Thank you very much for your explanation of your dough handling methods. My experience with handling cold fermenting doughs prior to using to make pizza is exactly as Chau described in Reply 170 at http://www.pizzamaking.com/forum/index.php/topic,16761.msg166121.html#msg166121
. As a result, I almost never re-ball/re-knead/re-work any cold fermented dough ball I make, especially where in my case I tend to use rather low formula hydrations and small amounts of yeast. Where I have done re-kneading is for long room-temperature fermented doughs where the gluten was attacked by protease enzymes and water was released from its bond, along with the effects of alcohol and acids, producing a wet dough that seemed to have a higher hydration value than its nominal formula hydration. In such cases, there really was no other option but to re-ball. I think I am also like Chau in how I approach things because I want to know everthing about a dough, from the dough formulation (including the types and amounts of all ingredients) to the dough preparation and dough management (including mixing methods, autolyse or no autolyse, temperatures and mode and duration of fermentation) to the bake protocol. Until then, I don't think I am ready to analyze the dough to either diagnose a problem or to adapt it to meet my particular needs and timetable. Having all the facts also makes it easier for me to predict what might happen at different stages. As I read Chau's posts on this topic, I found myself nodding in complete agreement.
To give you a simple example, I took the liberty of calculating the "effective" hydration of the dough formulation you posted at Reply 162 at http://www.pizzamaking.com/forum/index.php/topic,16761.msg166097.html#msg166097
. That value takes into the account the nominal formula hydration and the "wetting" effect of the oil. That value is 64%. I also calculated the total water content of your dough that takes into account the formula hydration and the moisture content of the flour (using 14%). The total water content of your dough is 45%. For the past few months, the only doughs I have made is Mellow Mushroom clone doughs. Corresponding effective hydration values and water percentage values have been about 56% and 40%, respectively. Those doughs are inherently on the elastic side so I would never do any aggressive kneading before using them. I do not think the doughs would recover or else it would take a good part of the day at room temperature to do so, and with unpredictable results. In your case, the dough balls should be reasonably soft and easy to handle, and knowing your numbers tells me that some form of re-working of the dough is definitely doable.
Dan (DNA Dan) also makes some very good points. November has also discussed the idea of redistribution of yeast away from waste products (e.g., at Reply 7 at http://www.pizzamaking.com/forum/index.php/topic,4443.msg39724.html#msg39724
). Also, Marco (pizzanapoletana) insisted that a two-stage bulk/balling sequence was absolutely necessary (for Neapolitan style doughs fermented at room temperature) but without saying exactly why. There is some interesting reading on these topics starting at Reply 7 at http://www.pizzamaking.com/forum/index.php/topic,7022.msg60428/topicseen.html#msg60428
. However, in your case, John, you are not doing any aggressive re-working of your dough balls. There may be some gentle rearrangement of the gluten matrix near the outer edges of your dough balls and some redistribution of the yeast to new fermentation sites and maybe you end up with a more taut and smoother outer skin for the dough balls that has some therapeutic effect on the final outcome, but I don't think that the usual explanations for a more aggressive re-working of the dough balls apply in your case. So, it will be interesting to see how your remaining dough balls perform, especially after getting so many possible explanations as to what is happening in your case
. You might find yourself handling the later dough balls too gently--like you have a grenade in your hand or you are de-fusing a time bomb