First let me apologize for the length of this answer, I want to answer the questions as fully as possible to improve my pizzas, hopefully as some point down the line I will be able to help others.
I want to clarify, I am now consistently making great pizza. The dough has a similar feel to it each time. However as I will explain, due to sauce, cheese, thickness and the length of time it cooks, the results are not 100% consistent.
You are correct, the sauce seems to be the problem. When I add what I consider enough of if it, it soaks through.
I follow the recipe as precisely as possible. I have a scale accurate to 1 gram. I follow all of the steps; each time I have made the recipe I follow the timing. I have a KitchenAid which I think holds 5 quarts. When tripled the recipe one time my mixer really struggled. I had to break the mixing into a few shorter mixes because my mixer couldn’t handle it. I also had to supplement with a longer hand knead. Usually I do a double batch. This is enough of a strain on my mixer, but it gets through it.
I made my starter a few months ago from Dan Lepard’s book “The Handmade Loaf”. Basically started with a little yogurt flour and water. Once it became active I just add water and KA all purpose flour. It is sometimes on the thin pancake batter side and sometimes a lot thicker. I use King Arthur high gluten flour. I am not sure exactly what yeast I bought because I got a pound of it a year ago and I keep it in a Tupperware in the freezer. I use Diamond Crystal salt
After the hand knead I usually cut the dough into quarters. I do not weigh each before dividing but they are generally pretty close in weight. I have let the dough sit in the refrigerator from one day to three days. When I get to the stretching step I follow the steps pretty closely. (Every now and then I do a toss or two into the air.) I had never had dough that was nearly as easy to work with before I was introduced to Raquel. I generally make 11 to 14 inch pizzas. I have played around with that a little because I thought the problem might have to do with the thickness. I do not measure it but the picture I sent is typical something slightly thicker. After it is the right size I may make slight adjustments so that it looked more circular.
I have not been very scientific about sauce and cheese. I have tried Redpack whole tomatoes (in puree) Progresso and Hunts whole tomatoes in tomato juice (I strained out the juice). I blended it all and added a little sugar and salt. I have used store brand (stop and shop) fresh mozzarella (from a fresh bulk containers at the supermarket. This turned into a soggy mess. I wanted to pour off the wetness from the top of the pizza. I put the cheese on first and then the sauce on top of it. This was the last time I used fresh mozzarella, I really felt that it added way too much moisture to the pizza.
In my most recent pizzas I have been putting on the sauce first but my first few batches I put the cheese on first.
After I gave up on canned tomatoes and I tried Emeril’s kicked up tomato sauce and Moma’s (I was amazed how much better the canned tomatoes are). I have never measured the amount of cheese or sauce. I realize this could be critical information, however, I vary the amount of sauce to find the right amount and I have never been totally happy. Now that I stopped using the fresh cheese, I do not think the cheese is adding moisture to the equation.
After I get the sauce and cheese on I get it into the oven as quickly as possible.
I preheat my over for a little over an hour. It is a Masterpiece self cleaning oven by Thermador. Here’s the info I have about the oven. I recently moved into this house and as far as I know the oven is from the early 80’s. It is a double wall oven. The doors do not have seals on them, so when food is cooking the door isn’t sealed closed. From the first time I used it I knew that it cooked too hot but I did not know how hot. I finally got a cheap oven thermometer that went to 600. Even though my oven says it’s cooking at 550, it clearly goes a lot hotter than that. It looked like it read in the neighborhood of 750 (estimating based on where the needle was), however the thermometer cracked so I really don’t know how hot it gets. This brings me to question for another forum, I am going to be renovating my kitchen and I obviously am going to be looking for a very hot oven. Anyway I have no idea why the oven gets so hot, but I’m not complaining. I do not time the pizzas but I think they are in the oven about 5 minutes, but I’m really not sure because I pull them out when they look done. I usually peek once. I attached a picture of one of my earlier attempts, where I tried three pizzas in a row to not peek and three pizzas in a row came out charred.
I am usually so busy getting ready to eat my pizza and getting my next pizza ready that I lose track of time. I have this idea in my head that I should have a feel for it and not need to time it.