What are the most important factors to achieving leopard-spots on pizza cornicione? I've tried so many different things but still can't get to the level of consistent leopard spots that I've seen others create. I want a pale crust except very distinct charred leopard spots. I do not want the whole crust to be brown or charred spots >1". What am I doing wrong?


  • 500g Antimo Caputo or KA Bread
  • 360g-380g Water (72-76% hydration)
  • 16-20g Salt
  • 1g Active Dry Yeast


  • Day 1 Combine either by autolyse, stand mixer, or hand knead
  • Day 2 Ball into three equal parts ~300g/ea
  • Day 3-4 Hand stretch being careful to not push the cornicione much, bake at 1,000°F (dome), 800°F (floor) for 90-120sec in a Blackstone oven (yes it is possible in this oven)

This is what I've been able to achieve thus far, the pizza on the left is close but I ended up with 3 big burnt areas out of the frame that were undesirable:

My leopard spots so far

This is what I'd like to achieve:

Desired leopard spotting Images from pizza_jew and fortina pizza

  • How long do you wait between shaping and baking? From the bottom pizzas it looks like it is the air bubbles that cause the leopard spotting.
    – Rick
    Commented May 23, 2017 at 19:22
  • @Rick 31 - Between shaping and baking? As in forming the dough ball into a pizza shape/topping it to when I actually put it in the oven? About 1 min on average I would say. As soon as I can get the peel out of my kitchen and into the outdoor oven.
    – dpollitt
    Commented May 23, 2017 at 19:25
  • 3
    I am a very much a beginner, but my naive theory is that if the pizza is gently shaped in order to not disturb its air pockets, and then allowed to rest and relax some, that those air pockets would do a better job at expanding and charring.
    – Rick
    Commented May 23, 2017 at 19:31

9 Answers 9


I would guess the secret is having your dough be irregularly textured.

The spots have to be cooking, and scorching, before the rest of the crust is even browning. You might be able to achieve this by deliberately texturing your dough, but I expect the original reason was gas bubbles trapped just under the surface of the dough, which blistered and burned quickly due to thinness of the dough and heating faster than the rest of the crust.

So how to get this blistering? you would need very well developed gluten, to hold thin, fragile bubbles right on the surface. You would need very gentle handling for the crust - resting and raising again might let your dough puff up again from rougher handling, but it would probably tend to be smaller bubbles and even puffing, not great surface ones. And you would need very active yeast, to raise great bubbles on the surface.

How exactly you get these factors will depend on your recipe and your tolerance. You might make your dough from a preferment or a series of them, so the yeasts have time to develop better and will be more active, or you might use more yeast in general to make the dough rise more quickly to form bigger, irregular bubbles instead of small even ones. Kneading your dough better for good gluten development might help it trap the gas bubbles, even right on the surface. You could try long, cold rises for your dough, which should develop gluten and yeast activity better than shorter, warm rises. You might handle your dough very carefully around the edges, using your hands to stretch rather than a rolling pin or similar, to keep as much air trapped in the crust as possible.

You might just cheat, and pinch up knobs, slice flaps, or inject air into bubbles (with a syringe, maybe, I know they're available for injecting marinades) to artificially texture the surface of your crust with thinner or upraised areas that will brown and blacken quickly - which will get your your dark spots with probably less effort than reworking your dough texture, but may not get as much of the texture or taste you're looking for, that happens to go with your spots. It's all up to you.


By far the biggest factor is heat. Even VPN 905F temperatures do not produce leopard spots/blistering consistently. I love the leopard-look(!) but it is not essential for perfect crust. Attractive blistering mostly comes from high radiant dome heat. You can tell a lot from time. 90 second pies are all over the place in terms of leopard spots, but 60 second and shorter pies usually have good blistering. I'd get your blackstone as hot as possible, then, after bottom is done, "dome" the pie with the peel to cook/char the top a bit more; rotating if necessary. The irregularities that get charred take care of themselves--I wouldn't worry at all about trying to directly create them.


Its the fermentation that matters. Try cold fermenting in the fridge for 3-5 days. That will do the trick. Google that if you don't know how to do it exactly.

  • 2
    Andrej, welcome! Could you explain a bit more, what cold fermentation hast to do with the spots? And just a little side note: We are a bit sensitive when it comes to statements like “google it” - quite often people find us becaue they were actually googling first. In this case, it’s valid advice as it pertains to additional information, but in a more general sense, I’d rather discourage the approach. I also recommend you take the tour and browse through our help center, especially How to Answer, to learn more about the site works.
    – Stephie
    Commented Jan 23, 2019 at 8:43
  • I found this answer confirmed by Masi/Romani/Coccia: The Neapolitan Pizza (p. 137). It seems the pizza also needs to be streched at a (too) low temprature. Interestingly they describe an overly pronounced leoparding to be a defect or flaw of the pizza.
    – J. Mueller
    Commented Oct 18, 2022 at 19:34

Your pizzas looks fine. I would not worry about it if the taste and texture of the pizza cornicione is nice.

I'd suggest the leopard spots are from the bubbles near the surface of the pizza dough. The leaparding you want to achieve are larger air bubbles on the cornicione

Suggest that it is related to the rise during the cooking process, possible related to the heat from your pizza oven or amount of salt in the recipe. Probably half the amount of salt and adjust the fermentation time accordingly.

If this doesn't achieve the desired result, try borrowing a friend's Uuni 3 or Roccbox and seeing if gets the desired result.


Ill comment, even if it's an old topic. I find that an extensible long fermented dough (not too much elasticity, so not too much kneading), on the verge of overproofing, will facilitate the creation of little bubbles during oven spring - and I read somewhere, the burning of dead yeast cells- and thus will translate to leoparding, even in a home oven (with a good setup aka broil method + thick stone).


Leapord spotting factors:

  1. The right flour. Type oo PIZZA flour.
  2. The right amount of fermentation. Do a 48 hour bulk ferment, then let the dough sit for an hour and ball. then let proof for 5 or 6 hours before baking.
  3. Heat. You need the high heat of a wood fire oven. Try an Ooni, or Blackstone or any of the high temp ovens out these days.

Leopard spots and chewy goodness are awaiting you. Ciao! Steve


Your crust is proper. The leoparding on the second row pictures is due to cold dough, that was not left long enough out from the fridge before cooking

  • I'm not quite clear what you mean. I personally desire the results from the second row. It sounds like you personally disagree. But either way, you are suggesting that the leopard spots are the result of cold dough?
    – dpollitt
    Commented Nov 25, 2020 at 19:31

Is this burn air pocket not due to the condensation of the dough after shaping and balling it ? That's why we cross stacking the trays to allow the dough to get cold and not make condensation in a closing tray ? More you manage your dough ball temperature more you can manage to get this tiny air water drop. I read this article from Tom Lehmann where he quickly speak about this. https://www.pizzatoday.com/departments/in-the-kitchen/knead-to-know-sticky-situation/

  • 2
    That link is about preventing sticky dough. Can you describe how this relates to making leopard spots?
    – dpollitt
    Commented Jan 12, 2020 at 15:18

Try cold fermentation, then take the dough out one hour before cooking. You'll get the leopard spots.

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