Thanks for conducting the experiments and posting your results. The pizzas look great.
As I noted previously in another thread, the idea of sifting the flour was not new with me. I last contemplated the idea after I had an exchange in Nov. 2005 with member dodude who, in response to a question I posed to him about why he sifted his flour, responded as follows:As for sifting the flour...I think it just comes from my breadmaking experience. I was of the mind that packed flour tends to compress, and before combining with water you'd want to expose more surface area on the flour particles for quicker and more complete absorption. You're probably right that it shouldn't matter either way, but I guess it's just an old habit.
I replied that I planned to try sifting the flour sometime but it wasn’t until November mentioned sifting in a formulation he posted that I figured that he was onto something since he doesn’t do anything without a purpose and knowing why.
The next step you might want to consider is to use the whisk attachment of your mixer to further improve the hydration of the flour. That step is simply an extension of the cold knead that Jeff talks about and, I believe, is consistent with what pizzanapoletana (Marco) has advocated in that the flour is more completely hydrated without significant, if any, gluten development. If one doesn’t have a whisk attachment, a simple hand beater or electric hand mixer can be used. I suggested this option recently to one of our new members, rende, who chose to use an electric hand mixer (he doesn’t have a stand mixer) and, as noted here, http://www.pizzamaking.com/forum/index.php/topic,4152.msg35189.html#msg35189
, apparently achieved good results. While I haven’t tried it myself, I think that one can switch to hand kneading to finish making a dough after using the beater to its maximum potential (just when you can’t add more flour to the water and easily mix them). Under these circumstances, one wouldn’t need to have a stand mixer, just a sifter or sieve and a hand or electric hand mixer.
Maybe you've covered this before, but can you tell us how you are baking your pizzas, in terms of oven method/temperature, stone, etc.?