Leopard Crust Sourdough Pizza Dough (Updated 2023)

WRITTEN APR 2021 · UPDATED MAR 2023

Sourdough Pizza Dough

Already have a trusty starter? Firmly seated aboard the sourdough train?

Then this dough is for you!

I’ve personally used this recipe for over 700 pizzas, and with the help of cool people in Wales and Texas, this recipe was tried and tested in those locations too! Check out their results below.

Starters & timings

Heads up! Your starter and room temperature will define the timing of this recipe.

Go with your starter’s flow
The example timings in the recipe are a guide based on what happens with my starter and room temperature. I’ve shared easy visual cues to look out for, so you can adapt timings based on how your own starter behaves.

What I’m working with
I am using an 80% hydration, dark rye starter. I love the flavour I get with this. Feel free to use a 100% hydration starter if you prefer a less sour dough! Room temperature where I am hovers around 27 – 29°C (80 – 84°F.)

Special thanks to Ed & Timi

With variables like starters and room temperatures, I wanted to test my recipe with others to make sure this recipe is one anyone in the world can count on!

Big thank you to Ed from Wales and Timi from Texas for kindly offering to test drive this recipe and even sharing photos and feedback! Hope you both loved your fantastically-spotty pizzas.

@colonel.ed‘s pizza


Sourdough Pizza Dough

Check out my step-by-step video with Gozney for tips and techniques

Makes 3-6 dough balls

30 minutes total hands-on effort

Prepare 1-3 days ahead

Using sourdough starter in a slow dough creates an incredibly flavourful pizza base. The extra flavour will enhance all your pizza toppings, and you’ll find your tomatoes, cheese and anything else you put on your pizza even tastier than before.

  • Deciding between 5- 10% inoculation
    Inoculation is the amount of starter you are putting into the dough. 5-10% is on the lower end, but I like it because a lower inoculation helps to create a lighter, less bready crust. I mainly decide based on how long I want my dough to bulk ferment for. For my starter and room temp…
    • 5% = 7 hours bulk fermentation
    • 10% = 5 hours. If it’s cold where you are or your starter takes longer than 6 hours to double after feeding, I recommend going for 10%.
  • Pizza for the week?
    After your dough balls are in the fridge, you can keep them there for up to 10 days, though they tend to be at their best between 48-72 hours. The good cultures you cultivated in the dough ward off bad bacteria from your food. In the past, fermentation was primarily used as a method of preservation and the amazing flavour that develops was a side-benefit. This is also why you’ve never had to worry about your starter growing mold, if you keep it healthy.

Ingredients

For 3 dough ballsFor 6 dough balls
460g strong 00 or bread flour, minimum 12.5% protein (100%)920g strong 00 or bread flour, minimum 12.5% protein (100%)
13.8g sea salt (3%)27.6g sea salt (3%)
322g water (70%)644g water (70%)
23g fed starter (5%) dough balls will be 270g each OR,
46g fed starter (10%) dough balls will be 280g each
46g fed starter (5%) dough balls will be 270g each OR,
92g fed starter (10%) dough balls will be 280g each
Got questions about the flour? Answers here!

5 minutes of work
9:00 am (example timing at 26°C / 79°F)

1. Prep starter & autolyse

Give your starter a good 1 : 1 : 1 feed, ensuring that you have enough to use for this recipe. (Optional: give it a pep talk or motivational speech.)

Just after feeding your starter, measure water into a large bowl and add in the flour. Mix briefly for 1-2 minutes to form an autolyse, ensuring all the flour is hydrated. Cover and leave aside until your starter has peaked.

Autolyse?
When flour and water are combined to form an autolyse, the flour gets a head start in developing strong gluten bonds. It’s my favourite, low-effort technique to build strength in pizza dough!

My starter takes about 3 hours to peak after being fed, so that’s how long my autolyse goes for.


12:00 pm
15 minutes of work

2. Form the dough

When your starter has peaked, add it to the autolyse and incorporate it to form your dough. Knead for 10 minutes, then add salt and knead for a further 3 minutes.

  • To incorporate the starter into the autolyse, I make a claw shape with the hand I’m using to mix the dough. Then, I dig my clawed hand into the dough and close it into a fist to squeeze the starter into the autolyse, repeating this for the first minute of kneading until there are streaks of starter throughout the dough. 
  • Then, I switch to the rubaud method to work the dough in the bowl. (Working the dough in the bowl means no counter clean-up!)
  • By the end of the kneading, the dough should be fairly smooth and it should be possible to lift it out of the bowl in one mass from all the gluten strength that has been developed.

Why add salt at the end of kneading?
Salt helps to slow down fermentation, which is a benefit for this slow dough. However, kneading it in too early overdevelops the gluten structure due to salt being a superstar at strengthening gluten.

Overdeveloped gluten makes a rubbery pizza that is difficult to stretch and chew. What we’re really after is a balance: dough that is strong enough that it won’t rip on us, yet still has a tender crumb. *chefs kiss*


12:15 pm
Starter does the work

3. Bulk ferment

Cover the dough and leave it to bulk ferment until it has doubled.

Update (2023): this recipe now recommends shooting for a 10% increase in volume! Shortening the initial bulk ferment enables a longer final proof, which allows the dough to develop lots of air for the crust.

  • As a guide, here’s how long this step took for others when they used the 10% inoculation version of this recipe at their room temp:
    • 18°C / 64°F = 9 hours
    • 24°C / 75°F = 6 hours
    • 26°C / 79°F = 4 hours
  • To help your dough develop better structure and strength for a puffy crust, you can give it up to 3 rounds of stretch and folds, one hour apart (check out the video above for how to do this!)

How do I tell when to stop bulk fermentation?

Just after mixing, I like to put a small bit of dough in a container and mark where it comes up to at that point as a test-dough.

When the dough is ready, you can easily see that the test-dough has increased by 10% in height, and developed nice, little bubbles like this one.


15 minutes of work
4:00pm for 10% inoculation,
6:00 pm for 5%, example timing at 26°C / 79°F

4. Divide & cold ferment

Divide your dough into 270g – 280g portions and place them into an air-tight container.

Transfer your dough to the fridge. You can make pizzas with your dough balls whenever you like from this point, but I highly recommend letting it continue developing in the fridge for 2 more days for the most flavourful crusts.

Dough tray v.s. individual containers?
It mainly depends on two things: your available fridge-space and whether you’ll be baking all your dough in one go. Storing dough in individual containers tends to be more space-efficient and allows you to take dough out as needed if you’re baking across several days.

I personally love the Pyrex 2-cup capacity glass containers (not an affiliate link!)


5. Nice dough balls!

When you’re ready to use your dough, take it out of the fridge, ball up and allow to final proof for:

  • 3-4 hours, if you’re in a warm climate
  • 6-8 hours, if it’s cold where you are

Keep the dough balls covered during this final proof. The dough should be relaxed by the end of final proof and jiggle like jelly when you shake them in their container.

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, this guide is for you!)

How to form dough balls for pizza
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!

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!


Q&As

1 What if my flour is less than 13% protein?
If your flour’s protein content is in the 11-12% range, I recommend dropping the hydration down to 65% and doing a few rounds of stretch and folds to build strength. This will slightly reduce the puffiness of your pizza crust, but it will ensure your dough is still good to work with! A strong flour helps your dough to stay intact after the long fermentation and high hydration.

2 Can I use whole wheat, rye or other whole flours?
Yes! I’ve experimented with these, and have found that substituting 5% of the total flour with these whole flours imparts wonderful, additional flavour without compromising on the airy crumb.

At 10% and above, the crust becomes denser and the textures unique to those flours start to take over. Rye gives a gummier crust; and with whole wheat, you notice the bran. I enjoyed these too, so it just depends what you’re shooting for with your crust!

3 I don’t have a starter, what should I do?
You can try out my Intro Dough recipe which uses instant yeast, or you can take the leap and start a starter of your own! I liked this guide over at The Perfect Loaf which is thorough and has lots of photos. I highly recommend using rye flour for your starter. The enzymes in rye flour give the yeasts that will develop a great boost, and its natural sourness makes your pizza base taste great!

4 How can I get a puffy crust?
The key to getting a puffy crust is creating air in your dough and then preserving it! Your dough is like a balloon – if you work to develop the gluten in your dough (kneading, stretch and folds, salt and time all help), you will end up with a stronger balloon that is better at keeping air in without popping.

Allow your dough to final proof until it’s relaxed and airy – it should jiggle when you shake it. Then, be gentle and keep as much air in the dough as possible when you are opening your pizza base. This is how I handle my dough to get puffy crusts.

Happy baking!

If you found this helpful
or have any questions,
please drop me a note below!

15 thoughts on “Leopard Crust Sourdough Pizza Dough (Updated 2023)

  1. Got here by a roundabout youtube route but glad i did. Do you discuss somewhere (that I’m too thick to find) how to initiate a sour dough starter?

  2. Thanks for the great tutorial! Question-what are the differences between balling after vs before refrigeration? I plan on consuming the pizzas all the same day. Would the dough mature differently in bulk vs balls during refrigeration? Would the balls be harder to form and open after refrigeration, assuming I wait for 6 hours?

    1. Thanks so much! Great question. The main differences are space efficiency and adjusting the time for fermentation. If you adjust the bulk ferment and final proof timing accordingly, you won’t notice a difference in the final result! 🙂

      Dough balls cool down faster than a large mass of dough – so to account for that, transfer the mass 1 hour earlier than you would with dough balls. After refrigeration, the dough will be very easy to ball up when cold. During the final proof, watch for the dough to puff up and relax outwards a bit – then you won’t feel a difference when opening the base.

  3. Hi! thanks for the great information. I’m a restaurant chef and I try to experience with sourdough pizza. (I’m trying to convert these steps to be more suitable for a commercial kitchen). That means I have lots of questions 🙂
    1)In video you mix bread flour and 00 flour. But in this recipe you use only 00 flour. Can I ask why?
    2)Because I work with big batches, I don’t have time and energy to knead the dough by hand. Can I use a stand mixer? I use a KitchenAid Pro with the dough hook, but I don’t think it compliments gluten development. What do yu think about using paddle attachment?
    Also if you have any cues to give me about doing this in a commercial kitchen, I would glad to hear them.

    thank you so much for sharing your work with us. It inspires me a lot!

    1. Hey Irmak, thank you so much for your kind words! I understand where you’re coming from — when I’m preparing dough for my pop-ups there are some necessary adjustments to manage the dough at scale.

      1) I love that blending flours creates more complexity and depth in the flavour of the final dough, but you can still make a wonderful dough from just one flour. In this recipe, I suggest using one flour to start with because, regardless of flour, the most important thing is to get the basics down before throwing another variable into the mix because this is often someone’s first foray into sourdough baking!

      2) For a commercial operation you will soon find yourself needing to invest specifically in a dough mixer for the best results and because you will likely scale past what the KitchenAid can handle. I’m guessing you’ll start with the KitchenAid in the interim before you get a dough mixer so I’ll paste the instructions for it below from someone who’d asked about it on the intro dough recipe. 🙂

      Final notes, when handling larger amounts of dough make sure you factor in the extra time it will take for a large mass to cool down (after being transferred to the fridge) or come to room temp (during final proof) — it means you will need to end bulk ferment a little bit earlier and also take dough out in a staggered way to match the pace of making pizze for customers! Hope this helps and all the best with your pizza business!

      1. Mixing dough with a KitchenAid:
        1 min on low-speed to combine (setting 2 on a KitchenAid)
        7 mins on medium (setting 4)
        1 min on high (setting 6) to finish!

        Two things to watch out for when using a machine to mix:
        1) While mixing will strengthen the gluten, over-mixing tears it. The dough will turn into a puddle if it happens so make sure you don’t let it run for too long. 😦
        2) If the weather’s hot, be careful that the dough doesn’t overheat during the mix. You can use ice water and even refrigerate the flour, if needed, to offset the heat generated by the friction of machine-mixing. Ideally, you want your dough temp to be 26C – 28C (80F – 83F) at the end of mixing.

  4. Thanks for taking the time to organize this! Love your other work.

    In Step 4, I see you’ve mentioned a cold ferment of 2 additional days for better results. Is there a maximum amount of time by which you should use the dough? Beyond that, would placing the dough immediately in the fridge in step 3 (not waiting for 10% rise) extend the max time window of the cold ferment?

    I mostly ask because I my work schedule is kind of sporadic but I always make pizza on the weekends and I’d like adapt the recipe to the days when I’m home!

    Thank you.

    1. Hey there, good question! The max amount of days that you can leave the dough in the fridge depends heavily on the strength of the dough. At 70% hydration and a flour of around 12.5% or W260, you will notice that the dough starts to become a bit more fragile by Day 4, but if you handle it more gently when opening your pizza base, it’ll still work! I’ve used dough that’s 10 days old, shortened the final proof by an hour (because it had so much extra, albeit slow fermentation time in the fridge), was extra extra gentle with it and it held together and became a lovely pizza!

      Handling a fragile dough comes with more risk, so other ways you can create a dough with an extended fridge-life are using a stronger flour and/or reducing the hydration to 65%.

      I don’t recommend placing the dough in the fridge immediately at step 3 because it noticeably reduces flavour and air development. This is because while all of the different cultures in a starter are active at room temps, some types slow down more than others in the fridge. Some will even become completely dormant, leaving only a fraction of cultures to multiply and inhabit the dough.

      Hope this helps and that you have fun making some amazing dough! 🙂

  5. Made 2 batches of your recipe yesterday and waiting to try the dough in the Gozney Roccbox Friday! Might have missed it, but can you freeze the dough and if so, when (what step?)

    1. Hey Nada, great question — freezing sourdough successfully tends to depend on your starter’s particular colony. Some starters are unaffected by freezing, while others don’t really bounce back after thawing. I’d say it’s worth a shot to try with a couple of dough balls to see how it goes with your own starter. 🙂

      To freeze dough:
      Follow the recipe as normal until portioning the dough in Step 4. Roll them loosely into dough balls (just for easier handling) and give each a light coating of extra-virgin olive oil. Put each dough ball into its own zip-loc bag or air-tight container before transferring them to the freezer. (If using a zip-loc bag, try to leave as little air in the bag as possible before sealing.)

      To thaw:
      The day before you want to make pizza, take the dough balls you need out of their bags/containers and place in a lidded dough box or individual air-tight containers (with a little room for them to grow) in the fridge to gently thaw. Continue from step 5 onwards. When you take the dough out of the fridge for their final proof, you can give them a reball for one last boost. Then, with a bit of starter tenacity, the dough will final proof as normal and develop air.

      Hope this helps and have a great pizza day on Friday!

      1. Hey Feng, turns out Friday was #nationalpizzapartyday! Who knew! Lol!

        Your sourdough pizza crust recipe is totally off the charts!

        I mean it’s A-M-A-Z-I-N-G!!!

        I wish I could share pics of my success using your recipe in the Gozney Roccbox. Thrilled and excited to make it again and again and again!

        Also really appreciate your detailed comments above for attempting to freeze the dough. I will give it a whirl and let you know how it turns out!

        Best, Nada

      2. What a fitting way to celebrate!! I’m over the moon to hear you got some amazing crusts with my recipe – I absolutely relate with that excitement to keep making pizza! Thanks so much for taking the time to let me know and hope you have loads of fun with your future bakes!

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