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Food & Home

Che Fico Pizza Dough

This is some real-deal dough. GP loved this pizza so much, she asked Che Fico chef and co-owner David Nayfeld to come to LA and show us how it’s done. A few things to note about this recipe before you get started. First: Yes, all the ingredients are weighed out in grams. Turns out real-deal dough takes real precision. Weighing everything out is super accurate, and grams allow for easy math if you want to scale the recipe up or down. Second: It calls for a sourdough starter. This is a great opportunity to ask your bread-baking friends or favorite local bakery for some starter (there’s always extra and people are usually thrilled to convert another baker). If those aren’t options for you, check out this comprehensive guide to making your own starter. For more tips on how to make dough, watch Nayfeld make it himself in the video below.

1. Mixing and bulk fermentation: This phase includes mixing the dough and letting it rest to allow the flour to fully hydrate, as well as the dough’s first and longest rise.

Put the flour in the freezer for at least 1 hour before mixing. When the flour is cold, add the dry ingredients to the bowl of a stand mixer. Add the liquid ingredients, ice, and sourdough starter together. Turn the mixer on speed 1 with a dough hook and slowly start adding the liquids to the bowl, then allow to mix for 2 minutes. Stop the mixer and scrape down the hook and sides. Turn the mixer on speed 2 for 2 minutes. Scrape the hook and sides down and mix on 3 for 6 minutes. Use a digital thermometer to take the temperature of the dough. Ideally the dough will be between 55 and 60°F but not higher. Scrape the dough down the hook and bowl. Mix on speed 4 for 12 minutes. When the dough is done, check the temperature again. Ideally the temperature will be lower than 77.5°F. Put the dough in the fridge to bring the temperature down for an hour.

2. Folding: Folding activates gluten and adds strength and structure to the dough.

Pull the dough out and fold the outside edges into the center. Then flip the dough over so the bottom becomes the top. If you have a temperature-controlled room or live in a cool enough climate (50 to 60°F), you can keep the dough in that room or outdoors.

3. Dividing and preshaping: Dividing the dough at this stage allows you to work with more manageable amounts of dough in your desired size. Preshaping will help you create a perfectly circular pie, and it’s your last chance to add strength to your dough.

After 45 minutes, fold the dough again and let it rest for an additional hour. After the hour, separate and scale the dough into 300-gram balls. Fold all the edges of each portion down and into a center to form a ball. With the heels of your hands apply some pressure to the edges of the ball on a wooden surface or table. Move your hands around in a circular motion and tighten the ball. You may use a little flour to coat your hands if the dough is too sticky, but be careful not to add too much raw flour to the dough balls. Place the dough balls on a lightly flour-dusted plastic tray. The balls will grow into roughly 5¾-inch circles. Leave enough room for the balls to grow and not touch one another or the walls. Cover the dough box with a lid or a plastic tray.

4. Final proof: This is the last rise the dough gets before baking. The natural yeasts will continue to ferment, developing deeper flavor while further aerating the dough.

The length of the final rise depends on the ambient temperature in your kitchen. Check the proofing schedule below and proceed accordingly:

Proofing schedule
50 to 60°F: 24 to 30 hours
60 to 70°F: 12 to 15 hours
70 to 75°F: 6 to 8 hours

If you want to do the dough mixing ahead of time, you can retard the dough overnight (a longer, slower rise at a controlled cool temperature) in a refrigerator before the proofing process.

5. Final shaping and bake.

After proofing, the balls should smell slightly sour and have grown to about 5¾ inches. If the dough begins to show bubbles, it has begun to overproof. Next, use a generous amount of semolina flour to dust a flat, smooth counter. Sprinkle some semolina over the dough that you plan to remove from the tray. With a bench scraper, loosen up the ball from the bottom from different angles without contorting the shape of the ball. Remove the dough and place the bottom on a pile of semolina. Reshape the dough into a circle if it needs it. Create a well with your fingers and retain a ¾-inch border—this will become the crust. Being careful not to pinch or flatten the “crown” or crust, lift the dough onto your fists. Gently stretch the dough to about 12 inches.

6. Brush the crust with extra virgin olive oil. Place the tomato sauce (or whatever base you’re using) in the center of the stretched dough. Spread it around evenly. Season the pizza with salt. Add the toppings, trying to avoid having too much concentrated in the center. Season the pizza peel with semolina, then pull the dough onto the peel.

7. If baking in a wood-fired pizza oven, make sure the deck of the oven is between 750 and 800°F. The pizza will cook very quickly—in about 90 seconds, with 2 rotations—so pay close attention and have your pizza peel ready to go. First place the pizza close to the fire and allow the crust to set and 1 side to become golden brown. Rotate the pizza a third of the way round to cook the crust to golden brown. Rotate the final third of the way and finish the pizza. Remove the pizza from the oven and brush the crust with extra virgin olive oil while hot. Season the crust with Parmigiano Reggiano or your favorite hard cheese.

Alternatively, you can bake the pizza on a pizza stone in a very hot oven. Allow the stone to heat for at least an hour before baking to get it as hot as possible (as high as your home oven will go, 500 to 550°F). Bake undisturbed for 2 to 3 minutes until the desired color is achieved. If you need more browning on the top, turn on the broiler and let it go for a couple minutes—just watch carefully to make sure the pizza doesn’t burn.