In my opinion, it is possible to overferment a dough in 6 hrs. This dough had a lot of IDY added, and even though this dough should have been ready to baked into a pizza much sooner, I believe I did overferment the dough by the feel of the dough when opening it. There were many bubbles in the dough and when I picked it up to open by hand, there were many honeycombs in the dough. I almost created holes in the dough when opening it. I know the dough doesn't look like it was overfermented. I had no visual indicators that the dough in this thread was overfermented, until I started to open the dough.
Norma, I think it's possible we might be have different definitions for overfermentation. A dough with an excessive number of bubbles/honeycomb structure is not overfermented. An excess of bubbles in a young dough is a completely reversible phenomenon. Deflated dough looks like it's been ravaged, but, trust me, it's barely damaged. Extreme quantities of yeast generate lots of volume/CO2, but CO2 doesn't inflict all that much damage on gluten. All the flours that are used for pizza (AP through 14%) can handle any volumetric expansion/deflation/CO2 that typical quantities of yeast (up to 3%) can throw at it during a 6 hour time frame. With the higher protein flours we work with, excessive volume/bubbles can overwork the gluten a bit, but they'll never do noticeable damage. One punch down later, and, presto, the gluten is back in business. It is my firm belief that overfermentation involves only that damage that is irreversible
. If the damage can be reversed, it's not overfermentation. Yeast activity only produces one type of irreversible damage- the production of alcohol. Alcohol is a long term byproduct. No matter how extreme one is about adding yeast to dough, it will never generate that much alcohol in 6 hours. It's a physical impossibility.
If one wanted to get caught up in semantics, technically speaking, fermentation is defined as producing alcohol, and yeast does create alcohol, so one could say overfermentation translates into too much alcohol. In bread, though, we know overfermentation has a different meaning. By the time alcohol reaches a sufficient quantity to impact flavor negatively, the protease has already done it's damage. Because of the accelerated enzyme atrophy clock, CO2/alcohol production/yeast activity are trivial in the fermentation equation. For years bakers have looked at rapidly expanding doughs and incorrectly assumed that deflated dough marked substantial damage/impact both to the gluten and the residual sugar, when, in reality, neither is really affected. Yeast certainly looks like it's doing a lot, but it's all just a lot of hot air, I mean a lot of hot CO2
Enzymes are the bad mama jamas, and in home doughs, they work slowly. Without enzyme supplementation, you cannot significantly speed up the clock of enzyme destruction. Cold fermentation only gives enzymes a slight edge. Discernible enzyme atrophy will always take longer than 6 hours. Enzyme atrophy is a marathon, never a sprint.
Put another way, long before the alcohol content in a dough becomes impalatable, the gluten will have been atrophied by enzymes and begin to lose it's structure. Protease is the gluten killer. Protease is the overfermentor. There's not a home made dough on this planet with enough protease to do noticeable damage in 6 hours. Not a one. If a 6 hour dough rises so much that it begins to deflate/fall, all you have to do is punch it down and the gluten will have strength/air holding capacity again. If you do something incredibly extreme like kneading a dough for hours or punching it down/re-balling it every few minutes, sure, you'll damage the gluten and it'll get toothy/knobby, but gluten overmanipulation and overfermentation are not the same.
Summing up, overfermentation, imo, is:
Starch atrophy (excess of sugar)
Abundance of alcohol
Overfermentation is not:
Too much volume/deflation
Sugar depletion (can't happen)
And gluten atrophy/starch atrophy/discernible alcohol cannot occur in 6 hours with the types of flour/levels of yeast we use.