Before you joined the forum, there was a spirited discussion among some of the members about using beer in pizza dough, at http://www.pizzamaking.com/forum/index.php/topic,552.msg5001.html#msg5001
. I think you will be entertained if you read the posts at that thread.
From my research on beer-based doughs, I have seen beer substituted for water in part or in whole. Tom Lehmann recommends that one start by using beer at 10% of the weight of flour and use water for the rest of the liquid. From there, one can experiment by gradually increasing the amount of beer in relation to the total liquid. Tom has also indicated that if too much beer is used, the high level of alcohol may impede the performance of the yeast and result in a lesser rise in the dough. In your case, I’m not sure you would have noticed that with the large amount of yeast Steve’s recipe calls for. Tom has also indicated in the past that from his experience, ales tend to produce more flavor impact in the finished crust than regular beers.
As far as your problems with extensibility are concerned, you are bound to get that from time to time with Steve’s dough formulation. Steve’s recipe is a well-designed one (I can try to explain why if you’d like) but, at 69.2% hydration, it is at the upper end of the range where one can reasonably expect to experience problems from time to time. The last time I tried a pizza dough with that high a hydration level was the Gemignani NY style dough formulation set forth in the Morgan-Gemignani cookbook Pizza…More than 60 recipes…
I managed it OK but only because I knew what I was getting myself into and took several precautionary measure, some of which I have described below. But it takes real skill and experience to master handling such high hydration doughs. If you go much higher than 70%, you are in danger territory in my opinion for all but the expert dough handlers. In fact, when I tried a Lehmann dough with 75% hydration, just for fun, the dough was completely unmanageable and was an absolute failure (see Reply 2 at http://www.pizzamaking.com/forum/index.php/topic,3058.msg25938/topicseen.html#msg25938
I would like to suggest that you consider one or more of the following possible solutions to the hydration/extensibility problem:
1) Try skipping the autolyse. Autolyse improves the hydration and softens the dough to the point where it may ferment faster and be more extensible. I tried eliminating the autolyse in Steve’s recipe once and didn’t notice a difference, but I made several other changes that may have affected the outcome. But I think it may be worth dispensing with the autolyse just to see what happens. If doing this works, you will also have knocked several minutes off of the dough making process.
2) When working with the dough on the bench after removing it from the bowl (or mixer), consider using a bench knife to turn and otherwise manage the dough, without the use of the hands, rather than adding additional flour if the dough seems too wet. This is a technique that allows you to maintain the hydration level specified by the dough recipe, and is frequently used by bakers of high-hydration bread doughs, such as for ciabatta doughs.
3) When you are ready to work with the dough on the counter to shape the dough into a skin, start by submerging the dough ball in a container of flour and shaking off any excess flour. This is what many professional pizza operators do. Try not to add too much flour at this point because it can add some bitterness to the finished crust upon baking, and possibly affect the bake itself because of the possibility of the raw “white” flour reflecting heat upon baking. If you add too much flour at this point to compensate for the high hydration levels, or at the earlier stage in the bowl while mixing/kneading, you may as well just reformulate the recipe for a lower hydration to begin with. That would be contrary to what I believe Steve was attempting to accomplish with his dough formulation.
4) When shaping and stretching the dough, start by pressing the dough outwardly as much as possible with your fingers, without disturbing the rim of the dough. If you can lift the dough and safely stretch it out a few more inches, then do so. But you should stop as soon as you see that the dough is running out of control or if thin spots start to form. This is characteristic of a high hydration dough under the influence of gravity, especially for a relatively large dough ball weight (over 18 ounces in Steve’s recipe), so you shouldn’t be alarmed. What you might then do is finish the stretching of the dough completely on your work surface. The way I do this is to place the palm of one hand flat on the dough several inches from the edge and then use the fingers of my other hand to pull the dough outwardly, being careful not to crush the rim. In my case, I am right-handed, so I put the palm of my left hand down flat on the dough while pulling the dough outwardly from the edge with the fingers of my right hand. I rotate the skin and continue until the skin is at the right diameter and nicely rounded. A highly-extensible dough will stretch and pull outwardly quite easily using this technique, without tearing. To me, it is not a failure because I can’t entirely stretch a high-hydration dough out to 16” using only my knuckles, tossing the dough in the air, etc. If I want to show off, I would select a low-hydration dough and use a much smaller pizza size.
5) Once the skin has been prepared, be sure that it will slide easily on the peel while there is still a chance to correct things if it doesn’t. In line with this step, you should practice the French cooking technique of mis en place
, or having everything at the ready, including sauce, cheeses, seasonings, and toppings. Otherwise, the dressed pizza may stick to the peel because of the high hydration of the dough and too much rest time on the peel as you gather up all the stuff you plan to put on the skin. At that point, the sticking problem becomes more difficult to correct. Some bakers run a string under dressed pizzas as a matter of course just to be sure the dough won’t stick to the peel or go into the oven and change shape in the process because the dough stuck at a point on the peel. Hopefully, you won’t have to avail yourself of this technique.