New Frontiers.

I have a new food-personality crush.

If you take a look at this article that appeared in a mid-April issue of the Sunday New York Times Magazine, you’ll see an embedded video that I can’t seem to link to properly. It’s one in a series from the minuscule kitchen of Jill Santopietro, a Times recipe tester—she’s funny and down-to-earth and endearing, and gives the impression that she’d be a great dinner-party co-host, if there were only room for two people to maneuver in such a small space.

Pizza has been on my list of things to attempt for ages now, and, after drooling over that video, it was an inevitable that I’d stop procrastinating and make it already. The only thing working against me was the weather: Choosing the warmest spring day we’ve had to crank up the oven as high as it would go? Not the best decision I’ve ever made, but not a regrettable one, either.

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I made two pies: One was a simple Margherita, with tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, and basil; and one that was a bit more complex, with figs, bacon, Gorgonzola, and caramelized onions. Both were highly successful, if I do say so myself.

First, a word about what I didn’t do. I don’t have an electric mixer, which is what the recipe directs you to use for the dough, so I did the messy work by hand. (And I do mean messy: As hard as I tried to keep my hands well-floured, I still wound up with a second skin of the sticky stuff.) My oven only goes up to 500° instead of the required 550°, so the pizzas need to cook for a little while longer than prescribed. I didn’t have a pizza stone or peel, so I shaped the dough into a rectangle and set it up on the back of a baking sheet.

None of these deviations detracted from the finished product.

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The bacon-fig-Gorgonzola concoction was strongly flavored but well-balanced, the sweet fruit and onions providing a nice counterpoint to the pungent cheese and salty, smoky, crunchy bacon. As for the Margherita, with a drizzle of olive oil and a grinding or two of salt and pepper, it was the epitome of that classic pie, but even more satisfying because it’d come from my own oven.

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Thanks to my mother’s generosity with her hand-me-downs and a good friend who provided Virginia-to-Brooklyn shuttle service, I’ve added a pizza stone and a peel to my kitchen collection; I see much more experimentation in my immediate future, and I can’t wait.

Now the only problem is finding the cabinet space for both of them, but I’m hopeful. If the Times chef has room, surely I do, too.

Pizza Dough
Adapted from Jeffrey Steingarten, by Sam Sifton for the New York Times Magazine

1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups unbleached bread flour, plus more for dusting
3/4 teaspoon active dry yeast
2 1/4 teaspoons Diamond Crystal kosher salt
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil.

1. The morning or ideally the day before cooking, prepare the dough. Using a hand whisk, combine the flours, yeast and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer. Switch to a wooden spoon and stir in 1 1/2 cups cold water and olive oil until a rough dough forms. Set the bowl on the mixer and, using the paddle attachment, mix on low speed for 1 minute. Increase the speed to high and beat for 4 to 6 minutes, until it becomes a wet and vaguely menacing mass. (If it forms into a ball, lower the mixer speed to medium-high. If not, stop the mixer to scrape down the sides once.)

2. Scrape and pour the dough onto a heavily floured work surface. Keeping your fingers, the countertop and the dough well floured, fold one dough end over the other so that half the floured underside covers the rest of the dough. Let rest for 10 minutes.

3. Cut the dough into 2 equal pieces. Shape each piece into a smooth ball. Place each ball on a well-oiled plate, generously dust with flour and loosely cover with plastic wrap. Let the dough rise until it is at least doubled in size, about 3 hours.

4. Punch the dough balls down, shape into rounds and place each in a quart-size freezer bag. Refrigerate dough between 1 and 24 hours. Makes 2 balls.

A Plain Pizza Pie
From Sam Sifton, the New York Times Magazine

1 28-ounce can San Marzano tomatoes
1 ball pizza dough (see above)
8 ounces fresh mozzarella, cut into 1-inch cubes
2 tablespoons basil leaves, thinly sliced
Extra-virgin olive oil, to drizzle
Kosher salt
Freshly cracked black pepper
Grated Parmesan, to sprinkle.

1. At least 45 minutes before cooking, preheat the oven and pizza stone to 550 degrees.

2. Drain the tomatoes over a fine-mesh strainer, reserving the liquid for another use. Break up the tomatoes and drain the juices, pressing them with a wooden spoon. The tomatoes should be fairly dry.

3. Place the dough on a heavily floured surface and stretch and pull, using your hands or a rolling pin, into about a 14-inch round. Place on a lightly floured pizza peel or rimless baking sheet. Cover with the toppings, being careful not to press on the dough and weigh it down: the crushed tomatoes first, then the cheese, leaving roughly a 1/2-inch border. Shake the pizza peel slightly to make sure the dough is not sticking. (Gently lift any sections that are sticking and sprinkle the peel with flour.) Carefully slide the pizza directly onto the baking stone in one quick, forward-and-back motion. Cook until the crust has browned on the bottom and the top is bubbling and browning in spots, about 7 minutes. Top with the basil, and season with olive oil, salt, pepper and Parmesan. Serve hot. Makes 1 pizza. Serves 2.

Pizza With Caramelized Onions, Figs, Bacon and Blue Cheese
From Sam Sifton, the New York Times Magazine

2 tablespoons butter
1 large Spanish onion
2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves
2 bay leaves
Kosher salt
4 thick slices bacon, cut into 1/4-inch thick batons
1 ball pizza dough (see above)
Flour, for dusting surface
12 dried mission figs, stems trimmed, cut into quarters or small pieces
3/4 cup crumbled Gorgonzola
Extra-virgin olive oil, to drizzle
Freshly cracked black pepper.

1. At least 45 minutes before cooking, preheat the oven and pizza stone to 550 degrees.

2. Melt the butter in a large sauté pan over high heat. Add the onions, thyme and bay leaves. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring often, until the onions begin to wilt. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions have softened and turn a deep, golden brown, about 25 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Remove the bay leaves and transfer the onions to a small bowl.

3. Place the bacon in the pan and set over high heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until brown and crispy. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the bacon to a small bowl.

4. Place the pizza dough on a heavily floured surface and stretch and pull, using your hands or a rolling pin, into about a 14-inch round. Place on a lightly floured pizza peel or rimless baking sheet. Cover with the toppings, careful not to press on the dough and weigh it down: the caramelized onions first, then the figs and bacon, and finally the Gorgonzola, leaving roughly a 1/2 inch border. Shake the pizza peel slightly to make sure the dough is not sticking. Carefully slide the pizza directly onto the baking stone in one quick, forward-and-back motion. Cook until the crust has browned on the bottom and the top is bubbling and browning in spots, about 7 minutes. Drizzle with a little olive oil and some cracked black pepper. Serve hot. Makes 1 pizza. Serves 2.

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