The following represents my findings and comments on the Vito & Nick’s pizza dough. I relied heavily on the video (“V&N video”) that was referenced at about the middle of http://slice.seriouseats.com/archives/2010/11/the-united-states-of-pizza-illinois-chicago-best-pizza-in-chicago-deep-dish-thin-crust.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+feedmeaslice+%28Slice%29
but I also supplemented that video with additional research and some tentative calculations. Here are my findings and comments:General Comments
. The V&N video purports to list the ingredients used to make the V&N pizza dough as flour, water, salt, yeast and milk. No mention is made of using any sugar or oil. If one looks at the V&N video at 0:48, a table can be seen to the left, near to the mixer, with a cup of salt, a small container of yeast, and a gallon of milk on that table. On the floor next to the table there are two bags of flour. There is also a large metal pot on the table, which I thought might contain water to be used to make the dough, but I did not see anything in the rest of the video to suggest that that was the case. Rosemary George, the woman in the T&N video, does not strike me as being cagey or duplicitous, so I can only assume at this point that there is no sugar or oil in the T&N dough or else they also would have been on the table. However, who is to say that in editing the video something of interest to us but not to the video editor was left out. As is obvious from the video, the ingredients are measured out by volume and there is a fair amount of estimating of the amounts to use. Accuracy is apparently not an issue since there is a lot of bench flour used in forming the dough balls to the proper condition and forming them into skins in the dough roller. It also appears that the dough, once made, is stored in tubs overnight for next day use. The room in which the dough is stored can be seen at 1:24 in the video. That room is not a cooler. The Flour
. The flour is definitely Ceresota flour, as BTB mentioned, as can be seen by the partial bag lettering at 0:48-0:49 in the V&N video. I estimated that the bags of flour weigh 25 pounds but, to be on the safe side, I went to the foodservice section of the Ceresota/Heckers website at http://www.heckersceresota.com/divisions.html
to see if I could confirm my estimate. The large bag of the Ceresota flour, and the sibling Heckers flour as well, is shown in the middle of the array of different size bags of those flours. When I could not make out the weights of those flours from the packaging, even under magnification, I did a Google search and found sellers of those flour that give the weights of the large bags as 25 pounds. For example, for the Ceresota flour, see page 4 of http://www.buedelfoods.com/images/BUEDEL_CATALOG.pdf.
I found a similar weight reference for the large bag of the Heckers flour in the 2010 catalog at the dairyland.com website. Since the V&N video says that 1 ˝ bags of the Ceresota flour are used, that is 37.5 pounds, or 600 ounces. The Salt
. As noted earlier, the V&N video shows what appears to be a full cup of salt on the table next to the mixer. On the assumption that that salt is ordinary table salt, one cup of that salt comes to about 9.45 ounces, or 1.58% of the weight of the Ceresota flour. That is a plausible figure. The Yeast
. I assume that the yeast used in the V&N video is instant dry yeast (IDY), since it is added to the mixer bowl without rehydration. It is possible that the yeast is active dry yeast (ADY) without the benefit of rehydration, but until better information comes to us, I will assume that the yeast is IDY, particularly since there is no sign that the water added to the mixer bowl was water at around 105 degrees F as is recommended for rehydrating ADY. I estimate, strictly on a visual basis, that the quantity of yeast used is about 1/3 cup. On that basis, and assuming that the yeast is IDY, the amount of yeast comes to about 1.7 ounces, or about 0.283% of the weight of the Ceresota flour. If my assumption is wrong and ADY is used (2.13 ounces), the corresponding baker’s percent is 0.356%. Both of these numbers might seem to be a bit on the low side at first blush but when used for a long room temperature fermentation, including overnight, they may be credible numbers. Also, large quantities of dough will ferment faster and behave differently than small quantities. A test of the value of yeast would be a dough rise that permits multiple punchdowns.The Milk
. About all we know about the milk is that one-half gallon of it is used to make the V&N dough. I thought perhaps the blue label and blue cap might tell me what kind of milk is used (e.g., whole milk, reduced-fat milk or nonfat) but when I spoke to the manager of the dairy department of a supermarket near me today, I was told that milk products are indeed color coded but that different suppliers have different coding systems. This is really not a major issue since the nutritiondata.self.website at http://nutritiondata.self.com/
treats the major forms of milk (whole, 1% and 2%) in the Nutrition Facts for the various types of milk as having equal weights per volume (although the nonfat is a bit higher). The major differences are in the amounts of fat, with a range of about 0-3.25% fat. In terms of weight, one-half gallon of milk, or two quarts, weighs about 1952 grams, or about 68.85 ounces. That comes to 11.48% of the weight of the Ceresota flour. On average, about 90% of the weight of milk is water. That is something that one might take into account in determining how much water to add to the dough to get the desired overall hydration. If I had to pick a milk to use, I think I would go with 2% milk. When V&N first started to make pizza, in 1949, whole milk was most likely used, and is perhaps still a good choice. But with changing dietary habits and a general move away from whole milk to lower fat milks since those forms were introduced in the 1950s, I suspect that V&N is also using lower fat milk products in its business, not only for its pizza dough but in the restaurant in general.The Water.
We know little about the water. However, just looking at the dough, I estimate the hydration to be over 65%. That may seem high but there is a lot of bench flour used in forming the dough balls and running them through the dough roller. That would have the effect of lowering the hydration to a more workable level.The Effects of the Milk
. As noted above, milk is mostly water, with the rest being solids including protein, milk sugars, fat, ash and various vitamins and minerals. Apparently V&N has concluded that using fresh milk without pre-scalding it to disable offending whey proteins (that can soften the dough too much) does not detract from the finished crusts. I would expect the milk to help the dough rise better, add flavor to the finished crust, and induce crust browning in the finished crust. One of the nice things about milk is that the lactose sugar in milk is not used as food by the yeast. That should allow one to ferment the dough for longer periods without running out of residual sugar to contribute to crust browning. The downside of lactose is that a crust can brown too quickly and lead to excessive crust browning. This might cause someone to pull the pizzas from the oven before they have baked long enough to develop the desired degree of crispiness. Without some experimentation, it is hard to say whether this can happen with about 12% milk. I have read of reports of the V&N crusts sometimes being too soft, but it is hard to say whether the cause is lactose related and pulling pizzas too soon, or simply inconsistencies in making and managing the dough (since everything is measured out volumetrically and estimated), or possibly because of the inability of the ovens to maintain heat at peak usage times.
With the above as background, I decided to take a stab at coming up with a test V&N clone dough formulation for a 12” pizza and a 14” pizza, the two sizes of pizzas shown in the menu at V&N’s website at http://www.vitoandnick.com/page1.html.
The two dough formulations appear in the next post.
EDIT (8/30/13): For an alternative link to the Vito & Nicks YouTube video, see
EDIT (8/30/13): For another V&N video, see
EDIT (6/22/14): For the Wayback Machine version of the Serious Eats/Slice link and article, see http://web.archive.org/web/20101124121739/http://slice.seriouseats.com/archives/2010/11/the-united-states-of-pizza-illinois-chicago-best-pizza-in-chicago-deep-dish-thin-crust.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+feedmeaslice+%28Slice%29