I'm very happy to see the conviction to move forward. Like I said before, you guys are great, and I feel fortunate to part of a group that shares your desire to take on this endeavor.
First Pete-zza, let me say that I'm truly amazed at how often you have called 00 flour "retarded". That's just mean, mean, mean.. just kidding. On the serious side, I am the kind of guy who researches as well. While I happened to find A16 as a very interesting point of re-entry in hopes that I could help at the time, I was tracking many many parts of this site over time regarding Neapolitan before re-entering with comments regarding A16. I can also say that A16 can do it right consistently, and that is why they are in business. As I mentioned above, even Chris Bianco mentioned to you that he had his days when he was unable to get his results. And while you and I both experimented a great deal with NY style, I'll tell you right now, we don't do it exactly the same, including the baseline. But we have learned from all the information how to meet our taste buds.
Without a doubt, we all want more consistency and we will get there. But please keep in mind that I am a perfectionist. I will say something isn't right, and nobody, and I mean nobody else seems to catch it. I believe this applies to so many in this session (and this site as a whole) who become the author of what they eat, especially to this level. And when we experiment, as I did in this last batch, it makes it all the worst. But that should not prevent or preclude ingenuity or genuine interest in deviating from the norm. A16 has proven, as we have witnessed in the past, delayed fermentation at non-room temp definitely works. And it ain't a once-in-a-while thing. And when you read my notes below regarding my impression for their desire to meet the tastes of where they live, as well as their incredible passion to make their meatballs just so with another form of delay, I think you'll start to get them-- sort of like Chris Bianco says in American Pie that you can get him.
As usual, I very much look forward to all the permentations of tests, including room temp. I think it's great that some try it one way, while others try it another. This tends to increase our awareness. But please do not dismiss the fact that I made some deviations, and I need to find out exactly which one caused the problem. I added 1 tsp of sugar to 22 oz of flour. I made multiple 13 oz doughs, while cutting back the salt significantly-- a big mistake in fermentation. I also used active yeast, and I treated it quite differently than A16, as I learned this time around. I have no problem admitting to my screw ups (for sake of a better word). But I will keep my options open.
Friz, I am so happy you ask about the yeast. I have to admit, it was difficult for me to comprehend hydration of yeast in this environment. It just seemed to me that this would be an extra step that could definitely cause some delays in productivity. Cutting corners is what companies do best, sometimes, despite the end results. But then, I still remember how I reacted the first time I learned that Bianco made his entire batch of dough by hand. YES, A16 does indeed use hydration. I'm fortunate that I checked again. And now I can share a more granular set of steps with you:
1) The entire liter of water is warm (not hot). Less than 100F.
2) The yeast is added to the liter. Hmmm... I have always separated mine, keeping the larger body of water cool while I bring a tablespoon or so of it to a higher temp. Then I asked a really bad question... is sugar added FOR THE YEAST? I think that was the first time that I ever received that particular look-- you know, the one that says "are you going to ask me if I throw in some whisky too... how dare you?". So the answer on that one was emphatically NO. BUT I was told that they allow it sit for about 15 minutes. Your past notes are haunting me on this one.
3) So now I wondered about the salt. Normally I add salt to the bulk of cool water to mix it thoroughly. I mentioned that salt must be kept separate from the yeast. So did they add it directly to the flour? The smile was back. I was wrong; but hey, I was back in business. The reason they let the yeast go so long is to ensure that it shows this level of fermentation. BUT with the warm water, they need to initiate a delay; but only after the yeast has illustrated its initial development. SO they add the doggone salt to the water, after the yeast has showed that it is alive and well, to ensure that they get a thorough mix (can you see him tapping me on the head). I had the desire to thoroughly mix it partially right; but my overall temp was much different, and now I understood their strong interest in salt.
As to why do they delay their fermentation in the refrigerator? I was so enthusiastic with the last pat on the head, I forgot to ask. Hey, there's nothing like getting a 1/2 credit for the wrong solution. Based on what I've seen, however, it can be this... Yeast activity is further delayed with colder temps; and even as good as Caputo is, you can see their propensity to keep the fermentation down to modify the taste even further. You ask why... well, it isn't just the sugar that comes out of delayed fermentation-- it's the bacteria, the acids, the very stuff that helps derive a sour taste. This is San Francisco, and we love any bit of sour taste in dough that we can get, even if it's just a small taste (and hence why Christophe suggests 3 days is even better). He knows his customers. Oh, that's right, this is just a guess. FURTHEMORE, it comes at a higher cost to make the dough wait several days; but as you'll see with the meatballs, these guys don't cut corners. Is it likely to taste different than Italy. Yep. Do we care? Nope. Is it consistent? Yep. Do we still want to know all the secrets of how they do it in Italy? Yep. For now, though, I need to experiment with the tune that I get.
4) The whole thing is then added to the flour. They start with only about 1 kilo (just over 2 lbs) of flour, and then move their way up by hand of course.
I think you know the rest concerning the dough... except the part where you gotta get some Hoaagarten beer on tap-- I'm sure they have other kinds of brewski (oopps, their goes my upbringing again) to follow suit to their Italian style, along with an incredible list of wines; but this beer has a suitable ending (that's better).
Okay, here's an even more suitable ending. You ask about the meatballs. It's really cool. Hmmm... Is anything sacred? Not here, these guys must have been the drivers of open code (be prepared to be surprised again, Abatardi). The least I can do though is bury this stuff here, so unless someone is willing to read to this level, they ain't going to get it. I'm sure you are all aware of a triple bock beer by the monks. Well, these babies follow a triple bock meatball process, with another delayed fermentation. First, you take some pork and whatever grabs your interest... this week it happened to be lamb. Add your dry ingredients (I'm going to focus on the process; but I'll mention parsley as a good addition, with basic seasonings). Once you put them together, place them in the oven. At our measly amounts, 15 minutes was suggested for 500F. Next you steep them for (ready for this) 1 1/2 to 2 hours in tomato sauce (when you read my original notes, you'll know some good tomatoes to start with). Then they go through a delayed process. I don't think I'll get any arguments why a time delay requires the refrigerator on this one. Yah wanna know why they delay it though? If you've read this far, you're as sick as I am. They literally want to get the entire taste through the meatballs. Like it wasn't good enough to let it meander in the sauce. This relates to Grandma's good ol' saying that "it's always better the next day." Then they put it back in their fire pit to warm it up, and then (and only then) do I finally get to taste these delectable meatballs. Man, and at lunch, you get it for just a few bucks. They are going the distance beyond what a vast majority would go at home.
Okay, I need to break the meatballs out so everyone can see it. For now, I'll just put a reference to it above, and maybe some will read this last sentence. These guys deserve so much attention. I feel good though, because on the bus today, I convinced a noble woman who lived in the area to try A16 out. This is a restaurant that really gives a hoot about every cranny. They have a lot of heart and they go after perfection-- this I believe is the secret to really great food.