Thank you for your kind words, but they are completely unwarranted. All I tried to do was to see if I could make a Caputo 00 dough using only a biga and no additional commercial yeast. The recipe was simple. Just Caputo 00 flour, the Caputo 00 biga, water, salt and oil (which I added to help achieve crust softness in a home oven environment). There were two possible outcomes--I would succeed or I would fail. I wasn't worried too much about failing because I knew I could "salvage" the dough the next day by adding a bit of IDY (which I would proof in a bit of warm water to help incorporate it into the failed dough), and start the process all over again.
Even when the dough showed signs of life and was expanding, I didn't know how long it could sit on my countertop at room temperature without running out of steam and becoming slack and basically unusable. I had seen that happen more than once before with doughs made from 00 flour, but this time it was different because I was using a biga with a small amount of IDY that hopefully was working very slowly and extending the dough's useful life. After the 18-hour period, the dough had about doubled in volume, which I interpreted to mean that it perhaps was time to punch it down and reball it and let it rise again and then be used. After the additional 6-hour period, the dough just about doubled again. Although I felt I understood the chemistry, I wasn't sure that the dough would produce an edible product. The dough was very soft, with a rather flat profile, and fairly moist, which are symptoms of a slack, overfermented dough. No one was more surprised than I to see the final results.
As to your questions:What was your biga refreshment process to ensure maximum activity before incorporating it into your recipe?
I just periodically replaced about half of the biga with fresh water (bottled) and Caputo 00 flour. I left the biga on my countertop, sometimes uncovered (hoping to attract wild yeast), but mostly lightly covered. It took a few days for bubbles in the biga to emerge, but they increased with time. I knew from prior experience with sourdough starters that the starter has to have a lot of activity to do a good job.What is the source of your recipe
? I just used the Caputo recipe that I got from the Caputo 00 distributor, which I scaled down to single dough ball size, around 8 oz. or so. The recipe was posted on another thread dealing with 00 flour (see Replies ## 10 and 13 at http://www.pizzamaking.com/forum/index.php/topic,783.0.html
.)Do you think the biga is matured enough to affect the dough's flavor one way or another? Reinhart mentions a full 2 week period for maturity.
I didn't detect a pronounced flavor difference, although the biga did have that nice odor of fermentation that good starters have.Was there any funny taste present?
I didn't detect any funny tastes. I thought the dough could have used a bit more salt, but that was about it.Did you lightly dust the dough ball with flour during the final rise?
No. After the 16-hour rise and reshaping, I just put the dough ball back into the storage bag (which had been lightly oiled), and zipped it shut. During final stretching of the dough was there flour on your bench? Any flour on the peel?
I always put a bit of bench flour on my work surface when shaping doughs, mainly because most of my doughs tend to be on the high hydration side. Today's dough was moister than usual, so I found it necessary to use a bit more bench flour than usual. I also put a bit of flour on the peel. I had thought to try the "blow" test to get the pizza onto the stone but thought better of it since that might have terminated my experiment--without getting any answers--if I failed the test.Did you refresh the biga after taking out 1- 1.5 T?
No. I just put what remained in my container back into the refrigerator, since I now knew that it worked. Based on what I learned about starters when I was in my sourdough bread "phase", when I plan to use the biga again, I will take it out of the refrigerator, feed it with more flour and water, and let it work for a few hours until it looks bubbly again. There may be other and better ways of doing it, but this is the way I learned to do it. Did the dough have the presence of many bubbles after rising?
No. In fact, that was one of the things I thought might be the undoing of the dough. I saw nothing that looked like bubbles. I decided to plunge ahead anyway, figuring that the worst that would happen is that I would end up with a Cracker Margherita. No one was more surprised than I to see the dough rise once it went into the oven. As least I wouldn't get a big round cracker for all my efforts. Did you consider incorporating a minor amount of commercial yeast to act as a booster or cheat?
No. That wasn't an option for this experiment. I wanted only to see if a Caputo 00 dough using a 00 biga was doable. I also knew from experience that if the dough was really "dead", using commercial yeast wouldn't revive it. Once the dough is dead, it's dead and the only thing to do at that point is to just throw it away.What were your reasons for not using a refrigerated fermentation period?
I knew from having worked with 00 flours before that refrigeration would work. What I was trying to do today was to emulate as much as possible the way that Neapolitan pizzaioli
make their pizzas, and that is usually without refrigeration. And I wanted to try using the biga, which is what I believe pizzanapoletana advocates and is a direct way, rather than an indirect way, of doing what Mangieri does at Una Pizza Napoletana (he uses the indirect, old dough approach). Mangieri lets his dough rise a total of almost 36 hours without any refrigeration whatsoever. If I can get the wild yeast version of the Caputo 00 biga to work, that would be another step closer to what Mangieri does, from what I can tell. What I will never be able to achieve is the high oven temperatures that a wood-fired oven produces. My Neapolitan style pizzas, no matter how good they are produced in my oven, will always fall short of the real thing.