First, a housekeeping item. It was Marco Bianco, Chris' brother, who told me that even they have doughs that don't always turn out right, and they don't always know the reason.
I'd like to talk a bit about salt and sugar in the context of A16, although my comments have applicability in general.
Like you, my practice has been to keep salt away from yeast. The reason I did this was because I understood that salt, being hygroscopic in nature (it absorbs water), would suck liquids away from the yeast, through permeating the cells of the yeast (through osmosis), and render the yeast less effective in the fermentation process. By analogy, it would be like turning a grape into a raisin. A couple of our members, I believe it was Marco and DKM, pointed out to me that it was not improper to combine yeast and salt if the salt was first added to the water and dissolved in it (as by stirring), and, indeed, this was quite common in the making of pizza doughs at the professional level. By first dissolving the salt in water, the salt would get its fill of water or other cellular liquids and its impact on the yeast would then be negligible. When I did some further research on this matter, I saw that it was common even among pizzaioli in Naples to combine dissolved salt with yeast. I was further comforted to read materials produced by yeast producers such as SAF that the newer strains of yeast they now produce have greater tolerance to salt than earlier versions and that it was acceptable to mix disasolved salt and yeast so long as the time of physical contact was not excessive.
That said, I believe that salt plays a greater role in the context of doughs, such as a Caputo 00 dough, that are fermented for long periods at room temperature. A lot of things have to be just right, or otherwise the final dough will produce poor results. The amount (and type) of yeast has to be just right, the hydration level has to be just right, the temperature has to be just right, and the amount of salt and its management has to be just right. We all know that salt toughens the gluten in dough,which is desirable to get a good gluten structure that can effectively hold gasses, but it also has an effect on the protease enzymes in dough, which act, if unrestrained, to soften the gluten and, in the extreme, turn the dough into a gummy mess. If this analysis is correct, then this suggests that high levels of salt are needed to toughen the gluten while at the same time keeping the protease enzymatic activity in check, and slowing down the rate of fermentation. This becomes even more important when the dough is a high hydration dough, which speeds up the fermentation process, and the room temperatures are elevated, which also speeds up the fermentation process. To get a dough that can withstand long periods of room-temperature fermentation, beyond say, a 10-12 hour period that is fairly typical of a Caputo 00 dough, all of the abovementioned factors have to come together just so to get the desired end results. I believe these are the points that Marco has been trying to drum into our heads.
What is not entirely clear to me at the moment, however, is whether we need elevated salt levels for a fermentation delayed dough, such as used at A16 and also in many of our experiments at this forum. By introducing delayed fermentation, we have, so to speak, changed the rules of the game on the Caputo doughs, and maybe the rules on salt management can be also altered as a direct result. In other words, maybe we can look and treat salt just as we have done with other fermentation delayed doughs, with reduced salt levels. Maybe this is an area that can be further explored, either through further cross examination of Chef Christophe or our own experiments.
Turning now to the matter of sugar. I don't think this is as great an issue from a fermentation standpoint with the Caputo 00 flour, in relation to other flours, because the Caputo 00 flour has low amylase enzyme activity and low levels of starch damage, which suggest that the extraction of sugar from the flour and its conversion to forms usable by the yeast takes place at a slow and measured pace. Again, this may be a factor that plays more directly into the scenario discussed above in relation to room temperature fermented doughs. In either case, however, there has to be enough residual sugar in the dough once the fermentation process has concluded to be able to promote better coloration at the crust level and to produce better crust and crumb texture, etc. It is this thinking and analysis that leads me to wonder whether it is worth increasing the amylase enzyme content of the Caputo 00 flour for a delayed fermentation application, either alone or in conjunction with other possible measures that might lead to better results. Clearly, A16 doesn't seem to think that such measures are necessary, but having a very high temperature wood-fired oven in itself avoids many of the issues we face in a home oven environment. To me, this is just another example where we have to innovate to overcome obstacles put into our path.