As recently mentioned, I made a series of De Lorenzo/Robbinsville clone test doughs. In total, there were three dough balls, which for purposes of discussion I have called DB1, DB2 and DB3.
By design, the three dough balls had a lot in common. For example, all three dough balls weighed 10 ounces (to make 14” skins), and all three dough balls were made using King Arthur bread flour (KABF) to which a small amount of vital wheat gluten (about ¼-teaspoon) had been added to increase its protein content from 12.7% to 12.9% (the protein content of the Pillsbury Best Bakers Patent flour), and all had a corresponding thickness factor of 0.065. All of the dough balls were prepared the same way using my basic home KitchenAid stand mixer, all with late oil addition and a bowl residue compensation of 1.5%, and each dough ball was placed in a storage container (a glass Pyrex bowl) to which I had added some cornmeal. There was no oil added to either the dough balls or the storage containers. Each dough ball was left uncovered in its container in the refrigerator for about one hour, and the container was then lidded. After each dough ball was removed from the refrigerator after its specified fermentation period, it was tempered at room temperature for about 1 ½ hours.
Here are more of the particulars for the three dough balls:
DB1: 55% hydration, 2% oil (blend), 0.27% IDY, 1.5% salt; intended cold fermentation period = 2 days
DB2: 55%, hydration, 2% oil (blend), 0.40% IDY, 1.5% salt, intended cold fermentation period = 1 day
DB3: 56% hydration, 1% oil (blend), 0.20% IDY, 1.5% salt, intended cold fermentation period = 2 days
As can be seen from the above numbers, dough balls DB1 and DB2 were the same but for the amount of yeast which, in each case, was selected to accommodate the specified intended cold fermentation period. This test was to compare a one-day versus two-day cold fermented dough. I was hoping for a doubling in volume for each dough ball by the end of its specified fermentation period but in light of the hot weather we have been having in Texas (in the 90s) I was willing to accept something more than a doubling. As it turned out, both dough balls tripled in volume. That turned out not to be a problem. Both dough balls exhibited softness to the touch when time came to form them into skins but they were too elastic to form into skins in any reasonable time frame. I intentionally tried to force them into compliance but they developed tears. I concluded that 55% hydration was perhaps too low, at least for the types of dough I am able to make using my KitchenAid stand mixer. I should also add that I was able to toss the skins made from the DB1 and DB2 dough balls.
For the third dough ball, DB3, which turned out to be the best of the three dough balls, I increased the hydration to 56% but I lowered the oil to1%. I also lowered the amount of yeast to 0.20%. This time, according to the poppy seed spacing (I used poppy seeds with all three dough balls), the dough ball exactly doubled after exactly 48 hours of cold fermentation. I was able to open up the dough ball with relative ease but I had to be careful because the dough was very extensible. And there was no way that I could toss and spin that skin. In retrospect, I should have let the dough temper for less than 1 ½ hours because of the warm conditions in my kitchen (it was 99 degrees outside). I think a half hour or maybe a little bit longer would have been sufficient.
Based on the tests, I would say that 56% hydration is a reasonable value, if the extensibility of the dough can be contained, but a hydration of 57% might also be a good value to test. But, hydration is not the only consideration. The degree of fermentation is also important because of its ancillary effect on extensibility. If the proteolytic enzymes in the flour, along with certain acids formed during fermentation, attack and degrade the gluten matrix of the dough, then the extensibility of the skin made from the dough will be excessive. That becomes quite noticeable when, at the same time, one is trying to make the skin very thin. Were I to repeat the last test, under my conditions in Texas, I might increase the hydration to 57% and lower the amount of yeast even more in order to better contain the fermentation of the dough. I might add that none of the dough balls exhibited bubbling of any kind while in the storage containers or on the bench, except for DB3 that started to form soft surface bubbling while tempering. That was a clue that it had perhaps tempered too much.
After I finished the tests discussed above, rather than throw the skins away, I decided to reform them into dough balls again and to put them back into the refrigerator again for another day. There was no delicate or gentle way of forming the dough balls from the skins, although I tried to be more gentle with the DB3 dough ball than with the others. I wanted to see if the dough balls would perform better the second time around. They did not. All three doughs were too elastic to readily form into skins in a reasonable time frame. I’m sure that had I been patient and eventually worked the skins into a usable condition, I could have used them to make pizzas but that was not the purpose of the additional tests. I can’t say that I was surprised by the unyielding nature of the dough balls the second time around. From what others have reported elsewhere on the forum, reballing seems to work best with high hydration doughs.
As a final observation, after I formed the skins using the edge of my countertop and the skins draped over the edge of the countertop, I examined the flour and cornmeal on the floor beneath my countertop. It was a mixture of flour and cornmeal, just as PizzaGarage suspected.
I didn’t mention this earlier, but the method used at De Lorenzo/Robbinsvillle to form the skins using the edge of the work bench is not the first time I saw that method used. Several years ago, I ate at a pizzeria in Puerto Vallarta Mexico (on the Malecon across the street from the ocean) called La Dolce Vita where I saw a worker making the skins the same way. I was so taken by the exercise that I had to leave my table to go watch him make the skins.