What I Learned Making Injera (Ethiopian Sour Dough Flat Bread)

Today I am going to talk about the making of Injera, a great Ethiopian SourDough Flatbread.  I have in the past talked about baking bread and making indian fry bread, but both are much less time consuming because sourdoughs take several days as you need to let it bubble along.  I was introduced to Ethiopian food several years ago, and simply fell in love.  You eat with your hands, devouring a wide variety of flavors and ingredients.  I tried to make my own Dor Wat, and loved the result, but it was missing the one item that seems universal in Ethiopian dishes, the Injera.  Injera is a flatbread that takes the place of the plate, utensils, and side dish.  It fulfills the role of several parts of the eating experience, and does it well enough I just had to learn how to make my own.  Before we get into the Recipe though there are some notes to go over.IMG_20151201_191907

First, this is a sourdough so your life will be tastier if you have a sourdough starter, but it is not necessary.  I save a little bit after the first batch for future batches.  I have made a habit of having a sourdough starter in the fridge for both Injera and for other sourdoughs.  I have used my own Teff Starter, and a standard sourdough starter both with decent results.  I have also done it without starter, which just required a little bit more wait.

Second, traditional Injera is big and round.  I use the Grill Heritage Silverstn, it is about 16 inches, has an optional lid (which you will want) and has a high temp of 500 degrees which is important as you will see.  Most grills are not big enough, or are not made to reach the 450 degrees that you need to make the Injera properly.

Third, this is a 3-4 day process so be ready to dig in and wait, and then wait some more, then wait another day, then make some Injera.  Like the Kimchi I made it will fill your house with the scent of the fermentation, only this time Teff instead of spicy peppers.

Fourth, this recipe is broken into steps.  I do this because in the same vein as other sourdoughs you do most of the mixing on the first day, and then barely anything until the last day.  For those that have made sourdoughs before you know that this requires patience.  A constant desire to check under the towel is a driver to mess it up, or is that just me.

Ok, now that we have gotten the basics out of the way let’s talk about what you are going to need.  Most important you will need Teff flour.  I have tried several types from both local stores and online.  I am lucky that I live in Idaho as it is strangely a main source of US grown Teff.  Teff is a great grain that I have fell in love with.  It is a much stronger flavor than standard wheat.  Both the smell and flavor is very distinct, and for those that wish to go gluten free and find they like the flavor, it is a good substitute in even normal bread.  I may even experiment with it in fry bread just to see what happens.  Teff comes in several styles from light to dark.  The ivory colored is the standard, and the darker the flour the stronger the flavor.  A good thing to remember is that when using it to make Injera, you sour it, so the flavor changes.  The flavor is strong and earthy, and well worth experimentation.

In the bellow recipe I have done half “regular” flour and half Teff.  As those who read my past posts know I prefer unprocessed non-GMO flour for all my breads, and this is no exception.  I just do not like the bleached out taste of a lot of store bought flours, and am a big supporters of those farmers that have decided to go old school.  I have also done this recipe with much more Teff flour and less standard flour (note “standard flour” is subjective, seeing as if we were in Ethiopia Teff would likely be “standard.”), and did a batch of all Teff flour, all with good results.  I prefer the more Teff recipes as they contain much more of the Teff flavor in the final product.  I would recommend that you try it with the half and half recipe first, then experiment with more and more Teff.  That is what I did, it really depends on taste and skill.

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Ingredients

5 Cups of Teff

Sourdough Starter (if you have it)

5 Cups of Regular Flour

1 Tablespoon Baking Powder

1 Tablespoon Yeast

Warm Water (like the Fry Bread recipe the water will be added until you reach a specific texture, and that amount changes each time.  So I suggest adding a cup at a time at first followed by ½ cups.  You will want a consistency similar to the banana pancake batter we made, rather than the thicker dough in normal bread or fry bread.)

 

Recipe

 

Step 1:

In a large bowl mix Flour, Baking Soda, and Yeast.  Get the dry ingredients well mixed before adding enough water to create a slightly wet dough.  I liken it to the banana pancake batter we made before.  Once that is all mixed and wonderful cover it with a towel and set it aside.

Step 2:

In a second extra large bowl (you’ll see why you need it to be huge in a minute) mix the Teff and some water to create a standard dough.  If you have a starter this is the time to add it.  You will get better results if you do, but it is not necessary.  This dough is going to feel like corn meal dough.  Knead it for a good 10-15 minutes until it is nice and thick.  After kneading the dough form it into a ball and then squash that ball down into the bottom of the bowl.  Really squash it down so it creates a kind of mold in the bottom.  Now add just enough water to cover the dough.  It will look like a brown mess with a few potential bubbles.  The Teff needs nothing added to it at this point to start to sour, as it will naturally bubble on its own.

Step 3:

Wait, maybe read a good book.

Step 4:

Wait some more, in total you will wait two or three days.  To be honest a few times I added a bit more water to my Teff, but that was me being an idiot and not trusting the process.

Step 5:

The morning or evening of the third day you will want to mix the two bowls.  You have to wait about half a day once everything is mixed so I usually do it that morning so I do not have to get up early the next day and cook my Injera.

First put about 2 cups of water on the stove to boil.

Your Teff Bowl should be craggy.  Wet, but cracked, and dark brown with some dark colored water at the edges.  Stir it well and it will get a consistency of a thick gelato, dark brown in color.

Your flour bowl should have a thin film of bubbly water over the top of the dough and be a light tannish white color.  Stir the liquid back in creating a pancake like dough.

IMG_20160124_150933Take the two bowls and mix them into the largest bowl.  I usually use a really really large bowl for the Teff just to be ready for this step.  Mix the two doughs together as thoroughly as possible.  Get a strong spoon or spatula for this, or just do what I do and use your hands.  It will take a good 5-10 minutes to really get as mixed as possible.  You cannot over mix, I think.

Step 6:

Once the two mixtures are one single thick dough, and the water on the stove is boiling, grab a handful of the dough and drop it into the two cups of boiling water while it is still on the stove (about a cup of the dough I think).  Wisk it with a spoon or something else as you add the dough.  Keep stirring until the mixture becomes thick and you have a hard time stirring.

Your boiling dough will then be added back into your big bowl, and you will want to stir it all together making sure the boiling hot dough gets spread all over the mixture.  This activates something.  I have no idea what, but it does, and so get it as thoroughly mixed as possible before covering the bowl and setting it aside.

Step 7:

Wait about half a day; roughly, about.

Step 8:

Get out your skillet and crank up the heat.  You are going to want it at 450 degrees.  If you are using a non-stick surface no oil, if stick surface, I assume you use oil.  I don’t know, I use the grill I gave you the link to, and it is non-stick.

While you wait for it to get to temp, mix your dough once again.  It should be like pancake dough, and be bubbly.

I take a measuring cup or some other cup with a spout or something and use that to pour the dough (a little heavy to try and pour from the entire bowl).  Start at the outer edge of the pan and start pouring while you spiral your way into the center in one smooth pour.

Once the pan is covered with a thin covering (pizza dough thickness) grab the handles and kind of tilt it here and there to make sure the spiral is one solid circle.  Cover it and let it cook covered for about 3-4 minutes.

When the wait becomes too much and you need to peak, lift the lid only a little bit and take a gander.  The edges should be slightly drying and the center should be shiny and glistening.  It should look like it will be sticky to the touch, touch it, it isn’t.  Cover it and let it cook another minute or two, while you lay out parchment paper, tin foil, or a wooden board, or something similar.   I use a super large cutting board I have.  Gently and with as big a spatula/s you have transfer the Injera onto the cooling surface.

Set it aside and start your next piece.  By the time the second piece is done the first piece should be cool enough to set the new piece on top to cool.  If you are worried you can use parchment paper between the pieces.  You should end up with about 8 pieces of Injera by the time you are done.

Let them cool and set a single piece of Injera onto a serving platter.  Your salads, Dor Wat, and other foods go right on top of the Injera so the meal is served on the bread.

IMAG0254You simply break a piece off and use that piece to pick up your food.  I will create a future post of some good food to try on top, but until then you have the internet.

Leftover Injera can either be wrapped in saran wrap flat, or rolled up like a fruit roll up and then wrapped and placed in the fridge or freezer.

I hope you enjoyed this recipe, and remember I have an ever growing list of recipes that you can enjoy.  The links for them are on the blog, and within the document.

 

Have a Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays.

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