I suppose that it was only fitting that I should make a visit to DiFara's during my recent vacation trip to NYC. Over time, much had been learned about the mystical Dom DeMarco pizzas, but I had not personally seen one or eaten one, and there were still a few things about his dough that remained unanswered.
I chose a mid-day time to make the trek out to Brooklyn to DiFara's, hoping that I would be able to spend more time with Dom DeMarco and ferret out the few remaining pieces of the DiFara puzzle. As it turned out, the place was quite busy, with many people lining up against the counter to place their orders. Nonetheless, I was able to speak at some length with Dom about his pizzas and techniques and to confirm some of the information previously provided by pftaylor from his recent visit to DiFara's. In particular, Dom confirmed the roughly 75/25 ratio of Caputo 00/All Trumps flours. He also indicated that a typical dough ball for making an 18-inch pizza weighed 1 3/8 lb., or around 22 oz. I later calculated that the thickness factor for such a dough ball weight and pizza size was 0.086. This places the DiFara crust squarely on the thin side (by comparison, a NY "street" style crust has a thickness factor of around 0.10). When I asked Dom how much water he used for his dough, he said it was 1 part water for 2 1/2 parts flour, by volume (as with all his measurements). He said that the dough was not wet, although I later calculated the hydration percent to be around 65%.
The most interesting part of our conversation centered on the dough and its short fermentation cycle. Dom indicated that his dough requires only 1 to 2 hours of rise time, and no refrigeration. As readers of this thread know, this has long puzzled me. When I mentioned that I had never been able to produce a decent dough based on his flour combination in such a short period of time, and that I only got good results by letting the dough ferment overnight or over several daytime hours using small amounts of yeast, he said that he used to use an overnight rise (along with a very small amount of yeast), but that he abandoned that approach long ago. Sensing my puzzlement, he proceeded to pull out a drawer under his oven, where several dough balls were rising in a warm, humid environment. This was a new piece of information in the puzzle but it was the answer to how he could make a usable dough in such a short period of time. I should have figured this out since I knew from my own experiences in making 00 doughs for my "Last-Minute" pizzas that it was possible to make a passable pizza within an hour using my homemade proofing box at high temperatures and humidity. That approach was also behind my "Pizza with Egg" experiments (as detailed at another thread). The crust wouldn't be great but it would pass muster.
That last comment is key to unraveling the DiFara mystery. What is most unique about the DiFara dough is its non-uniqueness. There is nothing new in the DiFara dough. It does use a combination of 00 and high-gluten flours, but blending different flours has been done for decades, if not longer, and even his combination of 00 and high-gluten flours is not novel. What makes the DiFara pizzas stand out from the crowd is the use of very high quality toppings, quite possibly among the very best available anywhere. And in generous quantities. In a sense, the toppings serve as a distraction from what is otherwise a quite ordinary crust. To be sure, some of the inherent deficiencies of the crust are overcome by using a high oven temperature, which will produce a chewy crust with decent char and coloration and modest oven spring, but underneath it all is a rather plain and uncomplicated crust. I am certain that Dom could improve his crust quite significantly if he were to use a long fermentation time, either at room temperature or under refrigeration. Clearly there is no incentive to do this when people will line up for hours to get at his pizzas as they are now made.
None of the above is intended to be a criticism of either Dom DeMarco or his pizzas. He was very gracious and generous in sharing his pizza making techniques, as I am sure he has done countless times before with others. There is nothing duplicitous about the man. He is a master of pizza making, one of a dying breed. He paints the canvas of his pizzas like Michelangelo painted the Sistene Chapel. I, along with my son and his family, sampled one of his multi-topping pizzas (the one shown in the second photo of my earlier post), and it was very good indeed. It was soggy in the middle because of the large quantities of moist vegetables (which were precooked) but the crust was otherwise quite good. Next time, I will try a simpler pizza, which should be a better test of the crust quality and character.
I think it is safe to say that we now know pretty much what goes into the DiFara dough and pizzas. The dough is made up of a 75/25 ratio of Caputo 00 flour and General Mills All Trumps high-gluten flour (by volume), and water (local municipal water) is used at 1 part per 2 1/2 parts flour (also by volume). As indicated above, the dough is subjected to a 1 to 2 hour rise in a warm, humid environment. For a typical 18-inch pizza, the dough has a weight of around 22 oz. That yields a thickness factor of 0.086. The yeast used is fresh baker's yeast. No oil is used in the dough, but a Felippo Berio olive oil (the kind in the yellow can, not the next level up in the green can) is used on the pizzas themselves. Dom says he uses whatever cheeses are available to him at any given moment, but they usually include bufala di mozzarella cheese imported from around Naples (which he puts on pizzas in small pieces), a "fresh" fior-di-latte (cow's milk) cheese (I believe it is the Ovoline cheese from Grande), a whole-milk mozzarella cheese from Grande (which is grated in strands rather than shreds or dice), Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and/or grana padano cheese, served either on the pizza as it bakes or on the side. The tomato sauce (uncooked) is made by blending imported Vantia DOP San Marzano tomatoes and fresh tomatoes (quite possibly in a blender or food processor) and adding either or both of fresh oregano and basil, whichever happens to be available.
Armed with all of the above information, I plan sometime soon to make a dough that incorporates much of that information. I did a quick calculation of a weight of dough for a 14-inch size pizza (the largest size my pizza stone can handle), and it looks like my earlier recipes were quite close and may only require tweaking. I will most likely use either an ovenight or all-day fermentation since I don't have the capability of very high oven temperatures (Dom DeMarco uses around 700 degrees F) to compensate for a dough of lesser quality. At some point, I may also experiment with using a natural preferment. This is solely for the purpose of achieving a hopefully better flavor profile.