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What stirred Kaposhilin to donate money to the Kickstarter campaign? "I believe in supporting great work that also tries to support community development," he says. And Kaposhilin didn't just buy one copy for himself; he bought a second, for his mother to read and then to share with her friends. "The book itself has incredible recipes but also teaches people to come together, make something together, and be here together," he says.
A Focus on Home Cooking
The book's focus is aimed at teaching home cooks how to make pizza in a down-to-earth, approachable format, by home cooks—these guys have no culinary training. The master template of how to make a pizza is easy enough for a first-time maker to follow. There's even an ice breaker section in the beginning that's titled "You're Going to Fuck Up Some Pizzas," to put minds at ease before they dig into the recipes. The Pizza Book also reflects the minds of two programmers, with their technical, seminerdy way of explaining how a basic pie is made. Their hope is to encourage readers to think a bit deeper about something like pizza—a food that's central to our culture. Like the Florida chef, they too believe that every ingredient—and the method of adding to each of them—plays an important role in the product. This is why they devote pages 52 pages just to explain technique and the role of ingredients before they offer a recipe. And the dough itself is slightly different than most at-home versions; it stresses that the key to making a good pizza is dough fermentation. Fermentation requires cooks to let the raw dough sit for two to five days, which seems long for an at-home cook to wait but, in the end, has immeasurable results.
"Often there's this other flavor component missing and that's the flavor that comes from all of the compounds that are produced during fermentation," says Bernstein. Along with the hint of an appealing sour flavor balance, fermentation helps cooks achieve the chewy finesse in a parlor pie.
The rest of the book goes through different variations of the master template recipe, with toppings ranging from "The Best Fucking Meatball" to pickled corn. Quint's favorite is the "Radicchio + Sausage + Honey," while Bernstein, despite his love for the classic Margherita, is drawn to the "Everything Bagel" pie, a prebaked Everything Bagel-seasoned crust that's smeared with cream cheese and topped with smoked salmon, capers, and chives.
Bernstein and Quint's central focus is providing readers with recipes made by home cooks, for home cooks. As they tested out recipes, the authors distributed early drafts to their friends, each with a different oven and kitchen tools. Unlike editing the recipes out of a traditional test kitchen, followers of The Pizza Book were able to provide disparate, crowdsourced feedback; together, their voices helped Quint and Bernstein finish the book. (The book also features the lush and luscious photography of Tom Eberhardt-Smith, whose own Kickstarter book of photos, Diner Porn, has been featured in this magazine.)
The Pizza Book has gotten people to join and exchange conversation. In the middle of making the cookbook, Quint moved upstate to Kingston, and Bernstein transplanted to the DC Metro area. Over the course of the three years they worked on the book, the recipes were first tested out of Quint's home. Quint remembers saying, "I would call everyone I knew in the neighborhood and be like, 'Okay, I'm about to make 20 pizzas today. Don't come over until 6pm.' And at 6pm, after we were done shooting photos, people would come over and bring beer. And there would be pizza, and they'd hang out for another four hours. It really felt like a community."
With over 1,400 copies already sold, Quint and Bernstein are playing with the idea of creating another cookbook with a similar format: a master recipe of a certain food or dish (with the breakdown of techniques and ingredients) and several variations to accompany it. They have yet to nail down a solidified idea for the food or dish of choice. For now, they are planning events and reaching out to media to promote the book and using the individual word-of-mouth to spread their ideas to a larger readership. They believe that making better at-home pizza can be for everyone, and encourage their readers to e-mail them pizza questions if they arise. "We really want the people who buy into dive in and do it," says Bernstein, "because we know that they can."