Author Topic: Reverse Engineering DiFara's Pizzas  (Read 78936 times)

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Offline Pete-zza

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Re: Reverse Engineering DiFara's Pizzas
« Reply #140 on: August 18, 2006, 09:47:38 PM »
Hey Snowdy,

Good to here from you. I hope that all is going well with you and your pizza making.

I have concluded that the key to Dom's pizza is a combination of the oven and the toppings--plus a mystique that Dom had created for his business over the years. I can come pretty close to matching the toppings but not the oven. His dough in combination with the high quality toppings and oven is what seems to keep people lined up for his pizzas. If he went to lower quality cheeses, tomatoes and toppings, I think the deficiency in his crust would be noticed, whereas before it wouldn't have been. But that is just my opinion. Maybe the mystique, plus the favorable publicity he regularly gets, would be enough to sustain him. He may well be the most interviewed pizza maker in the country, although I think that John Brescio at Lombardi's is giving him a run for his money.

In my case, I can't get the same crust characteristics as Dom gets, even if I had the identical dough formulation that Dom uses, because the dough won't bake up the same way in my oven as it does in his. His crust will look better than mine solely because of the high oven temperature. The only way I can improve my crusts is by using long fermentation times, whether at room temperature or in the refrigerator. I'm fairly convinced that if Dom used my dough formulation and dough management, his pizzas would be even better, simply because of the longer fermentation times. But there is no incentive for Dom to do anything other than what he is now doing. By making dough several times during the day, with 1-2 hour life cycles, he doesn't have to build a big inventory of dough balls or keep them overnight, or anything else. The dough goes from the mixer bowl to the front of the store for about 1-2 hours. If people keep lining up to buy the pizzas or slices, why change? It may be a pain for his sons working the back room making dough all day, but Dom stays up front making the pizzas and tending to the crowd. I don't know that anyone else could get away with that as a "business model" today. Not too long ago, Dom had to go into the hospital for foot surgery. So he just shut the store down rather than entrust the pizza making to his sons. His customers accepted it, and eagerly awaited his return. He is such a nice and decent man that it is hard to not like him or to respect his remarkable accomplishments.

The last DiFara "clone" pizzas I made were 10 inches, which I was able to bake in the mini-oven I created to try to get the maximum heat out of the oven. Next time, I think I will try a 16" size to see if I can at least get the DiFara appearance. I will have to use a pizza screen to get that size into my mini-oven (it will just about fit) because my stone isn't big enough by itself to accommodate the 16" size. If that pizza turns out as well as some of my recent small ones, I will be very happy.

Stay well, "Dude".

Peter


Offline snowdy

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Re: Reverse Engineering DiFara's Pizzas
« Reply #141 on: August 26, 2006, 04:58:14 AM »
Pete,
As always, thanks for the info! Your expertise keeps us all going.

I need to get myself over to di fara one of these days. My brother has lived there for almost a year now and i still havent been to see him as we had a new baby in May so its been tough. In the meantime im stuck having some pretty lo caliber so cal pizza to tie me over.

My bro still stands by lombardi's but his wife thinks di fara is the best she's ever had. And for the record, they went to Patsy's in harlem after me telling them to since they live a few streets away. They said it was "so-so" and also they both got the sh*ts for a day afterwards.  :-D

I really want to try di fara's square pie though... the cheese and pep look amazing.



keep on posting the pics and results in your di fara trials!

Offline Pete-zza

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Re: Reverse Engineering DiFara's Pizzas
« Reply #142 on: August 26, 2006, 08:13:07 AM »
snowdy,

From what I have read and heard, it is the Sicilian pizza at DiFara's that gets the greatest reviews. I'm told that that's the one you should try if you are only going to try one. My recollection in talking with Dom's son in the kitchen is that the sauce for the Sicilian is the only cooked sauce Dom uses. I hope you will give us your opinion of DiFara's when you get there someday.

Congratulations on the baby. That is a wonderful event in your lives.

Peter

Offline raji

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Re: Reverse Engineering DiFara's Pizzas
« Reply #143 on: December 04, 2006, 04:15:15 AM »
I know this thread has been dormant for a few months now, but I thought I'd revive it with some pics from my first attempt at a DiFara's style pie. 

Here's some info:

I used a blend of Caputo 00 Pizzeria and All-Trumps, IDY, salt, and bottled water.
10 minute mix with my Kitchen Aid.  No Autolyse.  1 minute hand mix afterwards
Instead of putting them in bowls, I put them on a sheet then covered.
2-3 hour warm rise (75F)
Baked at 700F - 4-5 mins

Cheese:  Fior Di Latte, Bufala Di Mozzarella, Grande Whole Milk Mozz, and grated Grana Padano for finishing.
Sauce: Crushed San Marzanos with a pinch of salt, sugar, pepper, and oregano. 
Toppings:  mushrooms, artichokes, red onions.  Basil garnished after baking.

First pic is a typical DiFara's pie.  The next three are mine




Offline Pete-zza

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Re: Reverse Engineering DiFara's Pizzas
« Reply #144 on: December 04, 2006, 02:49:42 PM »
raji,

It looks like you did a great job replicating the DiFara style. How did the pizza taste compared with the real deal?

Peter

Offline raji

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Re: Reverse Engineering DiFara's Pizzas
« Reply #145 on: December 04, 2006, 04:59:18 PM »
raji,

It looks like you did a great job replicating the DiFara style. How did the pizza taste compared with the real deal?

Peter

Peter,

Thanks for the compliment.  That means a lot coming from someone who makes such unbelievable looking pies.  So the pizza was very similar to the real thing.  This was a last minute endeavour, so I fell short in a couple of areas because of poor planning:

1.  I didn't use the best tomatoes.  I did use San Marzano's (Non DOP), but it was a brand that I'd never used before.  It was the only thing left in my pantry.  Next time i'll go with something more familiar.
2.  I couldn't find fresh Grande Fior di Latte.  Whole foods has been really going down hill lately.  Every container they had was expired and had been sitting out on the shelf for weeks.  I didnt' have time to go to the other market that sells grande products.  I ended up using some mediocre fior di latte.

Nonetheless, it was still very similar to the pies that Dom produces.  A lot of the credit should go to you Peter since I based my dough closely off the recipe that you posted earlier in the thread. 

I'm so used to working with dough that has been sitting in the fridge for 3 days.  I quite pleasantly surprised by how well this 2-3 hour old dough performed! 

Raj

Offline Pete-zza

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Re: Reverse Engineering DiFara's Pizzas
« Reply #146 on: December 04, 2006, 05:49:22 PM »
Raj,

Thank you very much for the compliments but there are many others on this forum whose pizzas I admire more than my own. I guess it is a case of "pizza envy".

Once you get the right collection of cheeses and tomatoes, you might want to consider one or two of the dough formulations that I posted and described starting with Reply 130 at http://www.pizzamaking.com/forum/index.php/topic,504.msg28423.html#msg28423. Unless you grew up with the DeMarco pizzas and have developed a very strong preference for them, I think you should be able to come up with a better product than Dom's by using longer fermentation times (along with the best ingredients). You also have the high oven temperatures that should prove beneficial in your case.

Peter

Offline Boy Hits Car

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Re: Reverse Engineering DiFara's Pizzas
« Reply #147 on: February 05, 2007, 02:13:49 PM »
Since my visit to DiFara's last week I've been contemplating trying to create a home version of his square pizza.  The following is my plan to start the experimentation.  I hope people can chime in and help out with suggestions, criticism, advice or even just to point and laugh at my efforts  8).  I've ordered a 5 lb. repacked bag of Caputo 00 from pennmac.com and I am ready to start making the dough.

My plan:

The sauce:
I have no idea what Dom puts in his square pizza sauce.  All I know is that it is pre-cooked.  I did some research on this site and other sites about Sicilian sauce recipes and narrowed down ingredients that are, in my opinion, "must haves".  This list also includes ingredients I saw laying around DiFara's.  I going with the idea of simplicity so I have a base recipe that I could add ingredients little by little and control the variables as much as I can.

Whole Peeled Tomatoes - San Marzano preferred.  Dom most likely uses Vantia.
Olive Oil - Berrio, either Mild or Extra Virgin.  I saw bottles for both types.  Will most likely use Extra Virgin for flavor.
Garlic - Fresh, chopped/minced.
Oregano - Fresh.
Basil - Fresh.  Might only add this at the end of the cooking process.  Also, I don't remember Dom adding fresh basil to the pizza while he was dressing it.
Sea Salt
Black Pepper
White Wine -   I have no idea if Dom uses wine, however, white wine really wakes up the flavor of tomatoes; so I'm going to run with it.  I've seen some recipes call for red wine, however, I have a gut feeling there wasn't any in the sauce I tasted.  I use white wine in my spaghetti sauces and think it really adds depth to the sauce.

Will probably simmer the above ingredients for 1-2 hours.  Comments?

The dough:
Many on this thread have done all the leg work for finding out how Dom makes his dough.  I will have to assume Dom uses the same dough for both types of pizzas(until someone confirms othewise), so I plan to use the same ingredients (ie, a mix of Caputo and All Trumps, 65% hydration, etc.), but want to used a cold ferment for better flavor and crust characteristics.  Dom's few hour same day rise most likely won't cut it in my home oven.

I'm wondering if I should use the 75% Caputo, 25% All Trumps ratio.  It will be my first time using the Caputo, so I'm worried it might not work well in my home oven.  Having said that, it looks like Peter was able to make a decent pizza with this ratio, especially with a 24-hour cold ferment with autolyse.  I was thinking, to be on the safe side, to use a 60-40 or 65-35 ratio of Caputo to All Trumps.  I'm also contemplating using some olive oil to help with the Caputo. Comments? 

Dough Formulation:
100%, Flour
65%, Water
1.5% Salt
0.50% IDY
1%, Olive oil(maybe)

I am planning to start with the above dough formulation.  It is Peter's recipe from the previous page which he seemed to like and had success using.  The question is what thickness factor to use.  Dom's round pizza is pretty thin at 0.086; I was thinking of making it a good 25% thicker which comes out to 0.1075.  This still seems a tad on the thin side for a Sicilian pizza, but Dom's Sicilian was not exactly thick in the middle, although the edges seemed to be pretty thick.  Thoughts?

After a cold ferment, I was planning on allowing the dough to reach room temperature, oil a square pan and shape the dough in the pan.  Perhaps I should allow the dough to slightly rise in the pan before baking.  I would then par-bake the dough at 550 degrees on my pizza stone with a little bit of sauce on top of the dough, excluding the edges.  Dom par-baked his square doughs with a little bit of sauce and had significant charring on the edges of the dough.  I'm planning to only slightly brown the crust and try to get it charred after the final topping(maybe using my broiler).

After the par-baking, I will add more olive oil to the bottom of the pan (Dom did this) and top with more sauce, fresh mozz, blocked whole milk mozz and olive oil.  I will be trying to get a crisp, dark edge/crust, but yet a soft and chewy middle.

All comments would be appreciated.

Mike


« Last Edit: February 05, 2007, 02:16:29 PM by Boy Hits Car »

Offline scott r

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Re: Reverse Engineering DiFara's Pizzas
« Reply #148 on: February 05, 2007, 03:51:03 PM »
when I was there dom had a bunch of cases of fresh tomatos sitting right on top of his vantia cans.  I think his sauce contains both fresh and canned tomatos becuse it seemed like too much produce to just be used as a pizza topping.  Also, I find it neccesary to cook fresh tomatos a decent amount to reduce the water content.   My guess is that the difference between the round sauce and the sicilian sauce is that the cooked one (sicilian) uses fresh tomatos along with the vantia.  I would start by cooking down the fresh one first.  Once they are thick you can add the canned and reduce a bit more.

Even though it may not be what he uses, I think you will have better luck in a normal home oven with a 50/50 caputo all trumps.  You could do a 75/25 if you use the caputo red, which will work better in a home oven than the caputo pizzeria.

I did not taste any wine in his sauce for the round or the sicilian pizza, just quality herbs and garlic.

Offline Pete-zza

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Re: Reverse Engineering DiFara's Pizzas
« Reply #149 on: February 05, 2007, 05:29:49 PM »
Mike,

I think you are on the right path. I had read that Dom’s Sicilian crust is thicker than the crusts for his round pies but thinner than the ones that are thick and bready. Also, I recalled reading that Dom uses the same tomatoes as he uses for his other pies, and that the sauce had something special in it (prosciutto) for flavor purposes. I did some research and found these posts that might be helpful:
http://forums.egullet.org/index.php?showtopic=15722&pid=196155&mode=threaded&show=&st=&#entry196155, and
http://forums.egullet.org/index.php?showtopic=15722&pid=196669&mode=threaded&show=&st=&#entry196669.

I think you will get better results using cold fermentation. You may want to experiment with the ratios of flours, including doing a 50/50 like scott suggests. Dom always talked in generalities when it came to measurements, using plastic cups and the like to explain his methods.

For some photos to help your memory, you might look at these:

http://images.egullet.com/u11429/i2438.jpg
http://www.flickr.com/photos/aser/8688298/
http://www.flickr.com/photos/tangentialism/224064614/
http://www.flickr.com/photos/kenyee/276699972/
http://www.flickr.com/photos/urbanblitz/331529558/
http://www.flickr.com/photos/slice/11907026/

Peter
 


Offline Boy Hits Car

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Re: Reverse Engineering DiFara's Pizzas
« Reply #150 on: February 05, 2007, 05:57:35 PM »
when I was there dom had a bunch of cases of fresh tomatos sitting right on top of his vantia cans.  I think his sauce contains both fresh and canned tomatos becuse it seemed like too much produce to just be used as a pizza topping.  Also, I find it neccesary to cook fresh tomatos a decent amount to reduce the water content.   My guess is that the difference between the round sauce and the sicilian sauce is that the cooked one (sicilian) uses fresh tomatos along with the vantia.  I would start by cooking down the fresh one first.  Once they are thick you can add the canned and reduce a bit more.

Even though it may not be what he uses, I think you will have better luck in a normal home oven with a 50/50 caputo all trumps.  You could do a 75/25 if you use the caputo red, which will work better in a home oven than the caputo pizzeria.

I did not taste any wine in his sauce for the round or the sicilian pizza, just quality herbs and garlic.

Thanks Scott.  I will use some fresh tomatoes.  I completely forgot that I read one this thread that he uses a combination of fresh tomatoes with the canned.  As for the flour combination, I'll start with 50/50 as you suggested.  The key is to replicate it for home use and I don't have any reservations changing it up.

Offline Boy Hits Car

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Re: Reverse Engineering DiFara's Pizzas
« Reply #151 on: February 05, 2007, 06:01:55 PM »
Peter,

Thanks for the info on the prosciutto; I will have to add a chunk of it to the sauce as it cooks.  Also, thanks for the pictures, they will come in handy.  It looks like I remembered correctly about no basil during the dressing, but it looks like he adds Padano to the pie before baking. 

Mike

Offline Scagnetti

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Re: Reverse Engineering DiFara's Pizzas
« Reply #152 on: February 06, 2007, 02:28:27 PM »
I have concluded that the key to Dom's pizza is a combination of the oven and the toppings--plus a mystique that Dom had created for his business over the years. I can come pretty close to matching the toppings but not the oven. His dough in combination with the high quality toppings and oven is what seems to keep people lined up for his pizzas. If he went to lower quality cheeses, tomatoes and toppings, I think the deficiency in his crust would be noticed, whereas before it wouldn't have been. But that is just my opinion. Maybe the mystique, plus the favorable publicity he regularly gets, would be enough to sustain him. He may well be the most interviewed pizza maker in the country, although I think that John Brescio at Lombardi's is giving him a run for his money.
.
.
Peter

Peter,

I don't know if you've seen these videos or not but they are very good depictions of Dom at work.





I have a question about the first video.  Doesn't it appear that he's putting a lot of olive oil on the pie?  What do you think?

Scagnetti


Offline Pete-zza

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Re: Reverse Engineering DiFara's Pizzas
« Reply #153 on: February 06, 2007, 03:25:35 PM »
Scagnetti,

Thanks for the links to the videos. I had not seen them before. As always, I watch Dom like a hawk to see if he reveals anything I did not already know about his pizzas.

As for the amount of oil, it's hard to say how much he is actually putting on the pizza without knowing how big the mouth of the spout of his oil can is. It's also possible that certain pizzas get more oil than others. For example, he may not put a lot of oil, if any, on a pepperoni or sausage pizza but quite a bit on pizzas with a lot of veggies.

Peter

Offline Scagnetti

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Re: Reverse Engineering DiFara's Pizzas
« Reply #154 on: February 06, 2007, 07:03:45 PM »
As for the amount of oil, it's hard to say how much he is actually putting on the pizza without knowing how big the mouth of the spout of his oil can is. It's also possible that certain pizzas get more oil than others. For example, he may not put a lot of oil, if any, on a pepperoni or sausage pizza but quite a bit on pizzas with a lot of veggies.

Peter
That's a good point.  We all know how much oil can leech out of some of those toppings.

Offline Boy Hits Car

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Re: Reverse Engineering DiFara's Pizzas
« Reply #155 on: February 10, 2007, 08:58:25 PM »
My first experience trying to make a Difara's square pie went pretty well.  I will need to modify a few things, but I was quite happy with my results.

Yesterday evening I made two dough balls, one with a thickness factor of 0.1075 and the other at 0.11.  I used a combination of All Trumps (60%) and Caputo Pizza 00(40%), 65% hydration, 1.5% salt, and 0.5% IDY.  I used my KA mixer to make the dough.  I poured all the water (46 degrees) into the mixer, added about 2/3rds of the flour mixture and used the paddle attachment to "wet knead" for about two minutes.  A rest period of 15 minutes followed and the remaining ingredients were added using the dough hook attachment.  Once all the ingredients combined and a dough ball formed, I hand kneaded the dough for a few minutes.  Next the two dough balls were placed in the fridge.  Each dough ball read 70 degrees when entering the fridge.

I started off this morning making the pre-cooked tomato sauce.  I sauteed some roughed chopped garlic in Berrio mild olive oil for a few minutes then added some chopped ripe plum tomatoes and a chunk of prosciutto.  I simmered the tomatoes in the olive oil and garlic with sea salt and pepper for about an hour until the tomatoes were soft and most of the watery liquid evaporated.  I then added a can of whole peeled Italian tomatoes; draining some of the water from the can.  I simmered the mixture for another hour and added some fresh oregano and fresh basil about five minutes before taking it off the heat.

After about 20 hours of cold fermentation, I removed the 0.1075 dough from the fridge and allowed it to reach room temperature(2 hours).  I heated my pizza stone with the oven set at 550 degrees for an hour.  I oiled my rectangular pan with the same olive oil I used above and massaged the dough into the pan.  I found a Chicago Metallic heavy gauge steel pan at Marshalls Home Goods for $6.99.  It is 12.25x9x1 inch pan; pretty small, but enough to feed my wife and I.  I wanted to keep the experiments small and cheap until I'm completely happy with recipe.

After shaping the dough in the pan, I covered it with the pre-cooked sauce and placed it in the oven on the pizza stone.  It cooked for about 5 minutes until the edges were slightly browned.  I removed the par-baked crust and let it cool for about 3 hours.  I reheated the stone again for an hour at 550 degrees, added more Berrio oil to the pan, dressed the par-baked crust with fresh mozz, whole milk mozz, a sprinkle of padano, some more pre-cooked sauce and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.  It cooked for another 5 minutes until the cheese melted and the crust got dark and charred then finished the pie with some fresh basil.

It was without question my favorite homemade pizza to date, however, I believe the sauce was a little too overpowering in terms of taste.  I think by looking at the pictures that I may have added too much.  The crust was very tasty with a good amount of charring, the problem being it was a little too crisp and dry.  It actually was a very enjoyable crust, but not chewy enough to be like Difara's.  This is where advice and experimentation will be needed.  How can I darken and char the crust, but not dry it out too much?  Higher hydration?  Less Caputo?  Add oil to the dough formulation?  I also think that the crust needs to be slightly thicker and hope the 0.11 will be the right thickness.  I will be making the 0.11 dough tomorrow.  :pizza:

Overall I'm very pleased with my first attempt and think I should be able to get very close to a successful clone.  I hope you enjoy the pics!

« Last Edit: February 10, 2007, 09:18:40 PM by Boy Hits Car »

Offline Boy Hits Car

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Re: Reverse Engineering DiFara's Pizzas
« Reply #156 on: February 10, 2007, 09:00:46 PM »
more pics...


Offline Peteg

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Re: Reverse Engineering DiFara's Pizzas
« Reply #157 on: February 10, 2007, 09:34:25 PM »
Boy hits car, It looks like your off to a great start.  keep up the good work.  Peteg

Offline Pete-zza

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Re: Reverse Engineering DiFara's Pizzas
« Reply #158 on: February 10, 2007, 10:12:12 PM »
Mike,

Nice job.

You might want to try proofing the dough in the pan before saucing and pre-baking. I would try around 45 minutes to an hour proof time. That should create an insulator effect in the dough and permit a longer bake time while retaining a chewy character to the crust along with crispiness on the bottom. You might also skip the step of allowing the pre-baked crust to cool before finishing. I read somewhere that Dom at one time did not pre-bake his Sicilian crusts but found it necessary for some reason to resort to doing so. The intimation was that Dom had slowed down because of age and could no longer keep up with the demand for his Sicilian pies, and therefore turned to pre-baking the crusts. I don't know if any of this is true, but it can't hurt to try using the crust right after pre-baking. You could also lower the oven temperature and use a longer bake.

You might also take a look at this post on the Lehmann thread where I described my efforts to make a NY style pizza with a pre-baked crispy crust but with a chewy and soft interior, at http://www.pizzamaking.com/forum/index.php/topic,576.msg27372.html#msg27372 (Reply 424). I used a screen but many of the principles may apply to what your are trying to do.

Peter

Offline Pete-zza

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Re: Reverse Engineering DiFara's Pizzas
« Reply #159 on: February 10, 2007, 11:47:10 PM »
I don't know if this video clip, , has been posted on this thread before, but it does a nice job of showing Dom making both the round and Sicilian pies. You can even get a pretty good idea of the quantities of cheeses and toppings used.

This piece, from the same source as the video clip, offers a tribute to Dom's square pie and also indicates that the dough is proofed before par-baking: http://offthebroiler.wordpress.com/2006/09/21/nyc-dining-difara-redux-its-hip-to-be-square/.

Peter
« Last Edit: February 11, 2007, 12:22:02 AM by Pete-zza »