Reverse Engineering Patsy's Pizza

Started by pftaylor, March 14, 2005, 05:57:27 PM

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I decided to form a new thread dedicated to the relentless pursuit of reverse engineering a Patsy's Pizza at home. The goal for all of this hopefully will be an authentic recipe. So below is a cut and paste we will use of the last post in the thread entitled: "Friday Night Pizza Pictures" to jump start our discussion.

Okay here's what we have so far in diagnosing or reverse engineering a Patsy's Pizza. They have the world's lightest crust (outside of Naples) and may also use the most basic of all dough recipes; Flour, water, yeast, and salt. Can it be? Where's the sugar? Same for the Olive Oil? Where is it? Can you actually create a world class crust without those ingredients? I'm flabbergasted if that's the case.

Here are the facts as we know them:
1) They use a High Gluten flour to some extent. Probably 100%.
2) They do not use a high hydration dough as previously thought. I trust Jeff's ability to tell the difference between a wet and dry dough. I could use help here in predicting the likely hydration range to use in a home recipe.
3) They use a refrigerated retardation/proofing process - probably overnight but again input on what the timeframe range alternatives are would be helpful.
4) They do not use oil or sugar in the dough recipe. The source on this is their waiter. Could be reliable then again...
5) They MIGHT use a starter. I definitely need feedback here on Jeff's assumption that if you can culture their dough that's a pretty good indication that they use a starter. If so, they would be the only classic coal fired oven place to do so. Sounds like a longshot but ya never know. Somebody convince me on this pivotal point. I wanna believe...
6) They use Sassone tomatoes/sauce - Has anyone ever heard of this brand/distributor?
7) They have used a really hot coal fired oven since 1933. The crust is ultra-light, not heavy. If you usually get full eating 3-4 slices of a traditional NYC pie, you would have no problem eating an entire Patsy's pizza and still not feel bloated. Part of it may be that unlike Di Fara's, they have a light hand when it comes to cheese and sauce. In this case, less seems to be more.
8) The crust is not cracker crispy, charred yes. In fact, it is sort of on the soft side for being so well done.

I would especially appreciate any and all feedback from anyone who has actually eaten at the original Patsy's in East Harlem. Anyone who can comment on the above list is more than welcome to jump in...Come on guys help us decode this!
Pizza Raquel is Simply Everything You'd Want.


I would be absolutely shocked to find out that Patsy's uses either sugar or oil. Really, really surprised. Especially about the sugar.

Frankly, I wish you guys could taste my crust. It's very close to pasty's right now. It's SUPER light. Much lighter than I ever thought I'd get it. And it's just  Flour, water, yeast, and salt. The taste is very close too. I had one batch in particular that was almost right there (crust only, not cheese). But I keep experimenting rather than rest on my laurels so I haven't remade that one in a while.

But I'm definitely at a higher hydration than they are right now. And I can't seem to get their level of windowpaning yet.

Regarding the starter: If all they use is baker's yeast than how can it continue on year after year? Baker's yeast just doesn't do that. Steve is using the culture, so he should weigh in on this. He said in recent post that it's taste is way different than the IDY he compared it to. He may not have the flavor to match Patsy's yet, as the same culture will yield very different flavors depending on the other factors. That takes a lot of practice. But he should confirm that the culture is highly active. It came straight from their dough.



These were the results of the 'very little yeast' experiment ala pizzanapoletana. This was a very high hydration, slow rise using KA Bread Flour. I did a 18 hour bulk rise, made the balls and did another 5 hour rise. 

This was pretty much a failed experiment. The first dough ripped and I tossed it. The second held together but yielded a fairly dense crust.  This was my first time using this method, so I can't be too hard on it. But nothing about this pie was very good.  To be fair to pizzanapoletana, I altered his instructions in several places because I didn't have the ingredients to do it his way.


I have not been to patsy's in east harlem in a long time. But i would agree with jeff on the fact that they would not use oil or sugar in their dough. For the simple fact that the roots of patsy's pizza formula come from naples, and in naples the dough does not have oil or sugar. The primary reason being that at 800 degrees plus, the browning of the crust occurs naturally. When analyzing these different pizzas, I think if you put them into their proper context in the evolution of pizza in that city, it is all an adaptation of pizza from naples. starting with lombardis. The pizza was adapted to the large coal ovens. then was adapted again to gas or electric. when the pizza was adapted to the gas oven, sugar and oil were added to aid in crust browning and the salt level was lowered. Also because of the stronger flour, oil also helped make the dough more extensible. Patsy's dough is probably very similar to the tom lehamn recipe which represents the typical new york dough, just taken a step back to the old days omitting oil, adding more water, and more salt...  I think the biggest factor in patsy's pizza is the oven, the way the stone and the high heat cook the pizza in 2-3 mintues. I think place like patsy's like to make this stuff very mysterious as if their is ssome secret recipe that only they know. The truth is the formula is very simple, there is just little attention to technique. I would be very surprised if they used any type of starter. I would guess the the dough is simple and something like this

    100%                 25  lbs high gluten flour (preferably sir lancelot)
      60%                 15  lbs water
        2%                   8 oz salt
     .75%                   3 oz cake yeast (if the dough is refrigerated for 24 hours)
     .125% -  .25%    .5 oz - 1oz if risen at room temperature (ideal in my opinion)
if the dough is going to be fermented under refrigeration, it needs to come off the hook at 80 degrees
if the dough is going to be fermented at room temperature, i would suggest 75-77 degrees

to get the light crust and proper cooking, the dough must be at room temperature prior to baking.

just a thought.... hope this helps.


Where do I begin?

A master pizzaiolo has contributed to the reverse engineering effort with an authentic recipe on the first day. It can't get better than that can it? ilpizzaiolo, I wonder if you would be so inclined as to review my suggested dough preparation techniques and dough management steps in a later post to ensure appropriate fit for a home recipe? Your suggestions are priceless and will be treated as such.

This forum and its members are fantastic. I feel privledged to be part of this. And its beginning to now all make sense. Patsy's grew out of Lombardi's. Lombardi's is from Naples. Naples never has used oil or sugar. Thanks for connecting the dots. Seems simple now.

I guess the lesson learned so far is that less really is more when it comes to pizza recipes. The authentic recipe you have generously offered up is so simple it defies logic. Why then do we Americans have dough recipes with all kinds of unnecessary ingredients? 

I feel your pain. Make one slight adjustment to a recipe and the whole thing is near useless. I would go back to what you know best. My only question is can you write down the recipe where you got close to Patsy's crust? I know you make a pizza by "feel" but keep a notebook handy and jot down notes. You hold the key to dialing us in. You are closer than anyone else.

On another note, I have recieved your Patsy's culture (smells like Boones Farm or MD 20/20). Actually, I can't stop thinking about that old line from the 70's after taking a whiff of your culture: What's the word? Thunderbird! What's the price? Fifty twice. If anyone doesn't get the T-Bird reference it probably means you are too young or you had enough money to buy good wine in the 70's. That's some strong smelling stuff Jeff.

I will prepare a batch of dough tonight with it. I am still troubled as to whether or not Patsy's uses a starter. On one hand, their crust is so much more flavorful than the other coal oven joints. On the other hand, do they really go through the trouble of using a starter on a daily basis? Could there be another explanation for why their crust is so light and flavorful? I'm beginning to think that the unbelievable lightness of the crust has us fooled into guessing a starter is being used.

You didn't think I would forget you did you? If you have the cycles, could you kindly check the conversions I made to il pizzaiolo's dough recipe in a later post? I want enough for two 14 ounce dough balls. I'm still not comfortable with the calculations and frankly you are the best.

We are still open to ideas and advice on any and all subject matter related to Patsy's. Feel free to add to the fun.
Pizza Raquel is Simply Everything You'd Want.



Quote from: pftaylor on March 15, 2005, 05:44:58 AM

Why then do we Americans have dough recipes with all kinds of unnecessary ingredients? 

Uhmm?  Flavor I would think since American style pizza out sells any other.


Quote from: varasano on March 14, 2005, 11:47:46 PM
Regarding the starter: If all they use is baker's yeast than how can it continue on year after year? Baker's yeast just doesn't do that. Steve is using the culture, so he should weigh in on this. He said in recent post that it's taste is way different than the IDY he compared it to. He may not have the flavor to match Patsy's yet, as the same culture will yield very different flavors depending on the other factors. That takes a lot of practice. But he should confirm that the culture is highly active. It came straight from their dough.

Yes, the culture that Jeff sent is thriving nicely. I haven't had time to make a second batch of pizza dough using it, so it's in a semi-dormant state right now in my refrigerator. Plus I am still a novice when it comes to starters and it's apparent that I am doing something wrong since I am getting that tangy sourdough flavor in my crust.


Here is the modified home conversion of il pizzaiolo's authentic recipe. We hope to test it to see how close it comes to a Patsy's type crust. I have expressed all measurements (except starter) in weights as it is the most accurate way. Plus I get to use my new scale to boot. If you don't have a starter, no big deal. Don't worry about it. The starter adds a lot of extra taste and flavor but it is purely optional at this point. I just hope, for the general membership, that you don't need an 800 degree oven (which unfortunately may be the most important ingredient in this recipe) for this recipe to work well.

Produces enough for two 15" pizzas each weighing about 14 ounces:
15.5oz    KASL Flour
9.3oz      Water
2T           Starter (Optional)
1/10oz    IDY
3/10oz    Salt

Dough Preparation Sequence:
Stir water and salt with spoon until dissolved in stand mixer bowl. Add flour, yeast, and starter. Set stand mixer on stir for 1 minute. Mix for 5 minutes on 2. Mix for 5 minutes on 3. Finish dough for 5 minutes until smooth on 2-3. Get out thermometer, check dough temperature; it should be 80 degrees at the hook. If not, use warmer or colder water next time to adjust. Refresh starter.

Note: Sequence updated to reflect forming of balls immediately after mixing...

Remove dough from bowl and hand knead on lightly floured prep area. Cut dough in half, form into balls, wipe lightly with oil, drop into a plastic bread bag, twist the end closed and tuck it under the dough ball. Place dough and starter into the refrigerator to ferment. On the following day, remove the dough from the refrigerator and allow it to warm at room temperature for about 60 - 120 minutes.

NOTE: To get the light crust and proper cooking, dough must be at room temperature prior to baking.

Then remove from the bag. Place dough on a floured prep area, punch down. Cover dough with kitchen towel to prevent drying for at least 1/2 hour. When ready to work the dough, do so by pressing down with your fingers from the center outward towards the rim. Then stretch the dough with your knuckles until finished.

Put the formed skin onto a pizza peel with Italian grease to facilitate release from the peel, add sauce, cheese, sprinkle salt, basil, and toppings.  Peel the dressed skin onto a preheated (about an hour) pizza stone in the oven/grill and allow baking until the crust is lightly charred and crispy.

Again, I would appreciate any and all feedback on any aspect of this recipe.
Pizza Raquel is Simply Everything You'd Want.


I highly recommend no oil, sugar or malt.  I haven't used any in my pizza for over 2 years and I'll never go back.  My dough always browns in my oven which only gets up to 550 degrees (temp check with regular oven therm.)  7-8 minutes cooking time :(    - I know, should be 2-3.  I use a 2-4 days rise in a colder fridge.

I need to get a hotter oven.  I'm taking a wood burning oven course - actually it's a pizza course in Virginia - but I'm sure I know more about pizza than the instructor so I'm really going to learn about wood burning ovens and to bring my own dough to test it out.   If all works out then I'll be looking for a wood burning oven in my kitchen (instead of outdoors since I eat pizza 24x7)

Also I'm going to patsy's in the next few weeks so I'll ask a bunch of questions :)   I'm also going to Una Pizza Napoletana which should be interesting.

[ Anonymized URL Blocked ]


A few quick things.

I would like to request that we all switch to grams rather than oz, cups, tablespoons and pounds.
I'll try to do more measuring next time, but I won't get to it this week.

My website has the recipe that got me the closest to patsy's. It's about 40% poolish, ka bread, 1-2 day cold rise.

Unfortunately, I think both my recipe and the one given above only have meaning at 750F or higher.

I agree that oil & sugar are added to accomodate a lower temp.

The idea that the light crust comes from the starter, I believe is mistaken.  I had a long talk with the former head baker at Zabar's and he said that sourdough gives the flavor, but many don't have enough puff, so you add baker's yeast to give it that lightness. Wonderbread uses baker's yeast.  Sourdough's tend to be dense.  In the 3 years since he told me that my experience has only serverd to confirm that.  If you are using baker's yeast and getting a dense dough then the problem is in the technique.

In my opinion, I think there is a huge overemphasis on the ingredient list. I know this sounds crazy or contradictory. But I've been basically using the same 4 ingredients for a couple of years and the variation from the best to the worst is HUGE. The same ingredients can yield soft, dense, light, wet, crisp, elastic, crumbling. To me it's all in the subtle technique. My web page focuses more on individual steps including kneading techniques, because I believe that it's in the steps and not the indredients. I went with AP flour for a long time and had excellent results. I may even try to go back to it. I haven't tried the Sir Lancelot yet, but the switch from AP to Bread and back does not seem to make a big difference. Ed Wood uses AP.  I know that pizzaneopolitana will disagree with this, and I may eventually change my mind on this, but right now I'm thinking it's all in the sequencing of the steps. The culture, the temp, the hydration, the knead times. I believe strongly that the dough should have rest periods while kneading. See my recipe.

I would not cover the dough with oil. For SURE patsy's doesn't do that. Put them in Glad 3 cup plastic containers. They work very well, exactly the size for 1 pie. I oil it but the thinest possible coating, wiped out with a paper towel. 

This may be my last post for a while. I've got a company to run.





Thanks for your interest and support. By the time you go to NYC we should have a concise and much smaller list of questions to solve. Right now there are so many gaps that you would probably scare them away. Bring a camera with you if you can.
Pizza Raquel is Simply Everything You'd Want.


I'm very pleased with the way this conversation has evolved, as it is totally in line with the point I have been trying to make over the past few weeks - great pizza is beautiful in its simplicity.  Perhaps some remember my post from a few weeks ago about the K.I.S.S. theory.  To me, this theory is at the very core of pizza making.  Pizza is not overly complex in its makeup, but is very theoretical and complex in its PREPARATION.  This very subject is discussed on another "Reverse Engineering" thread started by Pete-zza called "Reverse Engineering DiFara's Pizzas".  Replies 41 and 43 address this very topic, as I enjoyed unbelievable success in combining KA00 and KASL flours to make a DiFara hybrid.  The ingredients consisted only of flour, water, salt, and yeast.

There are no "magical" ingredients, only magical ways to prepare pizza.  Hence the fascination with the great pizzamakers like Dom DeMarco and others.  It has been proven time and time again amongst our membership that great pizza can be made from a myriad of ingredients, but the real substantive breakthroughs tend to be associated with preparation technique - such things as refrigeration/retardation, cooking temperature, dough temperature, cooking techniques (stone vs. screen vs. tiles), mixing of ingredients (mixer, food processer), mixing times, etc.  These are the factors that ultimately affect the final product more than "newfound" ingredients.  Pizzamaking is an art form that has history over 300 years old.  Let us not think that there is some "magic" ingredient out there that will re-invent this great art that has stood the test of time.  What we can enhance and improve is our abilities as amateur pizzamakers and the various techniques needed to master this great art.  Make no mistake, preparation techniques and cooking techniques affect flavor and outcome just as much as great ingredients - and the ingredients are no great mystery.  I guarantee you that if you had Dom DeMarco to your home as a guest, he could take your own pizza dough and create a wonderful pizza product.  He's a craftsman and that's the biggest key to making great pizza.  And certainly, we have some great craftsmen among our membership, none of whom I will single out for fear of leaving anyone off the list.



I have taken a stab at converting ilpizzaiolo's recipe as you have adapted it to include use of a starter. Using a starter complicates the conversion process for three reasons that immediately come to mind: I don't know how much your starter weighs, I don't know its leavening power, and the amounts of flour and water have to be adjusted to compensate for the flour and water in the amount of starter used. Consequently, to do the conversion, I assumed that your starter is similar to mine and is about 50% flour and 50% water. I weighed a tablespoon of my starter and it was about 0.50 oz. I then adjusted the amounts of flour and water so that, together with the other ingredients (salt, IDY, and the starter), the total dough ball weight was around 14 oz.

Since the recipe calls for the use of cake yeast and you plan to use IDY and refrigeration of the dough, I converted from cake yeast to IDY by dividing by 3, which is the typical conversion number used. So, 0.75% cake yeast in the recipe became 0.25% IDY (by weight of flour). I did not attempt to reduce the amount of water in the recipe to compensate for the liquid in cake yeast. I suspect it is minimal in any event. Since your starter has leavening power, you may be able to reduce the amount of IDY somewhat, but I have no way to tell you by how much.

I realize that you are planning to make two pizzas, each using a dough ball of around 14 oz., but I have listed the ingredients and quantities below for a single dough ball, along with volume measurements for those who do not have scales or want to make just a single pizza. To make more dough balls, all that is necessary is to multiply the weights (or volumes) by the number of dough balls desired.

You may also be interested in knowing that the thickness factor (TF) for your pizza is on the low side. I know that you favor your pizza crusts on the thin side (to keep carb levels down), but yours is extra thin. You indicated that you wanted a roughly 14-oz. dough ball for a 15-in. pizza. Using the expression 3.14 x 7.5 x 7.5 x TF = 14 oz., I solved for TF and got 0.0793, or roughly 0.08. A typical NY style dough has a thickness factor of around 0.10. In any event, I have presented below the list of ingredients and quantities I came up with for a single dough ball weight of 14 oz. When I added together the weights of all the ingredients, they did indeed come to 14 oz., which suggests that my math is correct. For those who may want to use the original recipe, i.e., without the use of a starter but using IDY and refrigeration, I will do another conversion and post the results in another posting sometime today. I welcome anyone to double check my figures (and methodology) if they are so inclined, to be sure that I have correctly stated everything.

High-gluten flour (100%, KASL), 8.40 oz. (1 3/4 c. plus 2 1/2 T.)
Water (60%), 4.95 oz. (about 2/3 c.)
Salt (2%), 0.173 oz. (about 7/8 t.)
IDY (0.25%), 0.022 oz. (about 1/5 t.)
Starter, 0.55 oz. (about 1 T.)

As for your question about dividing dough balls sooner rather than later, I tend to favor doing the dividing sooner. This minimizes contact with the dough balls once they are formed and suitably weighed. Dividing, weighing and shaping later may force gasses out of the dough, which you usually want to avoid.



Thanks for jumping in and helping out. Your point about my preference for a thin skin is well made. Would it be possible to adjust the math for an industry standard dough ball weight? Historically I believe you use around 20oz? I can always adjust downwards from there for my individual needs.

This is a great project and one which hopefully will benefit all. A few points come to mind however: First, I'll update the recipe Pete-zza has converted to include metric units as well in the next update. Good point Jeff.

Second, If the addition of sugar and oil is for lower temperature ovens should we not include a modified version for those situations? If so, how much?

Third, I would like feedback around updating the procedure and sequencing of the processing of the dough. I think Jeff may have a point about having rest periods but I wonder if they are necessary if one is not using a starter?

Fourth, I agree with Pete-zza that cutting the dough balls early makes sense so I'll update the procedure if no one is passionate otherwise.

Thanks for all the positive energy around this project.
Pizza Raquel is Simply Everything You'd Want.


 > Second, If the addition of sugar and oil is for lower temperature ovens should we not include
> a modified version for those situations? If so, how much?
Honestly, this is a whole separate project then.  A lower temp pizza may have just about everything different, not just one or two ingedients.

I weighed a Patsy's dough ball. Unfortunately I don't remember what it was, but I remember thinking that they were making a bigger pie with about the same weight as I was using. That would put it at about 350 - 375g for an 18?" pie. As my technique has improved, my ball is getting lighter and lighter, so that is now matches Patsy's. I'm at 270g for a 13-14" pie. Almost exactly what pizzaneopolitano uses too.

Re: Grams. I know I just suggested grams, but maybe we should just use percents.

My starter is a batter, so it's probably about 50% water, 50% batter.  Pretty good guess. I'll have to start measuring more though.





Any number of conversions are possible. But since you are trying to emulate the Patsy's dough and crust, wouldn't it make more sense to use a typical Patsy's pizza as a benchmark? I know from reading Jeff's stuff that he uses a dough ball weight of around 270-280 g. (about 9.5-9.9 oz.) for a 13-inch pizza. Based on those numbers, the thickness factor TF would be around 0.072-0.075, or a bit less than (but close to) your thickness factor. But the dough ball weights and sizes you and Jeff have been using may not be typical of a Patsy's pizza. Also, do you want the conversion to a more standard size to include a starter?

If you can tell me what benchmark you want to use (dough ball weight, pizza size, thickness, or whatever) and whether you want to base the conversion on using a starter, I should be able to come up with the numbers.

As for using oil or sugar in the dough, do you want to consider modifying the recipe to incllude either, inasmuch as it appears that Patsy's does neither? I realize that Patsy's ovens operate at higher temperatures than home ovens, but doing either or both will slightly alter the baker's percents and the amounts of the individual ingredients, even if only slightly. It may make greater sense to leave it to the home pizza maker to decide whether to use sugar or oil based on how long the dough is to be held before using, oven temperature and baking method to be used, desired crust characteristics, etc.

I know Jeff is very fond of using rest periods and it is hard to argue with his success. But with all due respect, I tend to doubt that Patsy's uses autolyses or other types of rest periods in making their doughs. I say this only because I have never been able to find anything in the literature that suggests that professional pizza operators use such rest periods. I can't say categorically that that is true, and maybe some artisanal pizza maker somewhere is using rest periods, but I haven't been able to find evidence of this in the literature (see, for example, Reply #43 at,576.msg5475.html#msg5475). I do know that Peter Reinhart recommends rest periods, but his background was in bread baking where use of autolyse periods is quite common.

I'll await your further instructions on how you would like me to proceed.




I see that Jeff has weighed in on some aspect of the project. If he is using 270-280 g. for a 13-14-inch pizza, then his skins are thinner yet than yours. And if Patsy's is using 350-375 g. for an 18-inch skin, then Patsy's is lower yet than either you or Jeff--about half of the thickness of a standard NY style dough. It would certainly help if we could determine the dough ball weight Patsy's uses and the size of pizza Patsy's makes using that dough ball weight. Otherwise, we will have to just pick a size and thickness factor and calculate everything from those numbers.



I would recommend recalculating to a standard ball weight for a 15" skin with a standard thickness pizza. I would also still display percentages. Everyone can adjust from there. Patsy's standard pizza size is about 18" and wouldn't fit in anyone's oven anyway. I'm not sure what a standard thickness skin is for a NY pie but I believe I've read some of your posts where you have suggested one. I would go with that number.

Regarding a starter, I would not list it and make it optional. There are only a handful of us who use a starter anyway and it's listing may slow down potential adoption with new members due to unnessary confusion.

Regarding OO & sugar, I agree with Jeff. Let's not include them either.
Pizza Raquel is Simply Everything You'd Want.


Has anyone tried this recipe yet?  Once Pete gets a final version I will give it a go right away.


The 13" pie is all I can make consistently. My stone in 14.5" front to back and 16" wide. I can't really do more than 13" because that only leaves a little bit on each side and given that I've only got a second to put it in (don't want to let the heat out) and don't use a screen, 13" is about what I can do.

Any chance of standardizing on that size rather than 15"?

The more I think about it, the more I think measuring everything in %'s is best, then convert to grams for home use. I'm going to start making much smaller batches so I can bang out a bunch of experiments for this project. I don't think in the DLX I can do much smaller than 1100g which is 4 x 275g.