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banhxeo76 03-20-2013 07:29 AM

My quest to replicate Di Fara's Square Pizza
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After hurricane Katrina, my employer relocated to Bayonne, New Jersey which is about 35 minutes train ride to the Big Apple. I stayed up there for about two months and the people in that area were very helpful and kind when they found out that I was from New Orleans. My employer allows each employee to spend up to $25 each night for dinner of our choice. Since I was a single guy and had a lot of free time, I went all over the place to eat for dinner. One of thing that New York is known for is pizza.

After I did some research for the best pizzerias in New York area, I took a 45 minutes train ride to Brooklyn in the middle of the week. I got there about 7:00 PM and I was shocked to see nobody other than Dominic and his daughter in Di Fara Pizza. I was nervous when I ordered my pizza because how often do you get to order your food from the owner who was also preparing the food as well. The only guy I can think of is the “Soup Nazi” (Seinfeld) which made me nervous. I just ordered whatever he had on the counter at the moment and it was the square pizza. The crust on the square looked burnt but I was not going to complain. I was more than happy to pay for two squares and accepted burnt crust square pizza.

I never taste anything so good in my mouth. Even though it is a little bit too greasy for my taste but I love it. You can tell right away that he used good ingredient on his pie. When I was done with my two squares, I was hoping to get some more pizza to go but the line was too long at this point. So, I just watch Dominic did his magic for the next 30 minutes and be amazed. I just love the way Dominic finished off his pizza by cutting fresh imported basil over the hot pizza with his scissor and his customers just stared at his work in awe. Dominic is truly a master at his craft. It is crazy to say this but because of Hurricane Katrina, I get to eat that prefect pizza. And ever since then, I have been dreaming of eating that square pizza again. Well, it is time to replicate that pizza.

banhxeo76 03-20-2013 08:18 AM

Re: My quest to replicate Di Fara's Square Pizza
There are quite a few blogs out there on how to make Di Fara pizza. A lot of people have asked Dominic for his recipes and he was more than happy to share his information. From what I have gather so far, Dominic's helpers (his sons and daughter) mixed the dough and let the dough rise for only 2 hours before he used it. So, they pretty much mixed the dough throughout the day in small batch. I was very surprise to learn this at first because that is a very short fermented time for dough development. But his customers love his pizza regardless because all of his favors of his pizza are on top of the dough. However, I will develop my dough at least 12 hours because I find it's more forgiving to work with a cold-fermented dough. Dominic use a ratio of 75/25 which consists of Caputo ’00 flour and All-Trump High Gluten flour for his 65% hydration dough. Dominic typically used 3 type of cheese for his pizza. He started off with Grande whole milk low moisture mozzarella, imported buffalo mozzarella, and some freshly shredded imported grana padano cheese. I can get grana padano and fresh buffalo mozzarella but not on the Grande mozzarella. For now, I am using Polly-E mozzarella in place of Grande and I think polly-e is very good cheese. I find out from a local distributor that there is only one pizza joint that use Grande whole milk low moisture mozzarella. At time, Dominic had also used Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese instead of grana padano and I find them to be very similar in texture and taste. His sauce is made from imported San Marzano tomatoes with some fresh tomatoes. He used fresh basil and oregano which is imported from Israel. For the herb, I just use my fresh basil and oregano from my backyard. As for olive oil (which I think Dominic is heavy hand with), Dominic used a well-known brand which is Felippo Berio olive oil.

banhxeo76 03-20-2013 02:20 PM

Re: My quest to replicate Di Fara's Square Pizza
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Here is my first attempt on the Di Fara's Square Pizza. First, I rolled out my dough onto lightly oil (with light olive oil) aluminum pan (from Sam's Club) and let the spread-out dough rest for about 30 minute. I then spread out the sauce over the dough. When surface temperature of my WFO stabilized at 700 degree F, I loaded in the tray with dough and sauce. Within 3 minutes, I noticed that the pan warp up in the middle. Probably has to do with the damn cheap pan from Sam's.

After 5 minutes, I removed the tray and lift up the crust to check on the bottom. The bottom hardly had any color to it. I figured that perhaps it need more oil on the bottom to encourage some frying activity and I did just that. I then put some low moisture mozzarella cheese over it. Then I followed with fresh buffalo mozzarella. I used only about of fresh buffalo amount compare to low moisture mozzarella cheese. Didn’t want to use too much fresh buffalo because it is a very wet cheese and I don’t like my pizza to be too soggy. Pour some more red sauce over the cheese and put some fresh grated grana padano over everything. I skipped the olive oil step (before Dominic loaded the pan back oven for the second bake, he pour some olive oil all over) because I think I have more than enough oil on the bottom. Slide it back in the WFO. After 6 minutes, I noticed that crust looked done so I pulled it out. Lift up the crust to check on the bottom and it was still white. Apparently, the additional olive oil didn’t do any good. I decided to remove the whole thing out of the pan and let it cooked directly on the floor of WFO. Within 2 minutes, it bottom looked a lot better but the crust on the top at this point is brunt. Cut some fresh basil over the pizza and cut them up in square. Right off the bat, I noticed that I put too much of the low moisture mozzarella cheese because I couldn’t see the sauce. The bottom was too greasy for my taste. I needed more red sauce. Other than that, it tasted really good.

I tried again with a darker and smaller pan and the result was much better. I added some pepperino this time. I had no clue that the dark pan would make such a big difference. However, I was pretty low on the sauce for this particular square but it still tasted good. My two years old son was had three squares and he usually doesn’t care for my slice pizza. I am not there yet, but it was my best homemade pizza so far.

texassourdough 03-21-2013 03:23 AM

Re: My quest to replicate Di Fara's Square Pizza
Good comments, Dat. I was at Di Fara last month and was stunned to arrive at 6:30 and have only one person in front of us (though several orders in progress including call in/take out and a half hour total wait). We had the round pie but your comments are spot on.

The balance of flavors is spectacular. And my only real criticism is the amount of oil - but I also think it is the oil that lets him get away with using dough that is so "quick" and thereby lacking developed flavor.

A real joy to watch him slowly and methodically make pie after pie.

stonecutter 03-21-2013 05:17 AM

Re: My quest to replicate Di Fara's Square Pizza
Thanks for the share. When we lived up in New England, my wife and I would go to NYC a few times a year...there was always a great pizzeria nobody really knew about.

banhxeo76 03-21-2013 09:02 AM

Re: My quest to replicate Di Fara's Square Pizza
After that first trip to Di Fara, I came again the following week. On the second trip, I also had a slice of cheese and a slice of artichoke. I didn’t care for the artichoke pizza at all. From what it seemed, the artichoke is pretty the same as cheese pizza but Dominic put way too many artichoke on that day and the salt/vinegar brine from the artichoke seem to overpower everything else. As far as the slice of cheese, it was very good but was not as good as the square. Even though he used almost the exact same recipe for the square and slices pizza, their taste and texture were very different.

Dominic set his oven at 700 degree F for his pizza. When Dominic made his round pizza, he used uncooked sauce. As far as the topping for the cheese, everything is pretty the same as the square. Before Dominic loaded the pizza in the oven, he poured a lot of olive oil out of his copper can. Dominic checked his pie doneness by looking at the bottom of the pie to see if there is enough color that he’s aiming for. He couldn’t care less if the crust on the edge was burning or not. Sometime, Dominic would move his pie to back of gas oven where it is hotter to get the bottom to his standard. When it is done, he takes it out the round pizza with his own bare hands and it’s crazy! He placed the pie on the aluminum round pan and poured more olive oil on the pie. As he was pouring more olive oil, I was thinking is that really necessary at all. Some section of the pizza appeared to have a puddle of olive oil. Then he put more shredded grana padano on the pie and finished the pie off with fresh cut basil. Finally, he cut the round pizza and served. So, it all depends on what section of the pizza you get. Some slice will be soggy and greasy than other. Here is another reason why the pie is soggy. Along with many other pizzerias, Dominic doesn’t allow the pizza have a chance to rest on a rack that would allow air flow on the bottom for a few minutes or so. When the bottom of the hot pizza contacts the aluminum pan, it continues to release steam. Since steam has nowhere to go, it goes back onto the crust which to make it soft. It is the same concept when we rested freshly baked loaves on a rack after we removed from the oven so the bottom can breathe and help the crust to retain its texture. However, there is no reason for Dominic to change his method because his customers including myself still love his pizza and willing to pay $5 per slice.

As for square, I read somewhere that Dominic’s square pizza first layer of sauce is actually a cooked sauce that may include garlic. He used a dark pan (it won’t work with aluminum pan, I tried) for his square pizza. During the first bake, there is only dough and cooked sauce over an oiled pan. Dominic uses the exact same dough for square and round pizza but the dough on the square is thicker than the round pizza. Before the second bake, Dominic lifts out the crust one side and poured some olive oil and he does the same thing on the opposite side. He put on two types of mozzarella cheese on pie, then poured some uncooked sauce this around over cheese, added some shredded grana padano, and finished off with olive oil. Then he baked again. After it is done, he finished this pie the same way he did with the round pizza. The bottom of square is more firm because it is a thicker dough and it has oil on the bottom help to make the bottom crispy which help to prevent the soggy to take place. Even though his square pizza is still a very greasy, it is nowhere soggy like the round slice. With two different red sauces on the square pizza, thicker crust, bake twice, and bake on oiled pan give you a completely different experience comparing to a round slice. Both are great pizza but I just like the square a lot more.

Jay, you got to make another trip for a square.

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