Leopard Crust Sourdough Pizza Dough (Updated 2023)

WRITTEN APR 2021 · UPDATED JAN 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 400 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 – 29C.

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

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.

  • Switching between 10% and 20% inoculation
    Inoculation refers to the amount of starter you are putting into the dough. I mainly decide based on how long I want my dough to bulk ferment for, depending on what else I have going on in my life that day. For my starter and room temp…
    • 10% = 7 hours to double
    • 20% = 5 hours to double. If it’s cold where you are, I recommend going for 20%.
  • 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
420g strong 00 or bread flour, minimum 12.5% protein (100%)840g strong 00 or bread flour, minimum 12.5% protein (100%)
12.6g sea salt (3%)25.2g sea salt (3%)
294g water (70%)588g water (70%)
42g fed starter (10%) dough balls will be 250g each OR,
84g fed starter (20%) dough balls will be 270g each
84g fed starter (10%) dough balls will be 250g each OR,
168g fed starter (20%) dough balls will be 270g each
Got questions about the flour? Answers here!

5 minutes of work
9:00 am (example timing)

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.

  • As a guide, here’s how long this step took for others when they used the 20% inoculation version of this recipe at their room temp:
    • 18°C = 15 hours
    • 24°C = 7 hours
    • 28°C = 5 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.

How do I tell when it’s doubled?

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 doubled in height, and developed lots of nice, little bubbles like this one.


Your turn again!
15 minutes of work

5:00pm for 20% inoculation,
7:00 pm for 10%

4. Dough-balling

Divide your dough into 270g pieces, and roll them up into dough balls. Place them into an air-tight container.

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

5. Cold ferment

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


6. Nice 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

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!)

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!

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