Injera is a spongy Ethiopian sourdough flatbread made from teff flour, a grain special to Ethiopia. The highlight of an Ethiopian meal is the injera soaking up all the saucy goodness of the stews. Making injera requires some practice, but it's completely possible to make great injera at home.Yum
If using bread as a utensil is basically the best idea ever, Ethiopians have serious bragging rights with injera, a sour, spongy, earthy, wonderful flatbread. It's made from batter that's fermented—meaning, left out at room temperature for a day or three—then cooked over high heat so that it forms lots and lots of spongy little "eyes." All those little holes? The better for soaking up sauce from Ethiopia's many famous stewed dishes.
About teff flour
Teff is a nifty grain (that's the short story) and a specialty of Ethiopia. Teff flour resembles cocoa powder, and the batter it produces looks just like melted chocolate ice cream. I'd say it has a distinctive but mild taste; the flavor or injera comes from both the teff and the souring process. Happily, it's easy to find kosher certified teff flour; Bob's Red Mill teff flour is kosher, as is Maskal, which sells both brown and ivory varieties of teff. (The ivory is the kind often used at Ethiopian restuarants in the US.)
Adding other types of flour to the teff
Many regions that neighbor Ethiopia have their own version of spongy flatbread, and those generally use other types of flour in different combinations. Teff is characteristic of Ethiopian injera, and my understanding is that homestyle injera is usually made with 100% teff flour. However, many restaurants and recipes use a large proportion of wheat flour, which make the batter easier to work with. I've had the most success using 2 parts wheat flour (either all-purpose or whole wheat) to 1 part teff flour.
Fermenting batter for injera
Injera batter needs to be left out for a while, at least a day, to ferment. Like sourdough starter for a European-style bread, the batter picks up and nurtures wild yeast from the air that help the batter rise. I understand those who regularly make injera keep a portion of the dough aside as starter. However, it's not necessary to have starter to make great injera, as long as you give the batter adequate time to ferment.
Some recipes for injera call for baking powder or for adding dry yeast to the batter at the beginning. I've tried it both with wild yeast (that is, just mixing the flour with water and letting it stand) and adding active dry yeast to the initial batter. I don't see a need to add the dry yeast, because my injera has worked well without it. Since either way you need to let the batter ferment, I recommend just letting wild yeast do its thing.
There are various recommendations for how long to let injera batter ferment. I prefer 36 hours. It's nice and sour and has plenty of yeast activity by then. Many people prefer to leave it for 48-72 hours and some like up to 5 days. I tried 5 days once and found it too sour for our tastes. I recommend starting with 36 hours (that is, a day and a half ahead of cooking the injera) and working up if you'd like it to be more sour.
I've also seen recipes that ferment the teff and the wheat in separate bowls, but I tried this and did not notice a difference.
Preparing the batter for cooking after fermentation
If your fermented batter has a watery layer on top of it (like in the photo above on the left—it's the dark stuff), pour it off into the sink. Then (or if not, which is okay too; it all depends on what yeast is in your air), go ahead and stir the batter well. It should be thin and runny but still coat the back of a spoon—slightly thicker than crepe batter. Stir in the salt.
An optional next step is to cook a small portion of the dough, then add it back in to the rest of the (raw) dough. This seems to be a traditional step for getting better bubbling in the finished injera, although I also read several recipes by native Ethiopian cooks who omitted it. It reminds me of the tangzhong method of adding cooked roux to yeast breads that comes from Japan (and is popular throughout Asia). I've not included this step in the recipe below.
Cooking the injera
I can't emphasize this enough—because I thought I was hopeless at injera until I figured it out—injera must be cooked over high heat! Otherwise, it'll dry out without getting fully cooked in the center. The popular model electric injera skillet is set at 450F / 230C, to give you a rough idea. You'll need a large, lidded skillet for the job, preferably non-stick, since the injera batter spreads out best without any greasing at all.
Injera is cooked only on one side, without flipping, so you need the lid to set the top. Then you'll release the injera by turning the skillet over a plate. The top and bottom of the injera look a little different. The side in contact with the pan will be drier; it'll have visible holes, but look more like a crêpe or blintz. The other side will be spongy looked, softer, will lots of deep holes, sort of surface of the moon-like.
You can either serve injera flat, like a plate for the food, or roll it up and slice it into halves or thirds, for people to take as they need.
Ethiopian recipes to have with your injera
- Ethiopian Cabbage, Carrot, and Potato Stew – Tikel Gomen
- Ethiopian Stewed Yellow Split Peas – Kik alicha
- Ethiopian Spicy Stewed Red Lentils – Misir Wot
- Ethiopian Collard Greens – Ye’abesha Gomen
- Ethiopian Tomato Salad with Berbere
Injera - Ethiopian Sourdough Teff Flatbread (parve)
- ½ cup teff flour
- 1 cup whole wheat or all-purpose flour
- 2 cups water
- 1 tsp salt
1 to 3 days ahead:
- Combine the flours, then add water. Mix, forming a paste. Cover and leave to ferment 36-72 hours.
After 36-72 hours:
- Pour off any liquid that has accumulated on top of the batter. Add salt and mix. The batter will be a thin consistency, similar to batter for blintzes, but just a bit thicker.
- Heat a lidded nonstick skillet over *high* heat (no need to grease). Pour the batter onto the hot pan, begin by at the outer edge, or else swirling the pan as in making blintzes. Allow to cook until bubbles start appearing on the top, about 1 minute. Cover and cook 30 seconds more, until dry and set on top.