The taste of the crust was so bland that I think that affected the whole taste of the pizza. My granddaughter and Luis also said the same thing.
I believe that the blandness of Frank's crust was due almost entirely to the lack of sufficient salt. In fact, in my experience, whenever I hear someone say that a pizza crust is "bland", it is almost always due to insufficient salt. Based on the six dough balls that you made from Frank's dough, I estimate that the amount of salt per dough ball (with a weight of a bit over 20 ounces) was about 1/6 teaspoon. It was perhaps a bit lower than that because of the additional water that was added during mixing of the dough.
The lowest amount of salt that I can recall intentionally using was 1%. That was based on a recommendation by Evelyne Slomon and supposedly was typical of the salt levels that the NYC old timers used in the early days of the NY style of pizza. As it turned out, the finished crust was very bland. I found support of that conclusion at the AIB website at https://www.aibonline.org/aibOnline_/GenericForm.aspx?strOpen=\www.aibonline.org\researchandtechnical\faqs\pizza.html
, where Tom Lehmann reported the following:Salt levels below 1% of the flour weight in the dough will produce a crust with a very bland flavor
About the lowest salt level that my palate can tolerate from a satisfaction standpoint is around 1.50% salt. But I prefer something in the 1.75-2% range. That is a range that most experts recommend, including Tom Lehmann, King Arthur (http://www.kingarthurflour.com/professional/salt.html
), and Prof. Calvel (he actually goes out to 2.2% for bread dough).
It might be natural to assume that because there is salt in the pizza sauce (either added to the tomatoes during canning or in preparing the pizza sauce) and in the cheese, those salt quantities will make up for a lack of adequate salt in the crust and the crust won't taste bland. However, in my experience, that has not been true. Maybe if there are salty meats on the pizza, like pepperoni or sausage, the crust blandness might not be detected but in my experience that also has not been true. At some point you will usually eat just some of the crust and it will be bland. I think it has to do with the "balance" thing that Walter and you have discussed. Everything, including salt levels, has to be in balance.
The low sugar and oil levels and the use of all-purpose flour also do not help Frank's dough. Sugar and oil are not essential ingredients for the NY style, but to get value out of them for taste purposes, they have to be at detectable levels. As for the amount of oil, Tom Lehmann has this to say at the aforementioned AIB website:We have found that oil levels as low as 1% of the flour weight in the dough.......will exhibit a flavor enhancing affect, with a maximum benefit obtained at somewhere between 1.5 and 2% levels.
The use of all-purpose flour, even with its long history in pizza dough making, naturally leads to less crust flavor, and also color, because of its lower protein/gluten content compared with the higher protein flours used today and reduced denaturing of the protein and reduce Maillard reactions during baking. At low sugar levels, there will also be reduced caramelization.
I'm sure that in due course you will get the scoop on the salt issue. It is quite possible that what Frank was trying to do was to show was his way of making dough by hand, not an optimum dough from the standpoint of ingredients. I'm sure we will all be interested in seeing the recipe for the dough that you liked so much.