Author Topic: Re: Problems with Neapolitan-Style Pizza  (Read 6031 times)

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Offline scpizza

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Re: Problems with Neapolitan-Style Pizza
« on: July 05, 2006, 10:53:37 AM »
I'm having trouble with a gas oven producing horrible results.  My crust is repeatedly coming out dense and heavy (see pic).

My situation is:
- Quarry tile in the oven below, on sides, and on top
- Pre-heating oven for 1 hour to ~550, cook time about 11 minutes
- No sugar nor oil, just flour, water, starter, and salt
- 55% - 60% hydration
- Bel Aria 00 flour
- Ischia starter activated for a week now and healthy if not boisterous.  No IDY/ADY used
- Tried using starter at 3% and at 50%
- Room temp rise 8-30 hours at 85-90 deg F...dough is doubling in size
- Tried extensive kneading/resting and not
- Tried autolyse and not
- Humidity here is high, and the dough often seems too moist

I even tried brushing dough with olive oil and pre-baking crust separately, to no avail.  Would welcome any thoughts as to what to try to get a normal light and fluffy crust instead of this dense brick crust.


« Last Edit: July 05, 2006, 12:32:13 PM by scpizza »


Offline Pete-zza

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Re: Problems with Neapolitan-Style Pizza
« Reply #1 on: July 05, 2006, 11:40:06 AM »
scpizza,

I think it would be helpful if you posted a typical dough formulation with weights of ingredients (and baker's percents if you have them) and the processing steps you used to make the dough (the more detail the better). If you'd like to post more than one formulation, that would be fine also. I'd also like to know the size (diameter) of the pizzas you have been making in relation to a particular dough ball weight so that I can determine the thickness of the crusts from a thickness factor standpoint. Since you have tried out many combinations, it might help if you tell us which combination, if any, was the best.

In the meantime, you may find it useful to take a look at an experiment I conducted with Bel Aria 00 flour (with added bread flour) and a natural preferment (one I had made using Caputo 00 Pizzeria flour) before I found a reliable source of the Caputo 00 Pizzeria flour. The post is at Reply 44 at http://www.pizzamaking.com/forum/index.php/topic,986.msg9367.html#msg9367.

Peter

Offline scpizza

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Re: Problems with Neapolitan-Style Pizza
« Reply #2 on: July 05, 2006, 11:38:24 PM »
Thanks for the tip.  Reading your prior work it looks like Bel Aria 00 alone makes for a poor flour (though your Bel Aria-only crust still looks an order of magnitude lighter than mine).  I'll secure some Caputo 00 Pizzeria as a next step and report back.

I tried Marco's and Varasano's recipes:

(grams)    Marco  Varasano
Flour      1650       1819
Water    1000       1000
Starter       50         957
Salt            45           47

Processing steps varied from just mixing well and doing a 10 minute "rolling knead" to doing an autolyse and extensive kneading as detailed here
http://www.woodstone-corp.com/cooking_naples_style_dough.htm.  Neither approach made much difference.  I did not do a punchdown step in any case.  In all cases prior to pushing out the dough into a skin, I did do a brief 30 second rolling knead.

I tried 7oz balls and 14oz balls yet still ended up with very small 8"-10" pizzas.  Any larger and the dough would tear.  Neither size made a difference.  The thinner crust was more palatable than the thick but I could tell the consistency of the dough inside each was the same - i.e. very dense and heavy.

In all cases the dough seemed unusually wet with a droopy consistency.   I tried to minimize added flour but it was hard to work with the dough without it as it would readily stick and not hold shape.  For a next step I am thinking of cutting back on water by 10% to try to compensate for the high humidity here and see if dough texture improves.

Offline Bill/SFNM

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Re: Problems with Neapolitan-Style Pizza
« Reply #3 on: July 05, 2006, 11:49:28 PM »
scpizza,

How long does it take for your dough to double at room temp? Are you proofing your dough balls after shaping? How long?

In my experience, it takes the sourdo.com starters much more than a week before they are truly alive and kicking. Can you describe what the activated starter smells like?

Bill/SFNM

Offline Locke

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Re: Problems with Neapolitan-Style Pizza
« Reply #4 on: July 06, 2006, 01:44:38 AM »
Kneading right before you go to form the pizza is probably causing the dough(gluten) to tighten up which would contribute  to your problems opening up the dough. The knead is also going to force air out of the dough making it denser.

Offline scpizza

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Re: Problems with Neapolitan-Style Pizza
« Reply #5 on: July 06, 2006, 08:49:42 AM »
Locke,
I was a bit worried about that final kneading, but dismissed it from my mind.  I worked in a pizza place a while back and just before making the skin we would knead away on the dough, toss it in the air, toss it at each other, use a rolling pin on it, run it through a huge mechanical sheeter and the pizzas would come out great.  Of course, the dough also had dough conditioner and IDY, so maybe these flour only, natural yeast doughs are a lot more fragile.  I'll try no kneading of the dough after the final rise and see what happens.

Bill,
In one case I made the dough balls before the rise, in one case I made them after the rise.  No difference in outcome.  With the low % starter recipe it takes about 20 hours to double.  With the high % starter it takes about 6 hours.  Despite these seemingly normal doubling times, my intuition agrees with your suspicion that the starter is still partially "on vacation."  When I first activated it, in the first 24 hours I saw a burst of happy yeast activity including the stringy, gooey, foam and a wonderful deep yeast smell.  However since then in the past 10 days the smell has simply been "nice" and a bit sour and the foam has been very subdued and dull.  (see very low high water mark for foam on picture below).  Temps are 85-95 and I feed/wash it every 12-24 hours.  Maybe another week of life will bring it out of its reverie. 

My master list of things to try:
- Use Caputo flour
- Cut water by 10% to account for humidity
- No knead of final dough ball
- Give yeast more time to fully wake up

Offline Pete-zza

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Re: Problems with Neapolitan-Style Pizza
« Reply #6 on: July 06, 2006, 09:53:43 AM »
scpizza,

When I initially read your post, I thought that the problem was the use of the Bel Aria flour with the long fermentation time. While the information available on the Bel Aria flour is sketchy at best, I suspect it is intended for a room temperature fermentation of about 7-8 hours when using commercial yeast. Ideally, room temperature would be around 65 degrees F. In a commercial yeast environment, the rate of fermentation of a dough will about double with each 15 degrees increase in temperature. I don't know if this principle holds for a natural preferment situation, but I do know that often a natural preferment can be quite virile and capable of creating a fast rise in the dough. I thought that in your case you may have allowed the dough to ferment too long at the 85-90 degrees room temperature that you used--even though you were using a natural preferment.

Whether the above was true or not, it perhaps didn't help that you kneaded the dough just before trying to use it. What Locke has added in his post is true. In fact, this problem comes up a lot. You will note, for example, that I addressed this point just recently when member REMOISE was having problems with his 00 dough, at Reply 20 at http://www.pizzamaking.com/forum/index.php/topic,3285.msg27912.html#msg27912.

Now that you have identified your dough formulations, I would like you to take a look at the following two posts:

http://www.pizzamaking.com/forum/index.php/topic,2951.msg25809.html#msg25809 (Reply 43)
http://www.pizzamaking.com/forum/index.php/topic,986.msg25807.html#msg25807 (Reply 94)

From these posts, you will see a great similarity to what you are trying to do, even though I was using San Felice and Caputo 00 Pizzeria flour. Also, you will see that I employ a fold and punch technique. It is the same one you referenced in the woodstone article (figs. 4b and 4c). If you can replicate just the techniques I described in the above posts, even when using the Bel Aria flour if you'd like, I think you will achieve much better results.

I don't think I would reduce the hydration to the extent you propose to do. A 10% drop in hydration is far too much in my opinion to compensate for humidity. A fresh flour right out of the factory with 14-15% moisture content will lose only a couple percent of that moisture when it is put into an air-conditioned environment with low humidity. Reversing that environment by the addition of humidity shouldn't come to 10% in my opinion. I would stick to the high hydration for as long as possible, as you will note was my objective in both of the abovereferenced posts.

Good luck and please let us know how things work out next time.

Peter

Offline scpizza

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Re: Problems with Neapolitan-Style Pizza
« Reply #7 on: July 07, 2006, 01:18:43 AM »
Ahhh, the sweet taste of success.  My pizza is now edible.  I changed each of the things I was advised to change and then some, so not completely sure which were it.  I used Varasano's recipe this time around.

My master list of things to try:
- Use Caputo 00 Pizzeria flour --- done
- Cut water by 10% to account for humidity --- cut by only 5% per Peter's suggestion but dough was still too wet and had to add more flour in mixing to get it from soup to ball.  Believe my starter may be overly wet so high % of starter skewed hydration.
- No knead of final dough ball --- After a 15 minute punch and fold knead, at 85 degrees I did a 2 hour rise, then gently crafted two 300g balls and did a 5 hour rise which saw the most growth.  I gingerly removed the ball-blobs and gently pressed them out flat with no kneading.
- Give yeast more time to fully wake up ---  Apparently not the most critical issue.  The yeast performed well and pizza tasted great.

Also:
- I pre-warmed my tomato sauce which previously had come from the fridge and gone onto the crust cold.
- I cooked my pizza inside my makeshift quarry tile "box" inside the oven this time instead of on top of it.  Doh.

The result of all this was a vastly more airy and light crust with nicely browned outside.  Unlike my prior inedible attempts, this pizza was a joy to eat and left the eater wanting more.  Fortunately, because I had a suprise guest show up.  He declared the pizza "Very good."

I'd attribute success here to 1) the Caputo flour and 2) treating the risen dough like bubble-bath soap bubbles you are trying to preserve - extremely gentle handling and minimal disturbance.

A big thank you everyone.  I remain perennially impressed with the caliber of pizzamakers here and how readily everyone chimes in.


« Last Edit: July 07, 2006, 01:40:46 AM by scpizza »

Offline Bill/SFNM

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Re: Problems with Neapolitan-Style Pizza
« Reply #8 on: July 07, 2006, 05:54:41 AM »
Congrats! Looks great!

What are the black specs on the underside of the crust?

Bill/SFNM

Offline Pete-zza

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Re: Problems with Neapolitan-Style Pizza
« Reply #9 on: July 07, 2006, 08:02:23 AM »
scpizza,

Good job.

As your starter becomes more developed, you may want to experiment with cutting back the amount you use. That will allow for more crust flavor development and better crust texture by significantly lengthening the fermentation/maturation periods. Doing that will also help solve the hydration problem because the small starter amounts won't contribute a lot of added hydration to the dough or force you to add a lot more flour to compensate (and to adjust the amount of salt). Using large amounts of starter will, indeed, provide for a faster rise, as you have apparently discovered, but that is not much different than using commercial yeast to do the same thing. Once you get your legs under you and feel comfortable with your dough making, you might go back to your original recipe and give it a try again. No two starters behave identically all the time so some experimentation may be necessary to achieve the results you are looking for.

Peter


Offline scpizza

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Re: Problems with Neapolitan-Style Pizza
« Reply #10 on: July 07, 2006, 09:38:10 AM »
Thanks Bill!  Perceptive of you to notice the black spots.  They are cornmeal I put on the peel.  Cornmeal is more surefire than flour for getting the pizza off the peel and into the oven without incident.  Since I'm having hydration issues, I wanted to remove all risk of stickage.  Once my dough settles down, I'll switch to using the more correct flour.

Good points, Peter I will indeed again try the lower starter, longer ferment time and see how that works now with my better flour and dough handling technique.

Offline Bill/SFNM

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Re: Problems with Neapolitan-Style Pizza
« Reply #11 on: July 07, 2006, 10:46:36 AM »
Thanks Bill!  Perceptive of you to notice the black spots.  They are cornmeal I put on the peel.  Cornmeal is more surefire than flour for getting the pizza off the peel and into the oven without incident.  Since I'm having hydration issues, I wanted to remove all risk of stickage.  Once my dough settles down, I'll switch to using the more correct flour.

Yeah, you want to lose the cornmeal. In my oven, it gives a bitter taste when it burns. As a result of help from the fine people on this forum, I started using semolina which is much better. But more importantly, as I've gotten better at handling the dough through all stages and even though I'm using a highly hydrated dough (64% including starter), I've been able to form crusts that just aren't as sticky and don't need much bench flour or anything else to slide off the peel. That isn't to say I don't have the occasional accident, but it's getting better.

Bill/SFNM

Offline JPY

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Re: Problems with Neapolitan-Style Pizza
« Reply #12 on: July 07, 2006, 02:41:55 PM »
Stick with flour if you can.  Cornmeal will leave an interesting residue on the hearth after awhile, especially in wood ovens.
-JP-

Offline varasano

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Re: Problems with Neapolitan-Style Pizza
« Reply #13 on: July 20, 2006, 07:26:19 AM »
Quick thought - I have not read this whole thread. The dough should not double in size as it rises. That is way too much. I think Marco says it should grow 25%. I'm not sure about that. I would say about 50%.  But 100% is too much. The more it rises the denser it will be because the bubbles become big and fragile and pop. Most of the lift comes from steam, not the yeast. The yeast starts the bubbles and the steam blows them up.

Also, never use a rolling pin and stretch gently. The rough handling that you saw at the pizza place, I'm guessing, was with a hi gluten flour and a low hydration. That may work for NY style, but for neopolitan, where you are using lower protein 00 flour and higher hydration, the dough should be handled gently.

I'm not sure I agree that the dough is too wet. You may be comparing to the typically drier NY style again. Wetter doughs produce more steam and rise.  However, I haven't made a pie under 700F in years so I'm not sure how that plays into it.

FYI I have experimented with starters from 1% - 40% and frankly the differences are surprisingly nominal.

I agree, no cornmeal.  I personally, never punch down. I shape 20 minutes after kneading and that's it. Punching down seems like it would pop bubbles, but I've not done a lot of experimentation with it.

The yeast in the photo looks not ready for making dough. This is usually what mine looks like after a week unfed in the fridge. It also looks too watery. Try using more flour.

Jeff
« Last Edit: July 20, 2006, 07:37:53 AM by varasano »

Offline scpizza

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Re: Problems with Neapolitan-Style Pizza
« Reply #14 on: July 21, 2006, 09:47:18 AM »
Thanks for your comments varasano.  (I also read your website and it was quite helpful.)  Your points about % rise and steam versus yeast causing dough lightness hit a critical issue - exactly what creates a lighter crust.

I blew a batch of dough yesterday (after I had a friend over for pizza and had built up all this drama around handmade pizza).  I used the 2% starter recipe with long fermentation time as that is praised on the board as producing better crust flavor.  I let it rise 30 hours at a (warm) room temp of 85 to 100% rise.  Top of dough showed blown out bubbles, dough was overly soggy, and when I got it in my hands it practically disintegrated.  Very dead.

I'm now religiously autolysing and kneading the dough and have achieved passable gluten structure when I catch the dough at 75% rise.  Per your suggestion, I'm going to try it at 50% and at 25% and see if I can get better.

Your comments about dough fragility bear out my personal experience as I've been able to get decent crust lightness by minimizing dough handling post rise.  However I've been observing dough handling at several places here in NYC and am getting slightly different views.  At UPN and at Luzzos the dough handling is respectful, but not necessarily gentle.  They do manhandle the dough a bit.  I saw incredible gluten structure in the Luzzos dough as a large pizza was made and stretched quite thin in the middle.  At Fornino in Brooklyn they were slamming the dough around even harder and produced a very light crust texture (though poor flavor).

American Pie mentions that Naples Pizzerias routinely cut their 00 pizzeria flour with american all-purpose flour which I believe adds more gluten.  I wonder if my pure Caputo 00 Pizzeria flour recipies are just too light on gluten.  Or alternatively, my hand kneading technique may suck.  I have been able to find no authoritative, easy to follow information on how to properly knead pizza dough.  I'm using my best guess at a punch-and-fold technique and work it until the dough tightens up - about 15 minutes.

I don't punch down - agree with you, seems to just destroy bubbles.  I have abandoned the cornmeal.  Had one disaster, so am now just using a generous amount of flour on the peel.

I agree my starter jar looks sluggish compared to yours, though the yeast seem to be doing the job in the crust.  I am now adding less water when I feed and wash, but still am not getting the battery consistency you have in yours.

I've also managed to get my oven tiles up to 650 and am seeing better results for it.
« Last Edit: July 21, 2006, 09:49:04 AM by scpizza »

Offline Pete-zza

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Re: Problems with Neapolitan-Style Pizza
« Reply #15 on: July 21, 2006, 10:37:07 AM »
scpizza,

If I had to guess, I would say that your problem with the latest dough was that it was allowed to ferment/mature for too long for the temperature, 85 degrees F, you used. The ideal temperature for fermentation purposes is around 65 degrees F (18-20 degrees C). I don't know the exact correlation between dough temperature and natural starters, but for commercial yeast the rate of fermentation will double for each 15 degrees rise in dough temperature (all else being equal). If 65 degrees F is the ideal and you used 85 degrees F, you can see that your dough underwent rapid and long fermentation. What happens when the dough is allowed to ferment too long is that enzymes in the flour, namely, the protease enzymes, attack the gluten and cause water to be released, resulting in a slack and wet dough that handles poorly. Adding raw flour at this point to compensate will not improve matters much, if at all.

I wouldn't blame the Caputo 00 Pizzeria flour. It has 11.5-12.5% protein content and was already supplemented at the miller's facility by the addition of North American flours to national grains. This was done so that you wouldn't have to. Luzzo's uses San Felice flour, which has somewhat different characteristics than the Caputo 00 Pizzeria flour, which apparently allows for a somewhat more developed gluten structure.

You will have to find the proper balance between the amount of starter used and the dough temperature during fermentation/maturation, which is related to room temperature during fermentation/maturation, water temperature, machine friction temperature, and the hydration and amount of salt used. The amount of starter used will, in turn, depend on its strength and readiness.

Peter


Offline varasano

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Re: Problems with Neapolitan-Style Pizza
« Reply #16 on: July 21, 2006, 12:23:43 PM »
I agree with pete. My dough rises in 15-20 hours at about 70-75F when I use a warm rise. At 85F I'm sure it would be done in 10 hours or less.   I don't think that 85 is good for the dough for a long time though. When I take dough out of a 3 day cold rise, I may pop it into an 85F oven for 60-90 minutes, but that's more to warm it up and get it started. It may take most of that time just to come up to room temp.  When I do a warm rise it's usually at room temp. Each starter is different, but 30 hrs at 85F seems well out of the range.

Pete's notes about the breakdown into a slack dough are also right on. 

I know that some like pure Caputo, but I rarely use it 100%. I use half KA Bread and half caputo most of the time. I find that this gives good structure (from the Bread flour) and airy bubbles (from the Caputo).

Hand kneading is tough.  Even though you hand knead, I would say you are better off doing a lot of mixing in the semi-batter, sem-dough phase. This may be too sticky to handle and may need a spoon or something. I'm not sure.  Anthony at UPN does mix all his dough by hand, god bless him.

Any reason you don't want to use a machine?

Offline scpizza

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Re: Problems with Neapolitan-Style Pizza
« Reply #17 on: July 21, 2006, 11:58:03 PM »
Yeah, Pete nailed describing the characteristics of my overrisen dough.  The gluten structure had been destroyed.  Adding flour did nothing.  It was a hopeless soggy heap of goop.

Unfortunately my room temp here is 85 degrees, so other than doing a refrigerator rise my options are limited.  I wish we had a formula into which we could input starter % and temperature and would get back out a figure for optimal rise time.  I found some fascinating discussion of yeast growth temp and rates by the sourdough bread people here:

http://www.faqs.org/faqs/food/sourdough/faq/section-32.html
http://www.faqs.org/faqs/food/sourdough/faq/section-36.html

I should get some KA Bread and try your mix Varasano, maybe it would help compensate for my lower temperature oven at the least.

I do mix with a spoon in the batter phase as well as hand knead because I have no machine.  I have been reasoning if the Italians can do it that way, why can't I.  I think the answer is because I don't know what the **** I am doing.  Could be time to buy a machine.  Alternatively I have a mind to go talk to Anthony and ask if he wants an apprentice.

Anyway today I made a batch with 4% starter, 7 hour rise at 85F.  Dough had increased by about 25%.  Results were excellent handling characteristics when forming the skin.  Firm semi-elastic response readily stretchable and shapable.  Pictures of the crust below.  Despite the nice outside, the inside of the crust was too dense with tiny bubbles - cakey.  Except for the occasional huge bubble.  I am thinking the rise was insufficient - it needed another few hours.



Offline varasano

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Re: Problems with Neapolitan-Style Pizza
« Reply #18 on: July 22, 2006, 05:01:28 PM »
What's your hydration?  I agree try going to 50% rise instead of 25%.

Thanks for those articles. As they point out, and as I've said in some of my posts, the temperature can affect the relative activity of the 2 kinds of organisms, yeast and lactobacilli. So it's not just faster at 85F, it's different.  You might be able to work out a system, but I'm not sure what to recommend.  I'm sure that not every pizza place in Naples had air conditioning or refridgeration 100 years ago, but again it's the knowing what the **** they are doing part that's all important.

You can, of course, do a cold rise, or even just chill the dough for a while before letting it sit at room temp.

I'm not really ready to post up on this, as I've got more experimenting to do, but lately I've been trying a short cold rise, like 10 hours, then a short warm rise (not room temp but like 80-85F) for about 3-4 hours. I'm trying to get to a predictable state where I can make a dough which
  - Can be made in a short amount of time (< 1 day)
  - Have a predictable peak time (ie, I don't want a range of 15-20 hours which is like from 7PM to Midnight)
  - Good flavor

I don't have any solid recommendations for this type of rise yet.

Jeff

« Last Edit: July 22, 2006, 05:03:27 PM by varasano »

Offline tonymark

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Re: Problems with Neapolitan-Style Pizza
« Reply #19 on: July 22, 2006, 11:00:54 PM »
scpizza,

For a "quick" overnight rise make dough at night with about 3-4 % starter culture and then place in prepared cooler.
I know Pete-zza has done something similar, but here is my procedure.  Put one of those cold packs in bottom of tall cooler.  I have one that holds about 4 two liter bottles.  Put an empty food container on top of cold pack.  Place dough balls in containers on top of this.  If you stack them, the one(s) on top may become warmer then the lower ones.  In the morning check the dough temperature with IR thermometer and rotate higher and lower if necessary.  Remove 1-2 hours before preparing pizzas.  As Pete-zza stated (originally Marco) the ideal temp for a warm rise is ~65 F.  The cooler setup gets around 68 F.  I have had good results with this trick.

I recommend that you get some King Arthur bread flour (KABF) and use that to develop you technique, especially if you are buying Caputo at top dollar from pennmac or similar source.  KABF is great for pizzas.

Hand kneading


Here is a good procedure for hand kneading.  Varasano originally posted some of this on the board somewhere, but I have added several comments of my own (in parentheses).  I have tried this and it work very well, even with a sourdough culture.

Quote
So I recommend this: Start with the amount of water you need, then mix in about 75% (I would say more like 2/3)  of the flour, until the dough is not quite a full dough, and still a bit of a batter. Wait 20 minutes.(I like to go anywhere from 25-30 minutes, 20 is the minimum). Mix in the yeast and salt, then mix for a good while (at least 5 minutes or until your arm gets tired) with a wooden spoon. At this point its too wet to knead by hand. Then after say 5 minutes, start adding more and more flour a bit at a time. Once it's too dense to work in the bowl, start kneading by hand. Don't worry if the dough reaches a smooth state. It probably won't if you mix by hand.  Don't mix the dough until it's dry. Keep it as wet as you can, only adding flour when it's too sticky to touch. In the end it should still be very wet.

After a few more minutes, stop, return the dough to the bowl and cover to keep in the moisture, and wait another 20 minutes. Or even longer. If you are using a sourdough culture instead of instant yeast, you can wait hours if you want. (keep it to 20 for now, and not too warm since active dry yeast works faster than instant yeast)   Now dust with flour, shape the dough into balls. You will find that now after the wait, the dough is much smoother. The dough should feel soft like a baby's bottom. (The first time I achieved this was shocking.  I had never felt a dough quite like this.  That baby's bottom thing is no exaggeration.

Good luck,
TM
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