Recently, I decided to conduct an experiment in which I took member Randy’s interpretation (if that is a proper characterization) of the Papa John’s style and reformated it to fit the “look and feel” of the Papa John’s clone doughs/pizzas that I have made and reported on in this thread. For purposes of the experiment, I started out with Randy’s basic dough formulation as given at http://www.pizzamaking.com/forum/index.php/topic,5721.0.html.
As part of the transformation, I used the same pizza size (14”), same dough ball weight (22 ounces), same weight of mozzarella cheese (about 9 ounces, but diced rather than shredded), the same sauce weight (about 5.5 ounces of a PJ clone sauce), and the same number of slices of pepperoni (around 45 slices) as I used for many of my PJ clones as reported in this thread. I used the same baker’s percents for my dough as called for in Randy’s recipe, and I used the same dough preparation procedures, except that I used a combination of King Arthur bread flour and vital wheat gluten (Hodgson Mill brand) instead of high-gluten flour and I used a water temperature of 90 degrees F (as recommended by Randy) since I was planning on making a two-day cold fermented dough rather than a one-day cold fermented dough. I also tweaked the baker’s percents to reflect better conversion data than I previously used with Randy’s recipe.
The dough preparation was easy, although I found it necessary to use a spatula from time to time to help the dough along at the different stages. The finished dough was in very good form—smooth and supple. By the time I removed the dough ball from the refrigerator (after two days), it had more than quadruped in volume (based on using the poppy seed method as described at http://www.pizzamaking.com/forum/index.php/topic,6914.0.html
). The dough was allowed to warm up at room temperature for about 2 ½ hours. I used Randy’s version of the PJ “Dustinator” blend as I opened up and shaped the dough ball to the desired size (14”). That blend included white flour, semolina flour and cornmeal (the official PJ Dustinator blend comprises white flour, semolina flour and soybean oil). I had no problem shaping the dough ball to form the 14” skin and to fit it on my 14” pizza screen. I did not need and therefore did not use a dough docker. The finished dressed (unbaked) pizza weighed around 39 ounces, which was pretty much in line with many of my PJ clones.
The pizza was baked on the lowest oven rack position of my electric oven, which I had preheated to about 500 degrees F (the temperature suggested by Randy). The total bake time was around 10 minutes, with the final minute at the topmost oven rack position to get more top crust coloration. The bake time was considerably longer, by several minutes, than what Randy has used and what I have normally used for PJ clones. The weight of the pizza after baking was around 36 ounces, which reflected a loss during baking of about 8%. That figure was also in line with some of my prior PJ clone experiments. Overall, I believe I achieved the general look and feel of the PJ clones I have been making, which was the objective of the experiment.
The photos below show the finished pizza. I must say that I was quite surprised by the results. From a weight standpoint, the pizza was similar to the many PJ clones I have made, including the two-day version, but there were many differences. First, the rim of the baked pizza was larger and puffier than my PJ clone pizzas even though I was careful in forming the skin to press the rim area down hard so as to materially reduce the finished rim size. I attribute the larger rim size to the large amount of yeast (1.56% IDY) in the dough formulation I used. Second, the crumb was considerably softer, “pastier” and more tender and less chewy than my PJ clones, and more breadlike, with a softer, less crispy bottom crust. I attribute this to the considerably higher formula hydration (nominally 60.63% but a bit more than 64% when the water in the honey is accounted for) and the considerably more total sugar (5.27% table sugar and 4.63% honey, for a total of about 9.9%) than what I have used (a bit over 4%) for my PJ clones. In my clones, I use less sugar (or honey) and more oil than Randy calls for in his recipe. Surprisingly, I did not find the crust to be overly sweet but the crust was saltier than my PJ clones (the formula salt in the recipe is 2.46%).
The flavors of the pizza were quite good and similar to what I have achieved with my PJ clones but the total mouth feel was quite different than my PJ clones because of the increased crust/crumb softness. In retrospect, it occurred to me that I might have been able to reduce the crust and crumb softness and to get a chewier and crispier crust by using a lower bake temperature and a longer bake time in order to drive off more of the moisture in the dough so that the final crust would approach the textural qualities of the finished crusts of the PJ clones I have made (and authentic PJ pizzas as well). However, that would have meant a possible total bake time in a range of 12-15 minutes by my estimation. That said, I am sure that I can improve the textural qualities for the leftover slices when I reheat them in my toaster oven.
Overall, I learned a lot from my experiment and I am glad I did it. However, I concluded that it is perhaps better to stick with Randy’s recipe on its own rather than trying to reformat it to fit the profile of the PJ clones I have been making. Alternatively, for me, a good option is to make “thinner” versions of Randy’s American style, which is where I originally cut my teeth with Randy’s recipe, and which I described in various forms at http://www.pizzamaking.com/forum/index.php/topic,1707.0.html.