Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Injera- Perfect Starter Finally Achieved!

I have had a very nice injera starter going for several months now and it produces pretty decent injera. Not perfect yet. I think I need a fire pit, but Avery said no. Something about city ordinances????? But my starter does produce pretty good injera most of the time.

Because I know I'm not the only emaye (mommy) out there who knows nothing about sourdough starters, I'm going to explain this really simply. So if you already know about sourdough, don't feel insulted! Lots of us are clueless!


What You Will Need:
One 1-gallon plastic, ceramic, or glass container with a lid
flour (white unbleached works great. Others are fine)

Day 1

Wash everything that will come into contact with the starter so that you don't have any little unwanted bacteria trying to get in and mess up your starter!

Mix together:
4 cups lukewarm water, 78 degrees- Water that's too hot will kill your starter.
3 3/4 cups flour

You can mix using a spatula or your hands. I recommend using your hands so that you can get to "know" your starter. This will make sense to you much later after you've experimented a lot.

The point of the starter is for the natural yeasts and bacteria in the air to form a sybiotic relationship with each other in the starter, thus keeping it alive. In order to give your starter a little help, you can use 1 pound pesticide free red or black grapes, a couple of potatoes cut up into smaller pieces, or a couple of fresh peaches. You tie the fruit or potatoes up into a cheese cloth and put the cheesecloth into the starter. If it's a juicy fruit, squeeze the cheese cloth to release the juices into the starter. When I made my starter a few months ago, I used cut up potatoes. This is supposedly not necesary, but I don't know. I figured I needed all the help I could get!

Let your starter sit on your counter covered with a lid.

Day 2

Do nothing. Keep starter on counter covered with lid.

Day 3

Do nothing. Keep starter on counter covered with lid.

Some bubbles may have started to form in the starter. This is good. If it's really frothy, this is good too. The cheese cloth may have inflated with gas and floated to the top. This is good. If you smell it, it should smell "yeasty" like fresh baking bread. This is good. If it looks gross, this is good too. If it's moldy, this is NOT good. Remove the mold as soon as you see it using a spoon. As long as you remove the mold, this is good!

Day 4

Add 1 cup flour and 1 cup warm water.

Mix with your hands. Cover with lid and keep it on the counter.

You can technically make injera at this point, but it's not as easy or as tasty as if will be if you wait a little longer.

The starter will start to smell like alcohol soon. This is good.

Days 5,6,7,8,9

Do nothing. Let it sit on the counter. If you see mold, remove it right away. Then, only if there was mold, you can add 1 cup warm water and 1 cup flour. Stir.

Unless there was mold, you don't need to stir the starter. Just leave it alone. At some point, the alcohol smell will be replaced by a nice yeasty smell again. This is good.

Day 10

You will begin your starter's regular feedings on Day 10. Remove cheese cloth and throw away. Stir your starter very well. Set aside 2 cups of the starter. Throw the rest away. Put the starter back into your 1 gallon container. But clean the container first. For the best injera results, feed your starter 3 times a day. Feeding this often makes it so that you have lots of ain ("eyes" - this is what Ethiopians call the bubbles in the injera).

1 cup warm water
1 1/4 cups flour

Stir thoroughly with hands. Put lid back on.

I try to space out my three feedings. Ideally, it would be fed every 8 hours. But you have to sleep at some point! I feed my injera first thing in the morning, again in the early afternoon, and again right before I go to bed. Space the three feedings out the best you can given your daily schedule.

For feeding #2, add:
2 cups water
2 1/2 cups flour

By the time I need to do feeding #3, I usually throw away all but 2 cups of the starter and start all over again with the feeding amounts. In other words, for each feeding, you double the amount of flour and water that you used the previous time. But, as you'll soon figure out, doing this will create A LOT of starter! So, once you throw away all but two cups, you'll start again with adding 1 cup water and 1 1/4 cups flour.

Days 11, 12, 13, 14, 15

Continue with the 3 times a day feeding schedule. By Day 15, the starter might be ready for injera. Mine was not. Mine took almost three weeks before it was ready to make nice injera. The way you know it's ready is to try it. If it makes injera with lots of bubbles, it's ready. If not, keep feeding it a few more days and try again.

Day 15 And Beyond

As long as your starter isn't in the refrigerater, you need to feed it regularly. I have found that feeding it just once or twice a day will keep it from dying. But any fewer than three feedings each day produces injera with not so many bubbles for me. Because the amount of wild yeast in your house is not the same as my house, each person's results will vary slightly. Temperature also has an affect on how quickly the starter develops. Once your starter is very strong and healthy you can put it in the refrigerater.


You should pull your starter out of the refrigerater, let it sit until it's room temperature, and give it 1-3 feedings about once a week. It is possible to get away with once a month, but you're risking letting it die if you wait so long. Mine is at the one month point right now. So, when I pull it out to feed it today, I sincerely hope it's not dead!

Converting Your Starter To A Teff Starter

Once your starter is very strong and consistently bubbly, you can then convert it to a teff starter in order to obtain the proper sour teff flavor of injera. This part is easy. You just feed it as detailed above. It only takes 2-3 feedings before the teff has become the dominant flavor in the injera.


Anonymous said...

I applaud your injera efforts! Thank you also for sharing. I will use every word of this . . . as soon as I gather enough courage!

heidi said...

Thanks so much. I'm excited to start my starter. My injera attempt today was NOT good. :) I understood how to make the starter, but I was unclear how to use the starter to make injera. I'm understanding now that you just feed it until there is enough for injera? Then you cook it (setting aside some for next time).

You are awesome!
p.s. hope to meet one day
p.p.s. can you bring all of us a fire pit, pan, cover, and paddle home from Ethiopia when you travel? I'm sure they will fit into your suitcase!

Heidi W said...

Oh, that stuff smells bad. No mold, yesterday was day 4, and I added a cup of flour and water. My husband complained because the whole house smelled bad "like stinky feet."

Doris said...

thank you so much for sharing your efforts and experience with us! I'm working on a starter- what does mold on starter look like? Is it a thin film that accumulates on the surface ? ..

Danielle said...

How bad does this stuff smell? I live in an apartment with roommates, and I don't want them all to hate me, haha.

Carrick said...

Hi, just wanted to check that I've read this right.

The 3x daily feeding schedule is:
1 W, 1.25 flour
2 W, 2.5 flour
4 W, 5 flour

everday on days 10-15. Afterwards a single day's feeding schedule is spaced out over a single week?

This seems like so much wasted flour! :\ Am I imagining it wrong? Is there a simpler or less wasteful way?

Carrick said...

If anyone is having a tough time with this, a group of people called Friends of Carl Griffith provide a free sourdough starter to anyone who sends a self-addressed stamped envelope. It was born out of a tradition started by Carl who did the same using his family's 150 yr old starter.

here's their website and instructions

Tess said...

I've had a lot of success (and wasted a lot less flour) getting sourdough cultures started by feeding less and not discarding anything. I started with a 50/50 mix of flour and water in fairly small amounts, and simply fed it a couple of tablespoons of flour and water every day until it was well established. I poured off the liquid that rose to the surface, although it's not really a problem to just stir it back in. It took about two weeks for me to get my culture going really strongly, at which point I cut down on feedings. I never discarded any; once it smelled yeasty and sour, I used some to flavor bread (even though it wasn't active enough to raise it yet).

If you just want to make injera, you should be able to make a starter entirely with teff flour, although I've never tried it.

Anonymous said...

I mixed 1 cup of teff flour, pinch of salt to 1 cup of water before realizing I did not have any yeast. Is it ok to refrigerate the mixture overnight and add the yeast packet in the morning?


sunnyD said...

Thanks so much for this info--I have everything ready to go and am about to try to make injera. Just a note to really DO need to be super patient to make your own starter. I tried, and then gave up after about a week. Unless you have lots of free time, I recommend ordering one (I got mine from King Arthur Flour). It is super simple, and for about $13 with shipping, probably doesn't cost a whole lot more than making your own, considering all the flour that is required.

Anonymous said...

My starter began to smell like blue cheese on day 3 or 4. I'm on day 6 now and it still smells that way and I'm not seeing any mold. Is this normal?

Anonymous said...

I love this blog! I just made the PERFECT Injera tonight, and it was my first time making it EVER! I followed every step perfectly! I also used a mitad that I bought at, where else? TARGET!

Right there is the product link. I even brought a few layers of injera to my favorite local Ehtiopian restaurant here in Portland, Maine and the owner was astounded that it tasted so close to hers!

Hope this info helps with other injera lovers!

Greetings from Maine!


Mygenet said...

Thank You SOoooooooooooo an Ethiopian living in brazil i had lost hope of finding any injera and i couldn´t make one cause i never learned how to make while i was in ethiopia.i am ashamed tnat, i just ate the injera other people made... i will soon be celebrating the ethiopian new year here in brazil eating the injera you taught me to make...bless you! :)

healthy travel ideas said...

How tight fitting should the lid be? In several places you refer to using a lid, but you mention cheesecloth too. Whenever I soak grains without stirring, I get mold after about 24 hours. Less so, if I cover with a cheesecloth, but then it begins to dry out on top. Is my kitchen too hot/cold? Most of the recipes I see for injera mention to stir it every time you think of it. Of course, those attempts have all failed. I want a 100% teff injera to share with my gluten-free clients so I cannot use my regular bread starter.

Thanks! This is the best post on making real injera I have seen on the net!

Anonymous said...

Your description was fine until the very end. What are you doing to convert to teff starter? I don't understand. Do you start to use teff instead of the other flour for your feedings?

Heather said...

Yes, once you have a strong starter, just use teff instead of wheat flour for feedings. In just a few feedings, the percentage of wheat compared to teff will be miniscule.

Anonymous said...

I don't understand why it takes to long to make the starter.I make injera often. All I do is...
The starter is the same recipe
but I leave it out on the counter for only 3 days. And make injera on the third day. after you are done making injera make sure to leave some starter(like a cup ful) in the fridge.

If you want to make it again, just mix flour with the old starter and leave it out on the counter for 2 days and make injera on the third day.

DONOT forget to leave some starter after each time.

I hope it works for you guys:)

Paula Muntean said...

I was so excited so see good instructions for a starter that I had to get on this straight away! Thanks so much for this post.

Jump Girl said...

Thankyou sooo much for posting this! I have been trying to make an Injera starter for about a year now, to no avail- but this has worked perfectly. Do you know any good blends for the Berbere' spice mix/paste?

Candice said...

WOW that sounds like allot of work but im sure its worth it cause ingera is yuuuumy!!!! :) my sister made some a couple days ago-or tried to but it didnt turn out! we didnt use a starter-had no idea u had to- so thanks a million for this post we will surely try it!!!

mlgstudy said...

can I use a gluten free flour or teff for the starter? the whole point in me wanting to do this is that teff is gluten free

Paula said...

I'm a few months late writing this, but I followed your instructions almost exact (obviously, as starters go, I had to adjust a few things here and there) and the injera came out wonderful! The taste was great and the texture was nice and spongy. Thanks!

Yola Bature said...

I had the same question as 'healthy travel ideas'. I don't see the answer here, but after googling about sour dough starters in general, I gather it should be a tight fitting lid. So, I'm embarking on day one of this process. I lugged a 50 lb bag or so of teff flour and a mitad from Ethiopia last spring for my wife to try to make injera in northeastern nigeria (a rather hot and relatively dry climate, though it's the tail end of the rainy season now). She didn't have any luck in the spring and now she's staying in the U.S., so short of eating teff porridge from time to time, I may as well give this procedure a shot. (My wife more or less followed the method that 'anonymous 3:07pm' mentioned when questioning why such a long process is necessary (that is, just letting the teff sit/ferment about 3 days)). Since I'm making a teff starter to begin with, I'll be tempted to modify the process along the lines of 'Tess's' suggestion (feed less, toss out less, waste less flour), but then again if I spoil the recipe by doing that I'm wasting the hard-to-get teff flour anyways. ... But I've got plenty to waste in this case.

Anonymous said...

I'm on day 6. The smell is divine. When I lift the lid to peruse the days "events". I did use 3 small golden potatoes cut up in cheese cloth to get this going. I don't see anywhere on the post about if I remove that ...and if so, at what point in the process? I don't want this to be for not? Anyone with experience still following currently?

Anonymous said...

I read your starter and it's a long process. I make teff injera.if you don't have a starter you don't need to go thru the process of 15 days to create one. Use a packet of yeast for 4 cups of teff or flour,use enough water to create a thick batter, let it ferment for 3 days making sure that it's not too watery and on the third day, I dump out extra water that had surfaced on top and blend it in the blender a small batch at a time, let sit for 6 hours or more until you see bubble forms and then bake. Save about a cup or two for your next injera in the freezer unless you make another one within a week don't leave in the fridge.I'm am Ethiopian who had been making injera for years. I left out a portion of how to make Absitt so as not to create confusion. Hope this helps. Saba

Wubi said...

Saba. I'm doing what you do. So, do you add the absitt after the 6 hr rest?

Julia Berstein said...

Hi! why not make a starter with teff and water and use 100% teff?