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All pancakes, all the time [Injera]

We did not go on the cold and rainy 200k brevet on Saturday. I think I could have been mentally and physically equipped to tackle it, but that wasn't the case for scrottie or J. Instead, I cooked. Pancakes for breakfast. Leftover delicious lasagne for lunch. A three-course Ethiopian feast for dinner, featuring Atakilt Wat (to use up one of the three cabbages languishing in the fridge), Yemisir Wat (including some berbere), and Gomen (collard greens from the garden).

A couple of years ago, I tried my hand at making injera, and failed. Injera is the flat, sourdough pancake served under Ethiopian dishes. In the U.S. it's generally made with a blend of wheat and teff flours because teff is harder to get in the U.S. The last time I tried making it, I poked around on the internet and read all the recipes about how to make it the real way, which involves some lengthy fermentations, especially if a person doesn't have sourdough starter already on hand. Then I read all of the various ways people have tried to cheat in the injera-making, in the typical way that people try to cheat on sourdough (beer, vinegar, et cetera). My results all just fell apart.

I cooked a similar Ethiopian feast a couple of weeks ago for the roommates, and learned they'd never had injera before, and that made me decide, then and there, that it was time to try again. I went ahead and bit the bullet and bought some prepackaged San Francisco sourdough starter and got it set up a week and a half ago. Now my weekly loaves of bread are sourdough, yum! After reading through these good and extensive injera-making instructions, I came up with my own shorthand version, and got underway. I have two main comments on the whole process. First, with the way the flour and water and worked in these recipes, it's impossible to get a perfectly smooth batter just by working the flour and water by hand - small lumps will persist. That's what the blender step is for. Pretty straightforward. Second, if you lack a mitad, here's what I wound up doing instead - I used a giant cast-iron frying pan with a pizza pan as a lid (my cast-iron lid is in storage). I guess that a lot of mitads are designed to be nonstick, but the cast-iron frying pan most definitely wasn't. So I resorted to applying a small dab of butter and a small shake of salt before pouring every injera. Also, if your batter is a bit too thick at first, don't hesitate to add a bit more water. And make sure to keep mixing the batter because the teff and flour will settle out to some extent as you cook. Oh, and also also - you might think you're making a humongous batch of injera, but that's necessary, based on how quickly it all got scarfed down.

My shorthand instructions:

1. Add 2 C of sourdough starter to 2 C of teff. Knead extensively. Then start adding water, 1/4 C at a time, until the mixture is thin and watery. Leave on counter overnight.

2. Next morning: blend up starter in the blender until smooth.

3. Mix 3 C of self-starting flour with water (=3 C flour, 3/4 tsp salt, 4.5 tsp baking powder) until you achieve a soupy consistency, then blenderize until smooth like the teff. Add to the blenderized teff and combine thoroughly by hand (checking that the consistency is such that the mixture slides off your hand). Add water if necessary. Cover and leave to sit until it rises, up until it starts to settle back down. When it starts to settle, refrigerate for 45 mins / an hour.*

4. Cook on a hot griddle. Coat the griddle with butter and then salt. Cover the griddle with a lid to steam-cook it. Remove with care, cool, then stack.

*Note: I think my batter was more liquid, because it didn't have enough power to rise. However, I left it to ferment for 8 hours and it seemed to be pretty great.



( 9 remarks — Remark )
Jan. 12th, 2015 07:58 pm (UTC)
I tried making injera once, out of straight tef, but my sourdough starter turned green within 24 hours. I decided that this reflected that I was a good, er, gardener, but a poor cook. Every so often I think about trying again, but I haven't summoned the willpower yet.
Jan. 12th, 2015 08:45 pm (UTC)
Green, eh? Interesting! In the process of getting ready for the injera project, I learned that whole-wheat sourdough starter can run into trouble because molds can sometimes outgrow the desirable sourdough yeast/bacteria combination while the whole-wheat starter is getting established. So maybe there are some tricks in that direction, like my expensive trick of buying sourdough starter. Were you using home-caught sourdough? Do you do much other baking?

We do enough baking and fermenting that sometimes some strange items ferment in the fridge (lemon curd! No we did not eat it). So overall I think we've got a good local microbiotic stock to facilitate things like injera.
Jan. 13th, 2015 10:03 pm (UTC)
Hmm. I tried starting my sourdough with the tef flour there, so, maybe that's a thing that happens? I do have a friend that I can cadge some starter from if I ever want to try again, though... but I don't eat that much bread at all any more, and so that might be more of a commitment to baking than I would be able to sustain. (And yeah, mine was home caught, and no, I rarely bake any more, since stupid diet largely discourages it. I make a mean loaf of Irish soda bread once every few months, and my attempts to make that stupid diet friendly have made it less good. But the original's great. And that's about it.)
Jan. 13th, 2015 10:33 pm (UTC)
Yeah, probably not worth it, then, overall. I also happen to know that you live reasonably close to a number of Ethiopian restaurants, though I cannot remember the name of the delicious place annikusrex and W took me to in early December. It might even be possible to phone around and find one using 100% teff!
Jan. 13th, 2015 11:00 pm (UTC)
I bet it was Queen of Sheba, whom I love. [grin] Right around the corner from me (~4 blocks?) and by far my favorite local Ethiopian. I have only ever ordered their veggie dishes, too, over many years of living in this neighborhood. Heh. Friends swear by their meat dishes, and I keep thinking that maybe sometime I'll try the doro wat or something just to be able to give an informed recommendation... and then the veggie combo wins every time.
Jan. 14th, 2015 01:10 am (UTC)
it was chef cafe, also known as chef bar! in the CD.
Jan. 14th, 2015 02:51 pm (UTC)
Ach, thank you! I knew I didn't remember it. Mmmm, so tasty.
Jan. 13th, 2015 07:19 pm (UTC)
I love your cooking posts!!
Jan. 13th, 2015 08:54 pm (UTC)
Awwwwwww, and Ethiopian food is such a great cuisine to explore, especially for those with different specific dietary requirements. From what I understand, it's possible to do a 100% teff injera. I suspect it's delicious. :-)
( 9 remarks — Remark )

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