I've finally got this worked out after a fun year of experimenting and online sleuthing. I can't say for sure that this precisely replicates "Serious Pie" crust, but it certainly has many of the same flavors and textures, it looks similar, and it tastes amazing.
The "signature characteristics" of this pie:
1. Very high hydration dough (100%)
2. High-protein flour
3. Bakes very quickly at very high heat
4. Fresh mozzarella on top
5. A little olive oil and honey in the dough
6. Unless you have a wood-fired pizza oven in your backyard, you must use a baking steel in your home oven for that lightly-charred, crispy thin crustRESULTS (PHOTOS)
Whole pie: http://i.imgur.com/lwESAQB.jpg
Side view: http://i.imgur.com/KwltXcW.jpg
Bottom view: http://i.imgur.com/DXSUnX3.jpg
For comparison, Serious Pie: http://i.imgur.com/8aWqpah.jpg
This is truly fast and simple to do when you know how.DOUGH INGREDIENTS (makes 2 large pies)
500 g high-gluten flour (14% - 15% protein). If needed, you can start with supermarket "all purpose" flour, then mix in some "vital wheat gluten" (see notes below).
6 g active dry yeast
10 g salt
500 g lukewarm water
6 g olive oil
12 g honey
You also need about 4 Tbsp of semolina wheat ("Cream of Wheat") to sprinkle on your pizza peel (see notes below).TOPPING INGREDIENTSBasics for inexpensive "family pizza night"
- Red sauce (about 6 Tbsp per pie): If you don't have time to make your own sauce, buy a supermarket jar of marinara sauce made from tomatoes, olive oil, and spices (nothing else). Many supermarket sauces use added sugar, which I truly don't care for on pizza.
- Mozzarella cheese (about 5 oz. per pie): Get a 1 lb. log of fresh mozzarella in the supermarket dairy case for $3 or $4 and cut it into slices with a knife. Pre-shredded "cheese shreds in a bag" gives really poor results (see notes below).
- Dried oregano (to taste, about 1/2 Tbsp per pie): Sprinkle on before baking.
- Extra olive oil (to taste, about 2 Tbsp per pie): Brush on crust and drizzle on top after baking.
Other easy toppings include meats, onions, spinach, broccoli, etc. Later you can explore making your own sauces (red, white, pesto); different cheeses; fresh herbs; combos like sliced apples, gorgonzola, and hazlenuts. Just start googling and have fun.MAKING THE DOUGH (15 minutes + 1 hour rise time)
1. In the bowl of a stand mixer with a dough hook, combine the flour, and, if needed, the vital wheat gluten. Add the yeast and salt. Stir together with a spoon to combine the dry ingredients.
2. Pour in the water. Add the olive oil and the honey.
3. Start your mixer on low speed so nothing splashes out of the bowl. Let it run for 2 minutes, then stop it, and use a spoon to scrape any unmixed flour from the bottom and sides of the bowl, into the dough.
4. Restart your mixer and let it run on medium-high speed for 10 minutes to help develop the gluten.
You're done mixing. Now it's time for folding and rising. The dough will still be very soupy, like a sticky milkshake.
5. Flour your work surface and your hands, pour the dough onto your work surface (you will have to scrape some out with a spoon), then stretch and fold the dough (see notes below).
6. Let the dough sit on your work surface for 3 or 4 minutes, then stretch and fold the dough again.
7. Divide the dough in half, one half for each pie. Sprinkle flour on the dough and gently spread the flour around the dough, to cover the wet spots and make it easier to handle.
8. Put each blob of dough into a covered bowl to rise for an hour. If you're only baking 1 pizza now, refrigerate or freeze the other half for later.PIZZA ASSEMBLY (10 minutes)
9. After your dough has been rising for about 55 minutes, put your pizza steel on the bottom shelf of the oven, and preheat the oven to 550o
10. Sprinkle the semolina wheat evenly on your pizza peel.
11. Flour your work surface again. The dough will still be sticky, so be sure that your entire work surface is floured, and your hands are floured. Pour and scrape the risen dough out of the bowl onto the floured work surface.
12. Stretch and fold the dough one more time, then form it into a half-dome. At this point it will feel silky, with a consistency like loose jello. Let it rest for a minute.
13. Shape the dough into your final "disk" shape (see notes below), and place the shaped dough onto the peel.
14. Spoon the sauce onto the dough. Spread with spoon or pastry brush.
15. Add any meats, vegetables. Then place the mozzarella slices on top, and sprinkle with oregano.BAKING THE PIZZA (5 minutes)
16. Slide the pizza from the peel onto the baking steel in the oven (see notes below).
17. Take a quick look after exactly 5 minutes. If the pizza is done, slide the peel under the pizza, and remove from the oven. If it's not done to your liking, quickly close the oven and check again in another 45 seconds.
18. I like to brush or spray a little olive oil on the crust, to give the crust a rich golden color and enhance the flavor. I also drizzle a little olive oil on top of the cheese.
Slice and eat! Keep the baked pizza on a wire rack if you don't want it to get soggy.VIDEO REFERENCES FOR TECHNIQUEFinal Dough Shaping, and Using the Peel
There are many shaping techniques, but I like this one for this dough. You can also see how to use the peel to get your pizza in the oven.http://www.finecooking.com/videos/how-to-shape-pizza.aspxStretch and Fold Technique
This dough is "highly hydrated" (ratio of water weight to flour weight = 100%). That's what makes it "airy" after baking. So when you're making it, it's even stickier and looser than the doughs shown here. But the technique is the same.
Your first try will be messy, but you can do this. You use the same technique for other airy breads like focaccias, sourdoughs, and breads like this (http://tartine-bread.blogspot.com/2011/09/laywomans-solution-to-tartines-highly.html
).IMPORTANT NOTES1. Use a baking steel.
Commercial wood-fired pizza ovens run at about 700o
F. Home ovens reach only about 550o
and don't maintain that temp very well. I've tested every baking surface imaginable. I did not want to spend $99 on a baking steel. But if you want the restaurant-style high-temp 5-minute bake that gives you a crisp outer crust with a bit of char and a springy crumb, the baking steel is the only option for a conventional home oven. Plus, all baking stones will eventually crack from normal use, but the steel lasts forever.http://www.bakingsteel.com/
2. Use "high-gluten" a.k.a. "high-protein" flour.
"Gluten" is what forms when you add water to the "proteins" in wheat flours. Gluten (in the dough) is wet protein (from the flour).
The gluten content of the dough matters, because without enough gluten, a dough with lots of water mixed in ("high hydration") will just be a flour soup. Gluten is what gives the crust its chewiness and loft.
For this type of pizza, you need flour with a protein content of about 14% - 15%
(the protein % of the Shepherd's Grain Hi-Gluten Flour #804204 used by Serious Pie is 13.00% - 15.50%).
To learn the protein % of your flour, just read the nutrition label. For example, if the label says, "Serving Size 30g, Protein 3g", the protein % = 3g /30g = 10%.
You can either BUY flour with the right 14% - 15% protein, or make it.Buying Flour
Read the nutrition label. Look for flours labeled "High Protein", "High Gluten", "Pizza Flour", "Bread Flour'. Here are typical protein percentages for common wheat flours:
"All Purpose" bleached supermarket flour: 9% - 10%
"Bread" flour: 13% - 14%
"High Protein", "High Gluten" flour: 13.5% - 15%
50-lb bags of flour do not have nutrition labels. Email the supplier to get a "COA" (Certificate of Analysis).Blending Flour (very easy)
Just add a little "vital wheat gluten" powder (sometimes mislabeled as "gluten flour" in stores) to any wheat flour you buy, in order to bring it up to 14% - 15% protein.
This is a very common baking ingredient which you can buy at most health food stores, or online: http://www.kingarthurflour.com/shop/items/vital-wheat-gluten-16-oz
Your have All Purpose flour from the supermarket, which is 10% protein. You need 15% protein. Simply mix 5 grams of "vital wheat gluten" powder into every 100 grams of All Purpose flour that you use (to be precise, you would mix 5 grams of wheat gluten into every 95 grams of All Purpose flour, but it doesn't matter). So if you're using 500 grams of All Purpose flour, mix in 25 grams of vital wheat gluten powder.
Note: You might see "Tipo 00" flour in specialty food stores. This refers only to how finely the flour is milled (almost like baby powder; nice for pasta), not the protein %.3. Use a kitchen scale.
It makes things much faster and more accurate when measuring ingredients, and costs only about $10.4. Use a pizza peel.
There's no way to put your pizza in contact with the baking surface without a peel. You're wasting $ if you spend more than $15 on a peel. For a home oven, I suggest a handle about this length, which is long enough to keep your face out of the hot oven, and short enough to keep control. BTW, wear oven mitts.https://amzn.com/B0037XIK9A/?tag=pmak-20
5. Sprinkle peel with semolina.
The pizza slides off the peel onto the baking surface because you've sprinkled something onto the peel. Your options are semolina wheat, flour, or corn meal. I prefer the size and taste of semolina grains for the bottom of my pizza. Instead of buying expensive little bags of semolina, buy boxes of "Cream of Wheat" cereal. It's the same thing.
6. Slice the mozzarella cheese yourself, from fresh.
You care about pizza. The pre-shredded mozzarella that comes in bags tastes like rubber and includes anti-caking ingredients that prevent it from melting well.
Every supermarket has logs of fresh mozzarella for a few dollars. Just pop 8 or 10 slices onto your pizza before baking; they will melt all over, and look and taste great.http://galbanicheese.com/cheese/dairy-aisle.php?typeId=3717. Use very little sauce.
I like spooning 5 or 6 tablespoons of sauce onto my dough. Spreading it with a silicone pastry brush works well, or use the back of a spoon.http://www.pastrychef.com/SILICONE-PASTRY-BRUSH_p_911.html8. Make ahead, or make immediately.
You can do this whole thing in about an hour (most of that time is just rising time), and it will taste great.
But if you have extra time, you can start "pre-fermenting" a small "starter" dough 12 hours in advance, then add the rest of the dough ingredients to the starter the next day. This two-step process gives the dough a richer flavor. Baking geeks call the pre-fermented portion of the dough (the "preferment") the "sponge" (English) or "biga" (Italian) or "poolish" (French).
If you do want to make a poolish, combine half the flour, half the water, and just a pinch of yeast in a bowl. Cover and let the yeast grow. You won't be adding any more yeast, because it's now growing in the poolish. After 12 hours, the poolish will be bubbly. Add the remaining ingredients to the poolish (but no more yeast), and proceed normally with your mixing and 1-hour rise.9. Keep it crisp.
Like any moist hot bread, your pizza will quickly get soggy and limp from escaping steam if left on a plate after baking. So after cutting, keep the slices on a wire cooling rack or a pizza screen, elevated with air circulating underneath.10. Save dough for later.
I use empty butter tubs to keep fresh dough in the refrigerator for 3 or 4 days.https://www.images-iherb.com/m/SPT-03325-1.jpg
Or, you can freeze the dough and defrost it overnight.11. Tweaking the dough.
If you want a less "airy" crust, reduce the amount of water in the dough slightly, until you get a texture you like.