sourdough pizza expert consultant recipe creator chef andrea danelli from sri lanka england italy europe @theheartofpizza on instagram social media

Interview With Andrea From @TheHeartOfPizza on Instagram

Scopri il mondo della pizza al lievito madre con Andrea, un appassionato pizzaiolo e mentore attualmente in Sri Lanka. Segui il suo viaggio da Romano di Lombardia, Italia, fino alle cucine di tutto il mondo attraverso il suo Instagram @theheartofpizza. In questa intervista esclusiva con The Sourdough People, Andrea condivide i suoi insights, consigli e ricette preferite, offrendo uno sguardo nell’arte della preparazione della pizza al lievito madre. Unisciti a noi mentre esploriamo il mondo saporito della pizza al lievito madre attraverso gli occhi di un vero artigiano.

Welcome to the newest feature on The Sourdough People, where we delve into the world of sourdough baking and bring you closer to the passionate individuals behind the dough. Today, we’re excited to introduce you to Andrea Danelli, a talented pizza chef and mentor currently in Sri Lanka, hailing from Romano di Lombardia, Italy. Andrea’s Instagram, @theheartofpizza, offers a glimpse into his flavorful world of sourdough pizza, showcasing his innovative recipes and unique approach to baking. In this exclusive interview, Andrea shares his journey from a career change to becoming a sourdough pizza expert, along with tips, insights, and his favourite recipes.

Get ready to be inspired and discover the art of sourdough pizza through the eyes of a true artisan.

Please tell us where you are from and what you love about where you live?

Hello, I’m Andrea, a pizza chef & mentor from Romano di Lombardia, a little city close to Bergamo (North of Italy).

In the last few years I’ve been travelling a lot for passion and for work but I have my base in the city I grew up in ‘cause I actually love it. It has a beautiful historical center, it’s really quiet and green and you can cycle all around in no time! It’s worth a visit!

Andrea, what initially sparked your interest in sourdough baking, particularly pizza, and how did you begin your journey?

It all started right after I took part in a very informative pizza course back in 2014.. I was doing a different job, not in any way related to food, and I wanted to change my life. Something clicked inside my head and I thought: oh I want to know more about it, I want to make pizzas!

In the same year I quit my job, I started making pizzas for real working in restaurants just to get the technique and later on I moved to London (the land of opportunity).

At that time I knew sourdough existed but I haven’t really explored that world yet, maybe because I wanted a quick way to make pizzas. Let’s just say that I gave birth to my sourdough starter named “Johnny” for fun and after a little while I was completely absorbed by this natural fermentation method. I started baking sourdough pizzas for me, my wife and friends and in 2015 to my first customers at 1n1 fashion n pizza, my shop in East London.

How has being based around the world added to your sourdough journey?

Every time is a challenge! In the past few years I’ve been travelling a lot, especially in the sea where the temperatures are definitely not that friendly for sourdough bakers but if you know what you’re doing it’s exciting to always find the way to make it work, improve my skills to adapt to any situations (i.e. different flours & temperatures) but it’s so satisfying to make great pizzas in every part of the world.

Do you have a signature sourdough pizza recipe or technique you’re particularly proud of? Can you share a bit about it?

Well, YES and it’s one of my latest recipes that I’m selling here in Sri Lanka.

I’m a fan of using mainly local ingredients to then find the right match of flavors and textures and this one has it all.

I’m talking about the BEET and COCO (vegan): A 36h slow fermented sourdough pizza base with homemade beetroot cream, topped with spicy sautéed spinach, fresh grated coconut, roasted peanuts for a bit crunch and peanut sauce. Super colorful with an explosion of flavors and consistencies. A must try! Checkout my Instagram at @theheartofpizza for the full recipe.

Who are some of the people, brands, or companies in the sourdough industry that have inspired you?

One guy above all: Simone Padoan from his pizzeria “I Tigli”. He’s the one who developed the pizza gourmet concept. A big name in Italy. The research of ingredients and different flours that he uses is just unbelievable! He’s very very inspiring to me.

What are your must-have tools or favourite equipment for sourdough pizza, and why?

Definitely my dear friend: the laser thermometer. We need to keep under control the temperatures, as I always say during my pizza courses, because it can compromise the acidities of our sourdough starter, therefore the dough.

Then a good spatula to take out the pizza ball from the tray. It may sound obvious but it is really important to be able to detach the dough ball from the pizza tray easily and quickly in order to get a round shaped pizza.

And of course a good pizza oven, my fave equipment, which helps a lot while baking. Now I’m travelling with my own portable gas oven which makes a proper Neapolitan style pizza.

How do you source your ingredients, and do you have any specific preferences or tips regarding flour, water, or salt?

In Italy we have a huge variety of flours but I always suggest, if possible, to go for organic made in a sustainable way using local wheat. Also remember that not every flour is suitable for every product, so we must choose it well, looking for its gluten content, water absorption and tenacity, it’s big topic during my courses so if you feel like you want to explore more you know who to go to, if you catch my drift.

While for the ingredients I just go by local markets, I look for what our land can offer in that period of the year and I make my recipes.

Can you share a particularly challenging experience you’ve had with sourdough baking and how you overcame it?

It’s a funny one. At Stansted airport, I was going back home to Italy from London, carrying with me my solid sourdough starter in the backpack which was wrapped up in a linen cloth and a rope all over. It is one of the methods of storing a solid starter which tends to expand during the fermentation. At the security check stopped the monitor was flashing red with an alarm noise! The assistant was looking worried ‘cause he thought it was a bomb! No worries, i said: It’s my sourdough. So to prove it was just flour and water mixed together I had to unwrap my sourdough and showing them that there was nothing to be worried about. But my biggest fear was that they would get rid of it! But at the end, after imploring, they gave me back my baby and let me go! Luckily it was a short flight and as soon as I arrived home I fed it and wrapped it back in its safe place. That was quite challenging, wasn’t it?

How do you balance tradition and innovation in your sourdough baking practices?

Sourdough is the most ancient way of fermentation and I don’t use any innovative tool for it. A scale, a thermometer and my 5 senses are enough to understand if the starter is in good health or not.

Have you noticed any new trends or innovations in sourdough baking recently?

Oh about new trends I don’t really know, I can see that many people now are getting to know more about sourdough, which is good because that means that the consciousness around its beneficial aspect is improving!

What are some common misconceptions about sourdough pizza that you’ve encountered, and how do you address them?

Unfortunately many people think that Neapolitan style means sourdough pizza but you can make sourdough pizza Roman style, alla pala, gourmet pizza…anything really. Actually traditional Neapolitan pizza isn’t made with sourdough starter but instead with a simple direct dough with baker’s yeast. Hope I didn’t shock anybody.

In your opinion, what is the most underrated aspect of sourdough pizza?

I believe the most underrated aspect of sourdough pizza is the depth of flavor and complexity that sourdough fermentation adds to the crust. Many people might not realize that the longer fermentation process of sourdough not only makes the pizza easier to digest but also enhances its taste, giving it a unique character that is hard to achieve with other types of dough. The subtle tanginess and rich aroma of a well-fermented sourdough crust can truly elevate the pizza-eating experience.

Are there any books, videos, or online resources you’d recommend to those wanting to learn more about sourdough baking?

Sure, these are my fave: “Omnia fermenta” by GiamBattista Montanari and “La pizza contemporanea” by Simone Padoan.

Also I created a free sourdough starter guide available to download on my website that especially at the beginning of the journey is very useful, here’s the link to download it via email: Free Sourdough Starter Guide

What advice would you give to someone just starting out with sourdough pizza?

Before even starting making a sourdough pizza dough we must have a balanced and healthy starter! So if you’re a newbie my advice is to learn everything you can from someone that inspires, treat your new “baby” with care. It doesn’t have to be difficult but be passionate and don’t rush! These are the keys for me!

How do you engage with your followers and the sourdough community on social media? What’s your style?

I love doing Instagram Reels, I believe that is the best way to communicate my work and passion about sourdough pizza.

What’s your favourite sourdough recipe to bake for yourself, friends, or your loved ones?

Yes there is one that I love eating and I’m actually missing right now! It’s a tomato base and mozzarella, topped with N’duja, burrata cheese, and fried onion. It’s very simple, compared to the one I’m usually making but I just love it, the spiciness around a creamy burrata is mind-blowing and you get that crunch from the onion as soon as you bite it! Ah, unbelievable.

Do you have any tips or suggestions on how to manage a healthy sourdough starter culture?

Yes. Everything is in my free sourdough starter guide above and on my website.

Do you have any upcoming projects or plans related to sourdough baking that you’re excited about?

Yes, as soon as I get back from Sri Lanka, my wife and I will be travelling with our camper and again around Italy and Europe doing sourdough pizza masterclasses and events in collaboration with beautiful young realities. Can’t wait! So stay tuned, I might end up in your city too.

Can you describe a moment when you felt particularly proud or fulfilled in your sourdough baking journey?

I don’t have just a moment, I have plenty of them! I have had a sourdough for 10 years now and with that, I based my pizza business in London and now around the world, doing consultancies and teaching everything I know about it. The thing I’m really proud of is when people try my sourdough pizza and say that is the best pizza ever! That means the world to me. I put so much passion into my job that that sentence is my constant reward. Huge smile on my face!

If you could give one piece of advice to your past self when you started sourdough baking, what would it be?

My advice would be to trust more in myself and my feelings. I had a little moment years ago when I couldn’t figure out why my solid starter wasn’t performing as I wanted to. I had a theory in my mind that could fix the problem but instead I doubted my skills and I decided to buy random books that end up to be useless and be overwhelmed by the thousands of info on google! At the end I went back to my original plan and there you go, it took me a little while but I fixed it. So believe in yourself, that’s my advice!

Is there anything else Andrea that you would like the community to know about you or things you would like the readers to potentially purchase or subscribe to?

I just want to add this. Making pizza can be very challenging and nope you don’t need a recipe that sorts everything out, you need theory and practice. You have to know what you do ‘cause there are so many variables that you cannot even imagine so one day the pizza is perfect and the next day is suddenly not. This is where I intervene with my 1:1 pizza courses. I’m talking to passionate sourdough bakers or people who’s dreaming of opening their own pizza place. So if you’re passionate about it, be curious to learn anything you can and challenge yourself by always levelling up your skills.

In closing

Thank you for joining us on this insightful journey into the world of sourdough pizza with Andrea. We hope you enjoyed learning from his experiences and passion for baking. If you found this interview inspiring, consider following Andrea’s adventures on Instagram at @theheartofpizza to stay updated on his latest creations from around the globe.

For more sourdough inspiration and to connect with like-minded sourdough enthusiasts, follow The Sourdough People on Instagram at Share your unique or interesting sourdough bread stories with us through our intake form; we’d love to feature them and celebrate the diversity of sourdough baking worldwide.

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Keep baking, keep experimenting, and keep enjoying the delicious world of sourdough!

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