I'm here! I'm here! Sorry, I didn't check back here for a few days and look what happened! The conversation bloomed like a ... well like a sourdough starter!
I have in fact tried this exact recipe with dried insta-yeast and I have to say the flavor is definitely different. In the same way that my different strains of sourdoughs taste different, so does the end product made with the insta-yeast. Bottom line: It's not bad, per se, it just isn't as tasty as the sourdough starter.
As far as whether or not the long rests, sourdough starter, or any of the other bits of the recipe are necessary, maybe simplifying like this will help explain my point of view (which is truly just my opinion, so take it for what ever it's worth):
- Which dough, regardless of baking method/temp would you rather eat: One that has gone through a proper and thorough autolyse period, or not? If you have the time and the patience to do these steps, then do them - it only stands to improve your end product and it makes good chemical/logical sense why long autolyse periods are good
- Which dough do you feel you'd prefer to offer to guests - a dough made with the same yeast available to everyone in the grocery store, or a dough made truly unique by the subtle flavors brought to it by your local wild yeast culture you've been raising for years now? If different flours affect the flavor of your pie, so too do the salt, water, and type of yeast you choose. I know what you're thinking - but YOU add commercial yeast in this recipe. Yep. It's true. I give each of the yeasts a job to perform. The sourdough is there for flavor, and because I want some extra bubbles, I add some commercial yeast as well. I know it makes the purists cringe and the beginners scratch their heads, but in the end, your guests don't care what kind of rigid rules you stuck to - they only know what your pizza feels like and tastes like in their mouths and I like what the addition of the added commercial yeast does for the texture of my pies.
- Finally, if you rent, and are not willing to chop up your landlords appliances, I think a great method to get good oven spring is to toss the water on the bottom of the oven. The steam created keeps the surface of the crust moist (and thus elastic and expandable) during the critical first few minutes where you get most, if not all, or your rise.
Now if you are committed to the steam theory (which my experience and my taste buds certainly seem to support), you can't very well go heating stones up in your oven then splashing cold water in there. Not unless you like your pie chunky style - who knows, gravel may come into style one day as a popular topping but I don't think we're quite there yet
So to recap, I like the sourdough because it's more flavorful, and it's unique to my kitchen only. I like the long autolyse period because dammit, that is just how bread is baked! Proper autolyse is just plain old important. And finally, I like baking with lots of steam and I feel like this limits my ability to use stone.
In the end, all of these little twists and turns make a difference, and that's the whole reason why we are all on here chattering away, right? We're all looking for a new little twist to make our pies, no matter how incrementally small, a little better
So don't think of this stuff as porches in geos, think about it as taking your project car you've been working on during the weekends and popping a different brand of headers in to see if you can get a few more horsepower out the the old thing.
I'll try to check back sooner this time. Hope some of this makes sense and happy baking to you all