WRITTEN FEB 2021 · UPDATED JAN 2023
Leopard Crust Pizza Dough
If you’re trying to make pizzas that look like these babies, then you’re in the right place.
Everyone has their own personal take on what an ideal pizza should be – and that’s what makes pizza so great. There’s SO much room to make it your own! Here’s what I was shooting for in my crust…
✓ Spotty char
Spots, big or small – we love them all! Apparently, it’s not for everyone, but I’m here for it. I love the subtle smokiness and delicate crisp they bring to my crusts and general pizza life.
✓ Puffy with a nice chew
We’re not going for a jaw workout, but a bit of chew is a beautiful thing. As a kid, I used to gut the middle of a baguette and eat that part first, so I guess this is where this preference comes from.
✓ Flavourful af
I eat pizza everyday, so it’s gotta taste good! This stuff ain’t just for the ‘gram! Shout out to Délices de Capoue for showing me just how delicious and flavourful pizza crusts can seriously get.
Over 700 Pizza
We have 2 options, depending on you:
A beginner’s recipe where you get a beautiful dough with minimal effort. Perfect if this is your very first dough or if you don’t have a sourdough starter and you’re not emotionally available for one right now. Jump to recipe ›
The Sourdough Train
For those who have a sourdough starter and already have baking stripes! Hop aboard ›
25 minutes hands-on effort
Prepare 1-3 days ahead
This slow dough is your ticket to getting a pizza that ticks all those Crust Goals mentioned above, with the absolute minimum effort. We’ll use a tiny bit of instant yeast, so make sure yours is still active if you bought it a while ago or you won’t get a rise. (How to check your yeast)
This recipe is about letting time do all the work for you! All you put in is about 25 minutes of work. Then, it’s over to your yeast and fridge to do the heavy lifting. Good things take time, and the more time you allow your dough to develop, the more flavourful it gets!
Ingredients for 3 dough balls (270g each)
|468g strong 00 flour or bread flour with minimum 12.5% protein (100%)||High protein means your dough will be easier to handle (heaps less sticky) and also less prone to tearing (no holes in your pizzas). You can check the protein % on the nutritional info label on the packaging.|
|14g sea salt (3%)||Brings out the flavours that the dough will develop naturally.|
|1g instant yeast (0.2%)||The longer your dough takes to rise, the more time for flavour and aroma to develop within. Using such a small amount of yeast gives your dough the chance to reach its true, tasty potential.|
|327g water (70%)1||70% hydration is a sweet spot. It’s fairly high, while still being decent to work with.|
If this is your first pizza and you don’t want to take any risks, you may want to start with 65% hydration (304g) so that the dough is easier to handle. You can switch to 70% for more tender crusts once you’ve built confident in handling dough.
10 minutes of work
In a large bowl or container, combine water and yeast. Stir until the yeast has dissolved.
Add flour and salt3 and mix it all in with one hand, inside the bowl while your other hand holds the bowl in place. The dough will start out as a clumpy mess, but as you keep mixing and stretching, it will start to form a silky dough after about 5 minutes. Keep kneading, so that you’ve worked the dough for a total of 10 minutes.
Cover your bowl with a lid or cling wrap, so that the surface of the dough doesn’t dry out.
Nailing the fermentation
Before moving onto the next step, take a bit of dough out to put in a smaller container and mark the level at which your dough fills it. This allows you to easily keep tabs on how much your dough has risen, because it’s hard to be exact when eyeballing it in a bowl.
Can I use a KitchenAid or stand mixer?
Easily, here’s how4, along with a few tips to avoid overmixing and overheating the dough.
Yeast does the work
Takes around 16 hours if your room temperature hovers around 28°C, or 24 hours if you’re in a colder climate. This also depends on how active your yeast is.
2. Bulk ferment
Now we wait and let the yeast do its thing! This is called bulk fermentation (BF). It officially starts as soon as you bring yeast and flour together, and we move on to the next step when the dough is almost doubled in size.
- Do not rush this step! Give the yeast time and your future, pizza-eating-self will be glad you waited.
- Don’t let the dough go past double, because you run the risk of over fermentation5 (which will leave you with a sticky mess).
- Don’t stress if you don’t see anything happening for the first 6-10 hours, especially if you already tested your yeast to make sure it’s active. Yeast grows exponentially, so it really picks up the pace after it’s had time to multiply.
How do I tell when the dough is ready?
Your small test-dough should look something like this. You can see it has almost doubled in height, and developed lots of nice, little bubbles.
The surface of your main dough should be smooth and stretched out like a doughy balloon.
How long does BF take?
The time it’ll take mainly depends on how active your yeast is and your room temperature. Some people with very active yeast have reported that their dough doubled in just 6 hours!
Your turn again!
15 minutes of work
Once the dough has doubled, it’s time to make dough balls. Divide your dough into 270g pieces, and roll them up into dough balls. Place them into an air-tight container.
- We want it air-tight, so that your dough can keep its moisture. If it’s drafty, it’s going to dry out and form a skin – not ideal!
- Make sure you leave space in between each ball, as the dough will expand further.
Wait, but how?!
Here are 2 simple tricks for shaping your dough balls. If you’re not used to handling dough, you may find it a bit sticky at first, so check this out!
Fridge does the work
4. Cold ferment
Transfer your container to the fridge.
- This marks the start of the cold fermentation process. Even more flavour development happens here, while you sit back and don’t do anything at all!
- You can make pizzas with your dough balls whenever you like from this point, but I highly recommend you let it continue developing in the fridge for 2 more days (it’s worth the wait!)
5. You’ve got dough balls!
When you’re ready to use your dough, take the dough balls out of the fridge for:
- 1-2 hours, if you’re in a warm climate
- 4-6 hours, if it’s cold where you are
…before opening them into pizzas. This step is called the final proof, where your dough relaxes after tensing up from the cold, and the yeast does a final push to make your pizza delicious!
30 minutes before it’s time to make pizza, preheat your pizza oven to 400°C / 750°F stone temperature. (If using a home oven, check this out!)
To stretch your dough…
Check out my tutorial on how to stretch your dough into a pizza base; focused on achieving a puffy crust! I tried to pack in as much useful info as possible, in under 5 mins!
1 Why 70% hydration?
More water in your dough means more steam is created when the pizza’s in the oven, which then makes a PUFFY crust! On the flipside, the wetter your dough, the harder it is to work with and also the stronger your flour has to be to keep it together.
For reference, most Neapolitan pizza recipes are 60% hydration and then there are canotto-style pizzas that are 80%+ but a *#@& to work with unless you have the right flour, some experience and a brave heart.
2 What are the percentages?
These are called baker’s percentages. They tell you how much of all the other ingredients to use, relative to the amount of flour. This makes it easy to scale baking recipes up or down. For example, if you wanted to make 5 dough balls with this recipe:
Current recipe makes 3 dough balls, so to find the multiplier divide 5 / 3 ≈ 1.67
1.67x flour = 781g
Then multiply the total flour against the percentages of other ingredients:
Instant yeast (0.2% of 781g) = 2.88g
Water (70%) = 547g
Salt (3%) = 23.4g
3 Won’t the salt kill the yeast?!
Salt acts to slow down the yeast, but in this case, that’s a good thing because time creates flavour!
If your room temperature is winter-cold then it may be worth mixing the flour, yeast and water first to give the yeast a head start, before adding the salt.
Another reason why recipes advise adding salt later is to avoid overdeveloping the gluten, which leads to a rubbery pizza. In this recipe, we avoided that by hand kneading (instead of using a machine) and not performing stretch and folds during the bulk ferment. Plus, it’s more convenient to mix everything together in one go.
4 Can I use a KitchenAid or dough mixer?
Yes! For machine-mixing: combine water and yeast in the mixing bowl, stirring to dissolve the yeast. Add flour and mix on low speed for 9 minutes. Add the salt in for the final minute of kneading.
Be careful not to overmix the dough which will result in weakened gluten strands!
Machine-kneading also tends to heat the dough more than hand-kneading so it’s worth keeping an eye on the temperature of the dough to ensure it does not exceed 26°C / 78°F. If your dough starts to overheat, stop mixing and allow it to rest for 5 minutes before continuing. Then, next time, form the dough using cold water instead of room temp.
5 Help! My dough over fermented!
Don’t stress! Remember: pizza is supposed to be FUN. Also, this helpful video by Vito Iacopelli will have your dough sorted in 3-4 hours.
9 thoughts on “Leopard-spotted Pizza Dough Recipe for Beginners (Updated 2023)”
Thanks a lot for your advices and options to bake a great pizza. I’m a pizza lover and a I want to become a pizzaiolo.
Hi Alex, I’m glad that you found my site helpful and thank you for leaving a lovely comment. All the best in achieving your dream of becoming a pizzaiolo and I hope I get to try your pizza someday! 🙂
Hello thanks for the recipe! May I ask how would you adjust your recipe for a 5-6 day cold ferment?
Hey there, great question! Doughs using instant or fresh yeast tend to be more forgiving than sourdough, when extending the cold ferment. However, to play it safe, you could reduce the bulk ferment time by moving on to step 3 once the dough has increased in size by 50% (instead of doubling, which is 100% increase). Hope this helps!
Cool! I typically use a poolish starter but was inspired after I saw your insta to try a longer rest (some day)… One more question – Have you tried adding EVOO (~1%) to the dough and what are your thoughts? 🙂
Yes! Apart from adding flavour, EVOO in dough helps the dough to relax faster (by inhibiting some gluten formation) and can also help with getting your pizza to crisp up a bit more. I don’t often use EVOO in my dough because I’ve been focusing on experimenting with various flours and blending them; but if it would help you get the specific results you’re after, EVOO can be an absolutely wonderful addition! ✊
Hi there, ive followed the recipe and and ive used instant yeast, although i didnt seem to get the leopard crust as desired, pizza cooked at 420°c, should i be using fresh yeast ?
Hello! No need to switch yeast as long as yours was active. A dough with instant yeast, baked at 420°C can get the leopard crust you’re after! A couple of things to try:
1) After launching, only turn the pizza once you see the first couple of spots on the area of crust nearest to the flame, repeat on the remaining sides. If you turn the pizza too early, you will get an evenly browned crust without spotting.
2) The leopard spots are air bubbles that char in oven, so give your dough time to develop (during bulk ferment and final proof) until it’s nice and airy. Be gentle when stretching the pizza base to keep as much air in the crust as possible.
Hope this helps! 🙂
Can’t thank you enough for your user-friendly YT vids.
Also, totally did the same…”As a kid, I used to gut the middle of a baguette and eat that part first, so I guess this is where this preference comes from.”