Chef Boy-r-de in a box got me going. Shakey's Pizza then kicked it up a notch, (before Emeril), then the Pizzerias of Chicago, New York and San Francisco became a measuring stick for good pies. How was I to get one here in Bakersville, NC? My kitchen and yours is all the tool's you will need. Plus there is a renaissance in cooking at home and the information access online didn't hurt.
For me the basis for making good pies rested in the dough and its ingredients. Bread flour or high gluten flours (semolina) works the best for what I want in a dough. I'm looking for a finished crust that is light, chewy, Swiss cheese textured, with a slight crispness to the surface. Most of the pies I make at home are with Pillsbury bread flour, because of access, I can buy it in town. One other flour that is very helpful is to have on hand is rye flour. It adds strength and flavor to the crust, plus it is the basis for sourdough if you want to go further with doughs.
Intermission: Books you need to have access to:
The Tassajara Bread Book (my copy is from 1970), by Edward Brown. Julia Child's The Way to Cook, Artisan Baking Across America by Maggie Glezer, FlatBreads & Flavors by Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid and the Culinary Institutes of America's Baking at Home and Baking & Pastry cookbooks are excellent reference tools and will just plain make you hungry to read any of them.
Some highlights that I use to consistently get the crust I want, (if you don't eat the outside crust, go buy yourself a red baron pizza and turn on a TV somewhere). Julia Child says that to get that chewy crisp crust you will need to increase the amount of moisture in the dough, it should be sticky when it is mixed, (most recipes say form a ball with the dough hook, letting it pull away from the sides). From this ideal I use this method to create my dough:
2 cups of warm water
1/2 Cup of Rye Flour (level )
3 1/2 cups of bread flour (level )
1 Tlbs olive oil
1/2 tsp salt
1 pack of yeast
Attach the dough hook to mixer, add the water to the bowl, add the rye flour (start mixer), add 1/2 cup of bread flour, add the yeast and salt, ( I let it mix for a minutes to let the yeast dissolve), add the 3Cups of flour and lastly add the olive oil. Let mix for 20-30 minutes, It should be smooth and have a bit of shine to the doughs surface and just a slight amount of a ball of dough should be on the hook, but the dough will be almost like a batter. After mixing, I take and pour extra olive oil around the inside of the bowl wall with the dough in the bowl, and using a plastic spatula, I turn the dough over and over to coat it and the bowl. I cover and let rise till doubled, punch it down with the spatula and clean the sides into the middle of the dough and let it rise again, I don't worry about it again till time to eat, This dough will make about three 10-12 inch pies so I take about a third of the dough and drop onto a well floured board and round it up and onto itself, forming a ball. Picking it up I quickly by pushing dough into the center from the bottom as you are holding the dough, producing a smooth top surface. Then I put it down on the board, then using my finger tips I take the area just inside that outer part(rim) and flattening it, you will have a little hump in the middle, which I punch down with fingers. I flour the dough and turn it over, flattening it with my palms and fingers till it is about 10-12 inch wide. I leave a bit of untouched dough on that outside part to hold in the sauce and ingredients and so I can chew on and admire it. I dust a peel with cornmeal, lay the dough over onto it , add the sauce, cheese then ingredients, The meats and such will not get done if they are under the cheese. A little carmalization on top is needed.
For baking: Use a silicon carbide shelf rather than a cordite shelf, Heat the oven to 500-550F for about a half hour before you start the pies. This crust will get big bubbles, so look at the pie early and watch for big bubbles to start, I use a metal spatula's edge to bust the bubbles, the bubble pushes the ingredients to one side or the other leaving just a little sauce.
Tomato Puree 1-10.75 ounce can put in a food processor (put the can in the trash, not the processor)
1-2 cloves of garlic chopped
1/2 of a large onion diced
6-8 leaves of Basil chopped
1 tsp of salt
Process till all is pureed. Let set for a little while before use. I put my sauce on with a pastry brush. Bake for 8-10 minutes.
This I make when its a special thing:
Crushed roma tomatoes with salt to season
tear the basil over the crushed tomatoes on a pie
Take buffalo mozzarella and cut thin slices and place them sparingly on the sauce. Bake in a hot oven for about 5-8minutes. And sorry, I enjoy a local microbrew, those boys are good at it.
Well, I hope you will try this and get out there and make them good pots and pies.