there can be an advantage in being at a pizza place in person.  I sure haven’t been to all the pizza places like you have, but once you really have a chance to taste their pizzas, watch how the dough handles, and then see how all the characterizes of the crust are, sauce, and cheese taste,  that can really help in knowing when you really make the pizza, once a formula is set-forth, if the pizza really tastes like it should.  I think you are the best member to taste and analyze a pizza, because you do have the most experience in doing that. 

I know most employees really don’t know what is going on.  They have their own jobs, and that is what they mostly know about the pizzeria.  It is good you called the Mellow Mushroom pizzeria you visited again.  It sure led to more useful information. 

I don’t know how you are going to be able to find information from the Atlanta commissary, but if you are ever able to visit the Mellow Mushroom pizzeria in your area, you might be able to find the flour brand, or even if you call them, you might be able to find out the flour brand.

Norma

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Re: Mellow Mushroom Pizza found in Atlanta and surroundin areas...Recipes?
« Reply #46 on: August 31, 2011, 09:19:58 PM »
Pete
What a wonderful post!  My kids love this place and have been badgering me to try to clone and bake in my P44.  I was curious if you were going to take a stab at a recipe.  I'd be game for trying it out and reporting results along with you and others.

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Re: Mellow Mushroom Pizza found in Atlanta and surroundin areas...Recipes?
« Reply #47 on: August 31, 2011, 09:55:25 PM »
Brian,

I am glad that you liked my post. As Yogi Berra once said, "You can observe a lot just by watching.” That is basically what I did. I was at the Jacksonville Beach MM for lunch but I can imagine that the place really hops at night. The concept that MM follows is unique, to say the least.

Once member Biz Markie returns to the forum and weighs in, I expect that I will suggest a dough formulation to use. It would help to get a weighing of a completely baked pizza, such as a fairly basic cheese or pepperoni pizza, to get an idea as to how much cheese and sauce (and pepperoni) are used for a typical pizza. A 14" pizza is a good size to play around with since it is a size that most members can deal with in a home setting. But since we know the dough ball sizes, and can easily calculate thickness factors, we can come up with just about any size of pizza to play around with. The key challenges are to get the right flour blend and the amount of molasses to use to achieve the proper balance. Unfortunately, to the best of my knowledge, MM does not have any nutrition data to help us zero in on the desired final product. That usually means having to do more experimentation with recipes. But having dough ball weights and thickness factors are important parts of the exercise. Getting the form factor right is really important in my opinion, as I discovered from my Papa John's clone pizza experiments.

Peter

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Re: Mellow Mushroom Pizza found in Atlanta and surroundin areas...Recipes?
« Reply #48 on: September 01, 2011, 09:10:54 AM »
Peter, Biz, Brian, or anyone interested in Mellow Mushroom pizzas,

This article on the WayBackMachine tells about the history of the Mellow Mushroom, but doesn’t tell the brand of flour Mellow Mushroom uses, but it does say the high-gluten four with wheat germ is vitamin-E enriched.  Click on more in the article.  Peter probably already found out this information, but I thought I would post it in case any members might be interested.

http://web.archive.org/web/20071018035309/http://www.mellowmushroom.com/aboutus.html

More information and games to play and other stuff, if back is clicked.
http://web.archive.org/web/20071011001350/http://www.mellowmushroom.com/menu.html

Norma

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Re: Mellow Mushroom Pizza found in Atlanta and surroundin areas...Recipes?
« Reply #49 on: September 01, 2011, 12:06:53 PM »
Norma,

Yes, I did find the information about which you posted. In fact, I provided the same or similar links in Reply 18 at http://www.pizzamaking.com/forum/index.php/topic,3940.msg149648.html#msg149648. That may have been before you joined this thread. The reference to wheat germ and Vitamin E enrichment has been around for years and I came across such references numerous times in my searches.

As you may know, Vitamin E (alpha tocopherol) is not a vitamin that millers add, or is required by law, to add to flours. I suspect that Vitamin E ended up in flours in a couple of ways. Back in the 1970s, when the original founders of MM started their pizza business, there was a big health food craze in full swing and using whole wheat flour, wheat berries, wheat germ and the like became a part of that craze. In the case of wheat germ, it was added by the health conscious to their regular white flours, cereals, cookies, etc. Wheat germ has always been viewed as a good source of natural Vitamin E. The second way to retain the benefits of Vitamin E is to buy flour from which the bran is removed by sifting as it is being milled but retain the wheat germ. I don't know if that was done back in the 1970s, but you can see an example of such a product today (Prairie Dancer White Flour from Montana Milling) at http://truefoodsmarket.com/wheat-flour-unbl-organic-w-germ-50-lbs.html. As noted there, the flour is a hard red wheat from Montana. I believe that most of the Montana hard red wheat is winter wheat but it can be high in gluten just as the hard red spring wheat. Today, it is possible that MM procures its flours with the wheat germ retained although it is also possible that it adds wheat germ at its central commissary. Cost may be factor as well as potential rancidity problems because of the wheat germ.

MM has always made a point of extolling the health virtues of its products. I think that that is more of a marketing tactic for those who are increasingly becoming health conscious. I would be more impressed if they used only whole wheat flour but that would never fly with its customers.

For our purposes, I would think that the most practical approach is to just add some wheat germ, for example, from a source such as Bob's Red Mill (http://www.bobsredmill.com/product.php?productid=4966&cat=0&page=1), to a good quality unbleached, unbromated high-gluten flour. I see from http://www.organicmall.com/products/850?PHPSESSID=41b51319f236cbb9cbbb36d52c391131 that the Prairie Dancer flour is also sold in five-pound bags, so that is another option.

Peter


 

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