I guess that you could say that, in the political vernacular, I am a “flip flopper”. Or that I was “younger” and more foolish then and had no idea of what I was talking about. Or that the skies opened up and there was an epiphany that transformed me. But, there were several, more mundane, reasons for the transformation.
First, was the demand of our members for clones. If you look at the threads on the forum that have the most page views, you will see that there are a great many that relate to the pizzas made by the big chains, including the big four, and many smaller regional chains. Since these are the chains that people know most and best and for whom they have strong loyalty and attachments, often going back to earlier times and places, it would be natural to want to try to replicate their pizzas in a home setting. So, we get a lot of requests for clone dough recipes.
But it is doubtful that I would have reverse engineered a chain pizza or attempted to make a clone solely for my own purposes. I don’t consider myself a pizza snob but at the time I wrote what you quoted I did not have any particular affinity for the pizzas of the chains. The “tipping point” for me was that I like to be challenged. I also like to learn new things and to apply what I learn in new situations. And I am willing and prepared to put in the time and effort to get the job done. I might end up failing, but the thought of failure is almost never a deterrent. To the extent that I succeed and others benefit from what I have done, I view it as a win-win situation. You will also notice that I did not stop this thread at Reply 2, after I posted the dough formulation that represented my best efforts at cloning the Papa John’s dough. I went on to make many other versions, none of which are offered by Papa John’s itself. It turns out that some of those versions are the most popular among our members.
In making the clones, as part of the intellectual challenge I wanted to see how far I could take the process using only publicly available information. Five years ago, that would have been quite difficult because much of the information on the products of major companies was not readily available, and many were private companies, which are the hardest companies to research. But, because of the Internet and government regulations and an increased interest and concern about foods and their nutritional value, there is much more information available today about the products of the chains and the ingredients that go into them. We, as members, also have greater access to the types of products (and, in some cases, the exact products) used by the chains in their operations. So, replicating pizzas in a fairly authentic way is a greater reality today than five years ago. But, that doesn’t mean that it is easy to reverse engineer products and make clones. It is hard, tedious and often boring work, and a lonely process. I have a notebook on everything I have done with the Papa John’s clones and it is up to 80 pages.
I will confess that there is a certain folly and futility to reverse engineering the pizza products of others. Dough formulations change over time, ingredients and suppliers change with regularity, and new people, equipment and processes are constantly being introduced. For example, Pizza Hut has gone to frozen pizza dough products in the U.S. and in several other countries, and outsources other pizza products. These products are pretty much out of the realm of reverse engineering by home pizza makers because of the general unavailability of the many chemicals, additives and conditioners used to make frozen dough. Also, fewer and fewer companies are making on-premises dough. Like Papa John’s, more and more companies are using commissaries, with dough formulations that are designed for commissary production and transportation logistics. Trans fats are being routinely eliminated from dough formulations. It looks like salt (sodium) and sugar are being targeted for reduction. Usually the changes are made gradually, so that customers don’t notice the changes. I recently saw that Papa John’s issued new nutrition information for many of its pizzas. I did a comparison with the previous nutrition information and the differences suggest that PJ’s either improved upon their nutrition tests and results or they have reduced the weights of some pizzas.