I am very excited today. I achieved a new first--making a pizza dough/pizza based on using a chef, which is the fancy French term for "old dough". To that end, I believe I may have come as close as I am likely to making a pizza in my humble oven like the ones made by Anthony Mangieri at Una Pizza Napoletana in NYC. The main thing lacking was the wood burning oven. But I used the Caputo 00 flour (which I understand Mangieri uses), a natural Caputo 00 chef (or levain), San Marzano tomatoes (DOP), a fresh fior di latte mozzarella cheese (I know, its not bufala di mozzarella but it was the best I could do), Sicilian sea salt, and a first rate extra-virgin olive oil.
Since I don't have Una Pizza's dough recipe, I used the one recently recommended by pizzanapoletana (Marco), which I scaled down to a single pizza dough ball size of around 9 oz., or enough to make a 12-inch pizza. But instead of using a natural starter, such as the one I have been using recently (the one made from the Caputo 00 pizzeria flour), I used a piece of the dough from the last pizza dough I made from the Caputo 00 flour. I had no idea as to how much I should use, so I simply guessed and took a piece off of the old dough that weighed about 1 oz., or about 10% of the total dough weight of the new dough ball, or about 17% of the weight of flour. I see today that our esteemed new member Barry has used about 20% (by weight of flour) in doughs he has made based on using old dough, or chefs.
To make the new dough using the chef, I simply broke up the chef into very small shreds and dispersed the shreds in with the flour (5.40 oz. of Caputo 00 pizzeria flour) until I could no longer feel them, and then added the water (3.45 oz.). After adding and mixing in the water, I kneaded in the olive oil (1/2 t.), and then the Sicilian sea salt (3/4 t.). I sometimes use an autolyse with Neapolitan style doughs (before adding the oil and salt), but did not do so this time. Once the dough was completely kneaded (entirely by hand), I very lightly oiled it and placed it into a plastic storage bag, which then went onto my kitchen countertop for a nice, long rest at a room temperature of around 65-70 degrees F. I tried to follow Anthony Mangieri's regimen for the dough by allowing it to ferment for about 24 hours, followed by at least 12 more hours of ripening.
During the 24-hour fermentation, the dough behaved exactly like the ones I had made before using the natural Caputo 00 starter in liquid form--it slumped into a pancake-shaped disk. (Remember that Marco's recipe is a high hydration recipe, at about 64%, which, along with all the biochemical activity, might help explain the slumping propensity of my dough ball). At the expiration of the 24-hour period, I reshaped the dough ball and returned it to its home in the plastic storage bag for another 14 or 15 hours, again at room temperature. So the total elapsed time at room temperature, including shaping of the final skin, was close to 39-40 hours.
I had no difficulty whatsoever in handling and shaping the dough. The dough had flattened again during the ripening period and was on the wet side but it showed no obvious signs of overfermentation. I simply pressed the dough out by using my fingers until the skin was around 12 inches in diameter. I dressed and baked the pizza in the same manner as previously described, using the two-stone method.
The finished product was first rate. It was tasty, with subtle flavor overtones of the chef and the many by-products of fermentation, and soft at the center and crispy at the rim (il cornicione). The flavor of the crust was not quite as pronounced as with the liquid natural Caputo 00 starter, but it was quite nice nonetheless.
Maybe I was overcome a bit by having been able to make the pizza in the first place, but I believe it was truly a very good pizza. So, to be able to replicate it again, I saved a piece of the dough from today's pizza dough to be used for another pizza in the near future. Marco or Barry may be able to help me here by telling me how to preserve the new chef. I had read some time ago that chefs are preserved by burying them in flour, which I did.
The photo below shows the finished product.