I find you explanations interesting, but I still donít understand how these tests can show when the dough is fermented at the right point to be ready to baked. I see the pictures you posted of Jerrymís and I can see what you are posting about, but Jerrymís dough looks like they are fermentation bubbles on the top also. I can see by those pictures that his dough might be overfermented.
The first pic (Day 1) has black specs on the top of the dough, but the top is still smooth/not showing any bubbles. The second pic shows very clearly the bubbles pushing out the top through the obviously weakened gluten.
If you look at my pictures of my dough at Reply #1 in this thread, http://www.pizzamaking.com/forum/index.php/topic,12542.msg119876.html#msg119876 you can see there are no top bubbles and the bottom of the dough wasnít even wet. Of course it was a ďshort-timeĒ dough, but Peter and I still thought this dough might have been overfermented or close to it by how the dough baked.
Norma, are you sure that link is correct? The pizza at the beginning of this thread shows absolutely no signs of overfermentation. It would be physically impossible, imo, to overferment a 6 hour dough.
I usually take pictures of all my doughs, so anyone can see how they look, both top and bottom right before the bake and other times. I donít really think I have a feel for different doughs I make and canít really tell when they are ready to bake, exactly at the right time. I have learned dough management, but if you read over my different natural leavening threads, I am not getting the right crust coloration, although I do have decent oven spring and the dough does open well. There is still something going on in that dough, that I donít understand. The top of the dough doesnít look overfermented and even the bubbles on the bottom of the naturally leavened dough look okay. I donít know if you looked at those doughs or not, but if you have time, or are interested in looking at those doughs, you can see what I mean.
Have you made any doughs that donít have crust coloration and if you did, what is your theory on what is happening in those doughs?
Predicting coloration is not an easy task. Sugar is a big player, both added as an ingredient and generated from enzyme activity. Baking times also have a large impact on coloration. As you lower the temp and increase the clock, you lose some oven spring, but the crust browns much more evenly. As you decrease the clock and venture toward the Neapolitan realm, even browning goes out the window and you just get the uneven speckling that we all know as leoparding. Are your 'naturally leavened' doughs using sourdough starters? Sourdough introduces acids and acids are well known to inhibit browning. The acids might also be impacting enzyme activity. I have to admit that although I've done extensive research on non sourdough bread/enzyme chemistry, as you get into the lower pH world of sourdoughs, I'm at a bit of loss.
I have tried different experiments to see how long different doughs can last and still be able to be baked into a pizza. What I learned from those experiments was the dough becomes almost limp and honeycombs when opening the dough. Those doughs also had no crust coloration, although they still were decent in the taste of the crust.
In a non sour environment, the longer you ferment, the more residual sugar is generated. At least, that's what I believe is occurring. The only time where yeast consumes large/noticeable quantities of sugar is in the high water activity environment of beer making (and that's a lot of yeast and a decent amount of time). So... overfermented doughs contain a lot of sugar and should color very quickly. Now, gluten does trap water, so as the gluten begins to fail, the dough will get much more slack, and, when you attempt to bake it, the water will take longer to evaporate, which will delay browning, but once the surface has dried you should have plenty of coloration due to the abundance of sugar. Not that you'd want that kind of coloration because you'd pay in other ways, like poorer oven spring, an alcohol-y taste and an uneven toothy appearance.
I have had doughs already that look like they might be overfermented and then reballed them and they were fine. I donít know if then the naturally occurring sugars were redistributed or not.
In what way did the dough look overfermented? Was the dough deflated? Like I said earlier, deflation is not a reliable indicator. As long as a lot of time hasn't passed and the enzymes haven't had much of a chance to break down the components, doughs can rise/fall, be re-balled without care. Re-balling will generate gluten, which, imo, may not be a good thing, but it's not impacting fermentation. The negative traits that one sees from overfermentation (toothy appearance, less spring, uneven coloring, alcohol-y taste, sticky/hard to handle dough) are not a result of yeast/CO2/volume, but of enzymes eventually laying waste to everything in sight.
Beyond visual indicators, there's also smell. As the dough ferments, on the yeast side, you can smell the alcohol, but enzyme generated sugar will give off a sweet smell as well. I switched to opaque containers a while back, so that's what I rely on- to an extent. If you work with clear containers enough and vigorously control the variables (flour brand, yeast quantity, dough temp, proofing temp, proofing time, hydration, kneading time/intensity, etc), the enzyme activity and yeast activity will track in such a way that you can use the yeast activity indicators to tell you when a dough is ready. In other words, if the enzymes atrophy a dough exactly the way I want it (digestible but still structurally viable) and, at that magic moment the dough had doubled, if I do everything the same the next time, I can wait until the dough doubles and be reasonably certain that the enzyme activity will be where I want to be.
At times, I sort of miss the training wheels of clear containers, but the stackable opaque containers I use are much wider (less contact with the side/easier to remove the dough) and have no issues whatsoever with releasing pent up gas, so it's a trade off I'm willing to make.