Recently, after being away from a DiFara style dough for quite a while, I decided to make some DiFara clone test doughs based on everything I had learned during the reverse-engineering of the DiFara dough. As long-time members will recall, pftaylor and I confirmed from Dom DeMarco himself that he uses only 1 to 2 hours of fermentation for his dough balls, keeping at least a partial supply of “ready-to-use” dough balls in the bottom section or drawer of his gas oven. To assist me in my efforts, I consulted with member scott r, who is my “go to” guy on anything involving a dough using both 00 flour and high-gluten flour, in my case the Caputo 00 Pizzeria flour and the King Arthur Sir Lancelot (KASL) high-gluten flour.
After thinking things through after consulting with scott, I finally ended up making four different DiFara clone doughs for four different pizzas. All used a 75%/25% combination, by weight, of Caputo 00 Pizzeria flour and KASL. Except for the last pizza in the series (“Pizza 4” below), in arriving at the baker’s percents for the different doughs, I used the same principles as I normally use in making any “emergency” few-hours dough, including using above-average amounts of yeast. Normally, I would also use very warm water, but I decided against doing that since I suspected that Dom DeMarco does not go through the step of adjusting water temperature in making his dough. I also used tap water, as I suspect Dom also does. I had originally intended to make a fresh yeast version of one of the doughs but gave that up since I couldn’t locate any fresh yeast anywhere.
Because of the small dough weights involved, 6.75 ounces, all four doughs were made in my food processor, combined with some hand kneading at the end because the dough weight was even too little for my processor (14-cup Cuisinart) to knead thoroughly. All four doughs were based on a thickness factor of 0.086, as I had previously calculated, and a pizza size of 10”. The four doughs and pizzas can be summarized as follows, including the baker’s percents I used.
Pizza 1: A dough consisting of the Caputo/KASL flour blend (100%), Water (60%), Salt (2%), and Instant dry yeast (0.83%). Originally, I did not intend to use this dough but rather made it solely to see if the quantities of the ingredients were correct to allow the dough to about double in a roughly 2-hour time period. When it did, rather than throw the dough away as I originally planned to do, I decided instead to reshape it and put it in the refrigerator to see how it would respond to the cold fermentation after being fermented at room temperature. The dough remained for about 2 days in the refrigerator before using. The dough for Pizza 1 was the only one that was cold fermented. It was allowed to warm up at room temperature for about an hour before using.
Pizza 2: A same-day, few-hours dough consisting of the same ingredients and baker’s percents as with Pizza 1 but in which the dough was allowed to ferment/rise, at room-temperature only, for only 2 hours.
Pizza 3: A same-day, few-hours dough consisting of the Caputo/KASL flour blend (100%), Water (60%), Salt (2%), Oil (2.45%), and IDY (0.83%). The main difference with this dough was the use of oil, and it was the only dough to use it. The dough was allowed to ferment/rise for 2 hours.
Pizza 4: An 8-hour, room-temperature fermented dough consisting of the Caputo/KASL flour blend (100%), Water (60%), Salt (2.4%), and IDY (0.25%). It will be noted that the amount of salt was increased for this dough and the amount of IDY was reduced, to allow a controlled fermentation over an 8-hour period. The main purpose for trying this version was to see if the finished crust would benefit from the much longer room-temperature fermentation. In retrospect, it appears that this dough could have sustained several more hours of fermentation. I did not punch down the dough at any time, although I suspect that that would have been an option.
All four of the doughs were well-behaved throughout their respective fermentation periods and were easy to shape out to the selected 10” size. The dough for Pizza 4 was a bit more elastic than the others, but with a bit of rest on the peel it conformed to the final desired size. All of the doughs were a bit on the damp side, which meant that I had to be careful that they didn’t stick to the peel. I’m sure I could have overcome the slight wetness by using bench flour, as does Dom, but I try not to do that with my doughs as a general proposition because I don’t want the crust to develop a bitterness in the crust because of the raw flour. All doughs were shaped to the 10” size by tugging and pulling from the edges after using my fingers to partially open the doughs, which appears to be the way that Dom shapes his doughs. I did not attempt to use my knuckles or even gravity to shape the doughs and I did not toss any of the dough skins.
For purposes of baking the four pizzas, I decided to construct a “mini-oven” within my standard home oven, using a pizza stone placed on the lowest oven rack position, six 6” x 6” unglazed quarry tiles on the next-to-the top oven rack position, and four similar tiles on the sides, two on each side. The first photo below shows the mini-oven configuration. In preparation for baking the pizzas, I preheated the oven/mini-oven for one hour at about 500-550 degrees F.
For the sauce and cheeses, I tried to use essentially the same “quality and quantity” approach as used by Dom DeMarco, as I have come to understand them. For the sauce, I pureed whole tomatoes from a can of Famoso DOP San Marzano tomatoes, along with some fresh, seeded tomatoes and fresh basil (a mixture of Napoletano and Genovese Italian, both from my garden), fresh (from my garden) Italian oregano, dried Sicilian oregano, a bit of Sicilian sea salt, and sugar. Because the sauce was on the thin side, I drained it in a colander to remove some of the water.
For cheeses, I used a combination of bufala di mozzarella, fresh Mozzarella Fresca brand mozzarella, a part-skim low-moisture mozzarella cheese (Frigo brand, by Saputo), and freshly-grated imported grana padano and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheeses, both of which I put on the pizzas once they were done baking. The bufala and fresh mozzarella cheeses were intentionally used in fairly good-sized pieces to keep them from cooking too fast and breaking down. I put the Frigo mozzarella cheese, which I sliced into strips using a box grater (as does Dom), and placed the strips on top of the other cheeses to shield them somewhat from the oven heat. I placed fresh basil on the pizzas before baking and also afterwards. I also used Coluccio Sicilian olive oil on top of the pizzas before baking.
All of the pizzas baked in about the same time, with about 6 minutes on the pizza stone within the “mini-oven” and about a final minute on top of the upper layer of tiles. The mini-oven appeared to work flawlessly.
I was quite pleased overall with the results, but Pizza 4 and Pizza 1, both of which had prolonged fermentation, one at room temperature and the refrigerator and the other at room-temperature for many hours, stood out from the pack. The crusts were soft in the middle, easily foldable, and firm at the rims, with a bit of “tooth” and chewiness in the rims, and with good coloration both top and bottom. In the photos that follow, I show the bottom of only Pizza 1 but all crusts had similar crust color development. As between Pizza 1 and Pizza 4, I thought that Pizza 4 was the better of the two, perhaps because it seemed to have a softer crust yet be chewy at the same time and with good crust color. Of the four pizzas, the one I would rank last was the one (Pizza 3) that used olive oil in the dough. The crust was almost bread-like and didn’t quite have the nice coloration of the other crusts. This came as a surprise, and I still don’t know why it didn’t show better.
My next DiFara clone test dough will most likely be a long room-temperature fermented dough but in which I alter the ratio of the Caputo/KASL flours. When I first started the DiFara reverse-engineering project, I had heard from a reliable source that Dom DeMarco used a 50/50 blend. He later said that it was 75/25. I think I will try 60/40, and I may shoot for an overnight fermentation, as I always suspected that Dom did before he informed me otherwise.