I refresh the starter with 50% water and 50% flour by weight, not by volume.
I am preparing to go India all next week so I won't have time to make pizzas - unless I find a Bangalorian pizzaiolo who will let me at his oven! Wouldn't that be fun? I'm sure they make pizzas over there that are, well, lets say different.
Anyway, I will heed your sage advice and allow the dough to rest a little more on the counter. I must tell you though that the dough is so very competent right now I'm hesitant to change anything. There may be one other area where a slightly longer counter rise would be helpful and that would be in the area of flavor. If another hour or so would allow the wild yeast to burst through even more than its a change worth making. Color me willing but skeptical. The dough produced by the Raquel formula is outstanding in every way compared to anything I have produced in the past. Now if I can coax a little more flavor out of it by a slightly longer counter rise and not compromise the superior handling characteristics, than count me in.
As a data point, I used an all natural yeast rise last night for an experiment. One dough had a cold 26 hour rise followed by a 4 hour counter rise and the second dough ball has a 4 hour counter rise followed by a 22 hour cold rise followed by a 4 hour counter rise. The results were uneven at best.
Better flavor at the expense of noticeably poorer dough performance is the summary. One very interesting note though is the fact that the crust tasted exactly like Patsy's. Dead ringer. Indistinguishable from Jose's crust. It even had the same sticky-to-the-tooth-feeling-before-melting-sensation that Patsy's is known for (at least by my family). But my family didn't prefer it to the Raquel formula crust which is a little crispier. The dough didn't handle or stretch as well either. It also had those pesky blister holes on the bottom. I was probably to blame for those as my grill was preheated for a little longer than 1/2 hour. The intense heat of the TEC grill must somehow super heat the tiles past their ability to uniformly heat the bottom of the pie.
An overall conclusion I can draw from this is that Jose must let his dough sit at room temperature for about 4 hours after an overnight cold rise. Or that my dough management procedure somehow mimics Jose's when I utilize a 4 hour counter rise with natural yeast.
The taste was too close (dare I say even identical) for his dough process to be much less than that. In an odd way, I may have stumbled upon the exact way to reproduce the Patsy's crust in a home setting, without even realizing it. The rim spring is another bell ringer. Jose's crust had very little if any. My crust last night had very little if any either. Coincidence? I think not. The point of the experiment was not to try and reproduce the taste and texture components of the Patsy's crust but that is exactly what happened.
Varasano, are you listening to this? This could be the end to your journey my friend. Schlep over to the Lehmann thread for the visuals. I report, you decide.
Life is kind of funny. I spent months trying to duplicate the exact taste and texture profile of my favorite pizza joint and when I stopped trying it happened. I made my mind up a few days ago to not try and reproduce another man's pie. Then bam. It just came to me out of the blue. Whew! Think about that for a moment.
So I now find myself standing on the cliff of being able to reproduce the Patsy's pizza perfectly. What will I do? Easy question to answer. I will blow right by Jose and all the other coal fired pizza joints in NYC and produce my pie, my way. Which very well may be a Patsy's style pizza with oven spring. Wouldn't that be nice. Oh and with ultra high quality ingredients to boot. There, I said it. That's my ideal. Pizza Raquel - Everything you'd want!
As far as regulating the heat better I wish that were an option. My grill is really not designed for baking pies and is really being asked to do things which it shouldn't. I cannot control the heat setting finely enough to drop it down a hundred degrees or so. It is either full bore and I get a 3 minute bake or its inconsistent and deeply flawed baking times. The least little change in anything right now spells doom.
Remember, I can't see through the hood to see how the bake is going. It has taken me the better part of six months of burning pies to get to the point where I'm at now which is relative equal heat for the top and bottom of a pie. There is only so much one can expect from a grill which is not designed to be an oven. The biggest difference is that a grill is not designed to retain heat whereas an oven can. I fear that I will have to limp along with my grill until a wood burning oven is erected on my pool deck.
The good news is I do have access to the luxury of extreme heat. While it may not be as robust as that from a true oven, its the next best thing. Certainly better than the 550 degree pies I used to make.