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Injera

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    Posted: 30 October 2010 at 14:24
Well, after the successes we've had with Berbere Chicken Skewers, African Drums and Niter Kibbeh our interest in East African food has increased and I wanted to give Injera a whirl.
 
Injera is an Ethiopian flatbread much like naan or tortillas. But not only is Injera a bread, it is also an eating utensil. In East Africa, injera is used to scoop up meat and vegetable stews. It is spongy, and has a slightly sour taste, much like our sourdough. It is thinner than a pancake and made in much the same way. Injera also lines the plate on which the stew is served and soaks up the juices as the meal progresses. They say that when this edible plate is gone, the meal is over.
 
Injera must be made with Teff flour. Teff is an eastern African grain that yields seeds of low gluten which made into flour are turned into delicious flatbreads. Teff happens to be superhigh in calcium, so it is highly nutritious to boot. This from web research:
 
Quote Teff, or tef, is a cereal grain native to Northeastern Africa and Southwestern Arabia. Although it has been used for thousands of years and Ethiopia in particular for centuries, teff was not widely known in other parts of the world until the late twentieth century, when farmers in the Central United States and Australia began to experiment with the grain. A growing demand for teff has made it more readily available, especially in urban areas. Typically, health food stores and large grocers stock teff, either in the form of flour or in a whole grain format.
 
The word comes from the Amharic language. Teff means “lost,” a reference to the fact that the grains are so small that dropped grains will be impossible to find. The fine grains grow on long, delicate stems of an annual grass in the lovegrass group, the genus Eragrostis. The grains of teff are in fact so small that enough seeds to sow an entire field can easily be held in the hand or in a small bag, making teff an extremely portable crop.
 
The grain has a very mild, nutty flavor, and it also packs a serious nutritional punch. Teff, white teff in particular, has an excellent balance of amino acids, and it is also high in protein, calcium, and iron. While teff is very nutritious, it contains no gluten. (This is great for people with celiac disease, a sometimes deadly gluten allergy) This makes teff ill-suited for making raised bread, however injera still takes advantage of the special properties of yeast. A short period of fermentation gives it an airy, bubbly texture, and also a slightly sour taste.
 
I found easy access to this strange flour and bought a package for my experiment in another ancient, foreign food. The flour has a fine powdery texture and a nice ripe cerealy smell to it. To me it smelled of raw oats and fresh cut straw.
 
Here's the recipe for the starter:
 
3/4 Cup Teff Flour
About 2 cups warm water 80-100 degrees F
1 package yeast
 
I took about 3/4 cup of the flour for the starter, then I mixed it in with about a cup and a half of warm water in a ceramic bowl. To this, I stirred one 1 package of yeast, making sure to take out all the lumps. The flour and yeast mixed fairly well together with the water.
 
The mixture smelled nice and fresh with a cereal, oaty scent. I added a bit more liquid to make a consistency of melted ice cream, and that's exactly what it looked like- melted chocolate ice cream. Then I covered it in plastic wrap and set it on the back counter where it will stay undisturbed for 2 days until I need to feed it again.
 
They say it must sour anywhere from 3 to 7 days before use. I plan on making Injera next saturday. After about 2 hours I glanced at it and wow, it was happy and bubbling and growing, and not a drop of sugar...nothing but teff, yeast and water. This is already starting out nicely.
 
(5 days later)
 
Okay, I've been feeding it every 2 days, now; after a couple days, the flour tends to settle to the bottom, and the water tends to rise. This is a grassy flour, so the water will take on a turbid, greenish cast to it. This is completely normal, as is the nice soury smell that goes with it.
 
For the feedings, take anywhere from 1/2 to 1 cup teff flour and add to it little over 1 cup very warm water. Mix it well with the starter, making sure any clumps are broken down and smoothed in. Make sure you scrape any dried leavings from the side of the bowl into the starter, this is all good stuff.
 
You are ready to make injera at the 3 day mark. Since I am waiting a week to make it, at this second feeding I added half a package of more yeast. The first feeding will still have plenty of energy, so you don't need it then. I mixed it in well, covered in plastic and back to ferment and bubble until Sauturday, when I will make the flatbreads. The bowl is smelling rich and ripe, with a nice sour scent, less pungent than regular flour sourdough starter, but with a different grassy intensity...very nice.
 
So far, so good. Looking forward to the Injera later this week!
 
(2 days later)
 
Okay, so here we are on Saturday, having an Ethiopian feast of Doro Wat (which you can see here) and Injera. I left the starter in the cold oven overnight with just the light on; this kept the oven at about 75-80 F, which was fine. The starter was happy and bubbling heavily, showing a real pretty cap of starch and yeasts on top. I stirred that up well, added about a half teaspoon of yeast and 3 TBSP of teff flour  for its feeding, then left it alone for a few hours before making the injera.
 
To make the injera, I put about 2 cups teff flour into a bowl and added about 1 TBSP salt; to this, I added about 2 cups - maybe 2 1/2 - of the starter, and mixed it in well. I needed to add about 3/4 cups very warm water to make the "runny pancake batter" texture we need.
 
On a skillet heated to medium-low, I poured a generous ladle of the batter and let it be; it is supposed to be thinner than a pancake, but thicker than a crepe. No worries, the batter made right is just perfect. Immediately the edges set and that baby started to cook; it had a gentle sour, grassy scent to it, much milder than at the beginning. This sure promised to be good!
 
You don't flip an injera, just let it cook on one side. Surface color will tell you when it is done. As the top turns from dark to tan, the injera is cooking nicely. Once the entire surface is tan and the holes are dry, it is done. Put it on a cooling rack where the remaining moisture will go away and develop the spongy texture that is the hallmark of injera.
 
I made several more of them, and now have them cooling, ready for supper tonight. We tried one (okay, we tried two) as they were cooking and they were delicious. Went very well with some olives and cheese, and promise to be a hit with supper. I highly recommended injera to anyone wanting to try something different!  
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Hoser Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 07 November 2010 at 03:35
Sounds awesome John...looking forward to your Sunday posting.
Go ahead...play with your food!
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote TasunkaWitko Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 07 November 2010 at 12:02
very nice, john - from your descriptions, this flatbread is the essence of that region of africa ~ excellent!
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Guests Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 09 November 2010 at 12:54
Sounds like very nice injera! by your description, yours sound crispier than the ones I had at that Ethiopian restaurant though. Those ones actually had tiny holes all over like a sponge. Were yours crunchy at all?
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Guests Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 09 November 2010 at 14:36
Hi Coxie, only the surface had some dry, slightly crispy, texture, but they were not crunchy at all. The underside of the injeras never dried out as I expected them too and kept a "damp" look and feel to them, which was exactly the internal part of the flatbreads. Only the top had that dry coat and gave them a slight rigidity, kind of like a corn tortilla you get in a bag. In all they were very tasty, very nice and something I will make often. I'm curious to find out how they will match with other thick stews, and think they will do well. Injera tastes very good!
 
I am already planning to try them with grilled spring onions, cream cheese, and maybe some diced fresh jalapenos or cayenne chilis. My thought process is that this combo would make a great wrap to cut into "pinwheels" and make some tasty appetizers.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote TasunkaWitko Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 09 November 2010 at 15:49
hey, john - that texture you are describing sounds a lot like it is pretty close to the same as the focaccia al formaggio di recco that i was trying to describe at one tme; not crunchy, but crisp with a moist undertone. maybe not "damp" like the undersides of the injera, but soft and moist due to the effect of the melted cheeses. a very interesting and complex texture and if the injera was anything like that, then i will have to give this a try one of these days.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote tjkoko Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 13 June 2013 at 11:08
Originally posted by wrote:

Here's the recipe for the starter:
 
3/4 Cup Teff Flour
About 2 cups warm water 80-100 degrees F
1 package yeast
 
I took about 3/4 cup of the flour for the starter, then I mixed it in with about a cup and a half of warm water in a ceramic bowl. To this, I stirred one 1 package of yeast, making sure to take out all the lumps. The flour and yeast mixed fairly well together with the water.
 
The mixture smelled nice and fresh with a cereal, oaty scent. I added a bit more liquid to make a consistency of melted ice cream, and that's exactly what it looked like- melted chocolate ice cream. Then I covered it in plastic wrap and set it on the back counter where it will stay undisturbed for 2 days until I need to feed it again.
 
They say it must sour anywhere from 3 to 7 days before use. I plan on making Injera next saturday. After about 2 hours I glanced at it and wow, it was happy and bubbling and growing, and not a drop of sugar...nothing but teff, yeast and water. This is already starting out nicely.
 
(5 days later)
 
Okay, I've been feeding it every 2 days, now; after a couple days, the flour tends to settle to the bottom, and the water tends to rise. This is a grassy flour, so the water will take on a turbid, greenish cast to it. This is completely normal, as is the nice soury smell that goes with it.
 
For the feedings, take anywhere from 1/2 to 1 cup teff flour and add to it little over 1 cup very warm water. Mix it well with the starter, making sure any clumps are broken down and smoothed in. Make sure you scrape any dried leavings from the side of the bowl into the starter, this is all good stuff.
 
You are ready to make injera at the 3 day mark. Since I am waiting a week to make it, at this second feeding I added half a package of more yeast. The first feeding will still have plenty of energy, so you don't need it then. I mixed it in well, covered in plastic and back to ferment and bubble until Sauturday, when I will make the flatbreads. The bowl is smelling rich and ripe, with a nice sour scent, less pungent than regular flour sourdough starter, but with a different grassy intensity...very nice.
 
So far, so good. Looking forward to the Injera later this week!
 
(2 days later)
 
Okay, so here we are on Saturday, having an Ethiopian feast of Doro Wat (which you can see here) and Injera. I left the starter in the cold oven overnight with just the light on; this kept the oven at about 75-80 F, which was fine. The starter was happy and bubbling heavily, showing a real pretty cap of starch and yeasts on top. I stirred that up well, added about a half teaspoon of yeast and 3 TBSP of teff flour  for its feeding, then left it alone for a few hours before making the injera.
 
To make the injera, I put about 2 cups teff flour into a bowl and added about 1 TBSP salt; to this, I added about 2 cups - maybe 2 1/2 - of the starter, and mixed it in well. I needed to add about 3/4 cups very warm water to make the "runny pancake batter" texture we need.
 ...



When it comes to feeding the mixture, is it like sourdough where some of the original mixture is removed and replaced by fresh flour and water?  Or is fresh flour and water added to it with nothing removed?
A foodie here. I know very little but the little that I know I know quite well.

best,
-T
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote TasunkaWitko Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 20 June 2013 at 09:12
Hi, T - I just caught your question here.
 
I'm afraid the member who posted this is unfortunately no longer here, so I am unsure as to the correct answer to your question. My guess is that nothing is removed, but I do not know for sure.
 
I say, give it a try! Let us know how it goes. In the meantime, if I come across any reading on the subject, I will definitely let you know.
 
Ron
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote HistoricFoodie Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 20 June 2013 at 19:22
Terry, injera is a daily bread. So new teff/water is added to it on a regular basis to replace what was used.

If we made sourdough on a daily basis, that's how we'd do it, too, instead of discarding half of it when we feed.

What I don't understand, in John's original postings, is adding yeast. Once the starter is going, what you are feeding is the yeast. If more was needed that would indicate, to me, that either something was wrong with the starter, or that John didn't understand the process.

There's a rather interesting discussion of injera in Alford and Duguid's Flatbreads & Flavors.
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