Thank you. I think it helped that I had you and several other well-informed seeing-eye dogs to guide me through the process with a minimum of stumbling and falling. I have attempted below to lay out the processes I used to make the final dough, mainly for the benefit of Joe as a beginning pizza maker. In the process, I will also answer your question.
To make the dough for the pizza itself, I used the Lehmann cracker-crust dough formulation that I was experimenting with recently to make thin and crispy pizzas, except that I omitted the baking soda and substituted the natural “old dough” (a piece of the master dough) for the commercial yeast (IDY). I also added some sugar to achieve a degree of sweetness in the finished crust that was mentioned by one of our earlier posters. I had a good idea of what the Lehmann dough formulation would produce so I thought that it might get me in the ballpark with the De Lorenzo clone. I used the old dough at the rate of 30% of the total dough weight. For crust thickness purposes, I used 0.06 as the thickness factor, which is the same as I used with the Lehmann cracker crust dough formulation. For flour, I used the King Arthur Sir Lancelot high-gluten flour throughout, from feeding the Ischia starter (which I selected purely at random from my starter collection) to the final dough itself. To crunch all of the numbers, for both the final dough and the original master dough from which I took a piece to make the final dough, I used the preferment dough calculating tool (http://www.pizzamaking.com/preferment_calculator.html
) that Boy Hits Car (Mike) designed for applications like this one. It worked like a charm.
To prepare the final dough to be used to make the pizza, I used the “front end” part of the alternative KitchenAid dough making method described at http://www.pizzamaking.com/forum/index.php/topic,3985.0.html
. Essentially, the process entailed using sifted flour and the three attachments (whisk, flat beater and C-hook) to do the mixing and kneading, with the salt and sugar being dissolved in the water (room temperature) in the bowl and the oil and old dough being added to the bowl during the period of the use of the whisk. Since the piece of old dough was cold (the master dough from which it was taken was kept in the refrigerator), I allowed the small piece to warm up for about 1 ˝ hours before putting it into the mixer bowl. I used the alternative dough making method referenced above because the C-hook of my mixer (basic Artisan) does not do a good job kneading low hydration doughs, in this case, 50%. I thought also that the use of the three attachments might come closer to a dough made in a spiral mixer than one made using just the C-hook.
After I finished making the dough, I let it sit at room temperature in a covered container for about 4 hours. I estimate that it rose by about two-thirds during that time. I then punched the dough down, reshaped it, and placed it in a container and into the refrigerator. The dough remained in the refrigerator for about 24 hours. With the foregoing sequence, I was trying to simulate the process that was mentioned as possibly being the one used at De Lorenzo’s.
When time came to work with the dough, it was surprisingly smooth and soft given its low hydration. However, though of good quality and not subject to ripping, it was quite elastic and hard to stretch. It required a few short rest periods to be able to shape and stretch it out to the final size (12”). I am pretty certain that the elasticity was due to insufficient fermentation. I somewhat expected this because low-hydration doughs don’t ferment as fast as much higher fermentation doughs and, in addition, I was using a natural old dough, which I expected wouldn’t work as fast as commercial yeast, especially since it had already partially fermented as part of the master dough itself. I am pretty confident about correcting this problem, as by using more old dough, warmer water, or both, and possibly using a longer room temperature ferment and/or a longer cold fermentation. This combination of changes should also allow more residual sugar to be extracted from the flour through enzyme performance and provide greater crust browning than shown in the photos. If De Lorenzo's is in fact using the old dough technique, I’d love to know how they are able to shorten the dough preparation process. Maybe they are using a much higher hydration dough and relying on the high oven temperatures to create the crispiness in the finished crust. Or maybe their dough balls are getting more than one day of fermentation.
For the ingredients for the rest of the pizza, I did a lot of improvising. The cheese was shredded Precious low-moisture, part-skim mozzarella cheese, which is one of the few decent brands available to me in the area where I live. I also used some grated Pecorino Romano cheese. The sauce was a mixture of 6-in-1s and a fresh medium-sized tomato that I cut into pieces and hand crushed, adding everything to the 6-in-1s but the outer skin. The fresh tomato was to add a bit of chunkiness to the 6-in-1s. To the sauce, I added dehydrated garlic, some dried basil and Italian oregano, and a bit of sugar. While I had some good olive oil on hand, I did not have any canola oil. So, I decided instead to use some of the Art Bell Pizza Punch oil concoction that I have been experimenting with recently (see http://www.pizzamaking.com/forum/index.php/topic,5194.msg44052.html#msg44052
). That oil blend added a nice amount of heat to the pizza. The pepperoni (Hormel) was used both under the sauce and on top of the sauce. To simulate the thick pepperoni slices used by De Lorenzo’s, I formed “mini stacks” of the Hormel pepperoni by using three slices in each stack.
The pizza was dressed on my wood peel, using corn flour in lieu of semolina flour, which I did not have on hand. The dough exhibited absolutely zero tendency to want to stick to the peel. The pizza was baked on a pizza stone that I had placed on the lowest oven rack position and preheated for an hour at around 500-550° F. The pizza baked on the stone for about 6 minutes, whereupon I moved it to the next-to-the-top oven rack position for an additional 1-2 minutes of additional baking, to improve the top crust coloration. The finished crust had a crunchy outer rim, and a crispiness that was most pronounce near the rim and less so toward the center. The crispiness was most noticeable with the non-rectangular slices, which I could hold up straight without any drooping. The rectangular slices, however, did droop, although the droopiness diminished as the slices cooled. In my case, I simply put the rectangular slices back onto the stone, which was still hot even though I had turned the oven off. That crisped up those slices. I think that technique would be a good one for the entire pizza. That is, returning the pizza back onto the stone (with the oven off) after a short period of cooling of the pizza.
This was my first experience using a natural starter/old dough to make a low-hydration dough for a thin and crispy pizza, so there is much more to learn. I think my next try may be to use no oil in the dough (I used 5% for the first effort) and a longer period of fermentation. In a home oven environment, it may also be possible to bake the pizza without the need for a stone, placing the pizza on a sheet of parchment paper or its equivalent and using the middle oven rack position and a longer bake time to increase the degree of crispiness and crust coloration without worry about the cheese overbrowning (since the cheese is under the sauce).