Craig is featured on the ongoing Pizza Obsessives feature on Slice:http://slice.seriouseats.com/archives/2012/01/pizza-obsessives-craig-lindberg-and-his-neapolitan-garage.html#continued
Because of size constraints, some of the interview had to be left out of the article. Here are the missing pieces of the Q&A session, of which his days of using the modified BBQ and the Una Pizza Napoletana Reverse Engineering project are a major part. Enjoy --KDid you start cooking on your modified BBQ grill from the start or in your oven first?
I started in my oven, but that didnít last long. It was obvious it was not going to take me where I wanted to go. I think I made pies in the oven two times before I started hacking the grill, which became quite an adventure in itself. I could get plenty of heat, but it was all on the bottom. I bet I broke four pizza stones before I found one that would hold up. Was that the Fibrament stone?
Yes, the grill stone with the metal tray. Itís a great product.What were some of the challenges with using the BBQ grill?
You just loose too much heat out of the metal top without insulation. I remember my first attempt to hold some heat in. I got an old wool army blanket and put it over the top. Wool has a pretty high flash point, so I knew it wouldnít catch fire. In hindsight however, it should have been blindingly obvious that it would smoke a lot and really, really stink. When I finally settled in on a combination of welding and fire/rescue blankets, I was able to bake my first pies that came somewhat close to what I wanted.You have previously mentioned that Luzzoís was the best pizza you had tasted around the time you started the Reverse Engineering UPN Thread on pizzamaking.com. What lead you to delve into a UPN clone as opposed to a Luzzoís clone?
That Luzzoís pie was the best [pizza] Iíve ever eaten. Incidentally, I ate my first UPN pie only minutes later. The UPN project, however, was never about ďcloningĒ a pie.
When the Naturally Risen
video came out, I was deep in learning mode and I really liked UPNís pies, so I watched the video quite a few times trying to wrap my head around how he was developing the flavor in his dough. The video also stirred a lot of discussion and speculation over at pizzamaking.com, and there were a number of places where I found myself disagreeing with various interpretations of what you could see [in the video] and speculation of what was happening where there were gaps.
Unlike most places, Anthony generously allowed a pretty detailed look into his process. Iíd seen another video on UPN, Pure and Simple
, that showed some elements missing from the Naturally Risen video and between the two videos and the tri-fold flyer he gave out his place, I thought I had enough good information to make a faithful attempt at a precise reverse engineering of his dough (exact ingredients, quantities, workflow, and end product). Just getting to a pie that looked or tasted like his was not what interested me per se. It was an intellectual exercise more than anything else.
I think it is a great recipe and Iíve seen others make some beautiful pies with it. Iím happy about that. Iíve even been told that there is a commercial place that has adopted it. Notwithstanding, I like what Iím doing today better. I can count on one hand how many times Iíve used the recipe since I finished it.What do you like better about what you are doing today?
The whole process is simpler. The dough is easier to work with -- Iím not kidding when I say the balls virtually open themselves, yet the dough is still strong. I can stretch it and slide it, but I never have to fight it. The crumb is more tender and the flavor is just as good, perhaps not quite as sour, but Iím not sure that is a negative. I have not made both side-by-side. Itís on my list of things to do.What was the biggest lesson you learned during the UPN experiments?
The amount of salt and when in the UPN process it was added was a big question with very little to go on. Through various experiments and research, I learned a lot about the effect of salt on enzyme activity and various dough characteristics. I also learned a fair amount about engineering a preferment to achieve a desired end result, but this learning has been more valuable to me in bread making than pizza making. I imagine it helps more in the bread making because you are using a higher amount of starter/pre-ferment in your breads where as your pizzas use a tiny amount?
Exactly. I wouldnít call what I do with my pizza dough a pre-ferment. Itís just a starter. All the flavor is developed during the fermentation. Iím also slowly moving that way with my bread, but using higher temps for fermentation (mid-90ís) and also enough starter/pre-ferment that it does contribute some to the flavor. I say slowly, because I donít ever seem to have time to bake bread anymore.Are you still adding about 1tbsp of sugar and 1tsp of sea salt per 35 oz can when making your sauce?
I still add about 1sbsp sugar and 1tsp salt (starting with a little less of each, tasting, and adding a little more if needed). I should say my son adds these and he almost always makes the sauce (using a food mill with the large plate). I like his sauce just ever-so-slightly on the sweet side. Not enough to overpower the acid, but enough to add another level of flavor, complexity, and balance to a margherita. How do you handle the mix for a 22 pizza sessionódo you split up the formula and do several different batches in your mixer or just mix it all by hand at that point?
If I remember right, I made two 12 pie batches by hand for that evening. I let them both rise separately in bulk. I didnít notice any differences in the pies. About the most I can do with my K5 mixer (18 years old and still chugging along) is an 8 pie batch (1400g flour) Ė- and you really have to watch your Pís and Qís. Itís not a happy mixer when you make it work that hard. I use large, rectangle Rubbermaid food containers for the bulk rise and the Rubbermaid round bowl food containers for the final rise of the balls Ė thanks Jeff [Varasano]!
Using the Rubbermaid bowls gives me a lot of flexibility and control with respect to fermentation timing of individual balls. If I really needed to, I could make the balls reach their peak at different times over the course of the night. More often than not, however, I just look at them all and take the one that looks most ready Ė again something that is made much easier by using the tubs vs. a proper dough tray.Craig, are you adding your olive oil pre- or post bake?
On a Margherita or other pies I put EVOO on pre bake. The infused oils, when I use them, (white truffle, Meyer lemon, blood orange), I put on post bake.What is the most challenging or frustrating part of the pizza making process for you?
Making mistakes. Iím a lot better at dealing with it now, but it took an ugly experience to teach me. On one particular occasion Iíll never forget Ė nor do I deserve to Ė I got so upset with myself when an otherwise beautiful pie stuck to the peel that I slammed the (wood) peel with the pie still on it down on the counter so hard it broke into three pieces and sent raw dough and toppings flying everywhere. It scared the heck out of my kids. Iíve rarely felt that bad and ashamed with my behavior. I knew I was holding on too tight and I had to stop baking for a couple weeks and re-focus on what is really important. Any wine recommendations that you enjoy pairing with particular pizzas?
Drink what you like. For me, great pizza doesnít need anything from wine to be a perfect food. The wine only needs to add enjoyment to the experience. Donít force yourself into what someone else likes or thinks matches well. That will probably distract from the pie.
Personally, I like older Napa cabs with my pizza Ė right now Iím mostly drinking up the mid to late 80ís with a few 90ís. In many cases, wines that have past their prime and are maybe not something I want to drink with my beef or game anymore. However, they are now highlighting some of the flavors such as leather that you find in great Sangiovese-based Italian wines. I love that with pizza. And, older wines are fun Ė I was a senior in high school when the grapes in the bottle I drank last night were on the vine. Thereís a conversation starterÖ
If Iím serving a lot of pies with sausage or salami or other really intense flavors, I might move towards a good zin or petite syrah Ė rounder wines with more sweetness. From time-to-time I drink Barbera if Iím doing a lot of sauceless pies; I like the fruit and acidity with the cheese. Perhaps somewhat ironically, I donít drink a lot of Italian wine at home.
Somebody told me the other day that there is something called white wine? I might have to try it. Something a little sweet and refreshing might go well with my pepperoni and jalapeno pie.