Thank you very much for your report on the tomato pie that you made using the small dough ball that you purchased from De Lorenzo/Sloan. Since members and articles suggested that the two competing De Lorenzos used different doughs that produced different results, I think it was helpful to get your feedback on the thickness factor aspect as it relates to what De Lorenzo/Robbinsville may be using to make its dough. In terms of taste, I would also expect that the pizza you made with the De Lorenzo/Sloan dough would have a different taste profile because De Lorenzo/Sloan is most likely using different tomatoes and cheese, if only to differentiate its pizzas from those sold at De Lorenzo/Robbinsville and, before that, at De Lorenzo/Hudson.
I look forward to the hydration bake test should you decide to conduct same with the large dough ball that you purchased from De Lorenzo/Sloan. It is hard to say if that test, if it can be conducted to produce results that appear credible, will shed any light on what De Lorenzo/Robbinsville is using in the way of hydration, but any information on that matter at this point would be welcome.
Speaking of hydration, two days ago I made a test De Lorenzo/Robbinsville clone dough to test what might be an upper limit on hydration for such a dough. I used a hydration of 59% (plus 1% olive oil/soybean oil blend in an 80/20 ratio). In the absolute, a hydration of around 59% might not seem like a high hydration value. However, for a dough that is expected to bake for around 10 minutes at around 550 degrees F and not turn to a cracker, I believe the dough has to have enough water in it to allow the dough to survive a 10-minute bake time and yet have parts that are a mixture of chewy/soft and hard (cracker like). It seems to me that there is a delicate balance between hydration, skin size (which is related to thickness factor), the amounts of cheese, tomatoes and toppings (in a collective sense), bake temperature and bake time. Not balancing all of these considerations can lead to some fairly wide variations in the outcomes, including crusts that are too hard or overcooked or overcharred. Remember, also, that people are making the pizzas, and that can sometimes translate into inconsistent results.
For my test dough, I used General Mills all-purpose flour supplemented with vital wheat gluten to achieve a protein content for the blend of 12.9%, which is the protein content of the Pillsbury Best Bakers flour that we believe De Lorenzo/Robbinsvile is using (and quite likely by De Lorenzo/Sloan) and that you now have in your possession. To improve the hydration of that blend and also to achieve a more robust dough, I sifted the flour and used my standard home KitchenAid stand mixer with all three attachments (whisk, flat beater and C-hook). I ended up kneading the dough at a relatively high speed (4 setting) for a few minutes in order to more fully develop the gluten matrix. I was not concerned that the dough might not yield an open and airy crust or crumb because that does not appear to be a hallfmark of a typical De Lorenzo crust, although you may want some volume to create insulative properties in the crust and crumb during the bake. I was mainly looking for a durable dough that would have sufficient extensibility but still be easy to handle on the bench to form a skin. For my test, I used a thickness factor of 0.065. That value might have to be lowered a bit in practice to compensate for the semolina flour and bench flour that are used in the course of the preparation and management of the final dough.
The amount of yeast (0.40% IDY) was selected to produce a one-day cold fermented dough. Reports to date indicate that De Lorenzo/Robbinsville uses a cold fermented dough of at least one day and possibly up to three days. I settled on one day because that is what you would perhaps have to use at market. The amount of yeast was also selected to minimize a fast or excessive fermentation with a lot of bubbling since you indicated that you did not see any bubbles at either of the two De Lorenzo locations you visited. When the dough was done, I put it into my storage container (a glass Pyrex bowl with lid), along with some semolina flour that I had sprinkled on the bottom of the storage container. The dough ball within the container then went into my refrigerator without the lid for about two hours, to speed up the cooling process and not have the dough ferment too quickly. After the two hours, I put the lid on the storage container.
After exactly twenty four hours in the refrigerator, the dough increased in volume by 225% (a bit more than a doubling). There were no signs of bubbling, either on the surface of the dough ball or at the bottom of the dough ball. In preparation for forming the skin, I let the dough temper at room temperature for about 1 1/2 hours. In order to compare the size of the dough ball with the dough balls shown in the video that you made and posted at Reply 326 at http://www.pizzamaking.com/forum/index.php/topic,25401.msg275403.html#msg275403
, I flattened the dough ball and compared it with the flattened dough balls that I saw in the video. To my eye, the sizes looked to be very similar. To open the dough ball, I used the techniques shown in the video, including draping the skin over the edge of my counter. I had no problem doing that and ended up with a nice 14" skin. And no bubbles. I was not able to toss or spin the skin and, had I tried to do so, the skin would have run away from me and would have had holes in it. That alone says that the dough has a relatively high hydration. The key seems to be to work fast to open up the skin to the desired size, and to make sure that there is enough bench flour to keep the skin from sticking to anything. In my case, the skin did not stick to my peel or work surface, even after letting the skin sit there for a few hours after it was made.
Throughout the process of forming the skin, I tried to remember to end up with the semolina side down even though I did not sense that was happening in the video you posted.
I mention all of the above to give you the benefit of my logic and thought processes. In your case, with the right flour, and with a mixer that can produce a more robust dough than my home KitchenAid stand mixer can produce, you should be able to do much better than I can.