25 solutions to the most frequently asked injera questions.
Fermentation is a chemical process where microorganisms break down sugars, generate heat, and releases gas bubbles, giving injera the tangy flavor similar to sourdough. It is a byproduct of depriving cells of oxygen. Bacteria and yeast not only thrive but produce energy in this environment. The organisms feed on sugar (glucose) and turn it into energy. Thus, when you do not feed the batter, the bacteria run out of sugars to digest and start to die, or alter their metabolism, which can cause the starter to turn dark or develop unusual aromas.
Alcohol is one of the byproducts of the process. That is why starters often have a strong acidic smell. The alcohol created during this process evaporates when the food is cooked but still gives it a robust and tart flavor.
Another byproduct is carbon dioxide (C02), which helps the batter grow during fermentation and rise when baking traditional bread in the oven.
The fermentation process is tricky. The environment needs to be just right for growing cultures to perform a series of reactions, making it challenging to recreate consistently. A controlled environment helps guarantee the best results.
The process of fermentation is heavily affected by the environment. Temperature, sun exposure and even atmospheric pressure can affect the rate of fermentation. An additional benefit of using clear containers is ability to observe the changes occurring during the process and adjust as needed for your specific environment.
It is best to use distilled, filtered, or purified water for the most consistent results. Different minerals like chlorine found in tap water can sometimes offset the fermentation process. If you do not have access to purified water, and your starter is not reacting properly you can leave a glass container filled with tap water on the counter for about 24 hours days to oxidize and try again. This helps to evaporate chlorine from the water.
Yes and no. For injera you want to be able to seal the container you use during certain steps in the process, however, cling wrap secured with a rubber band works just fine. The more you contain the carbon dioxide byproduct, the more active your batter will be resulting in a more porous injera. When using glass containers, we recommend using cling wrap or a large enough container to allow the dough to expand as you do not want the pressure to shatter your container.
Use a non-reactive storage container, for example a food safe plastic or glass container. Metals such as aluminum, cast iron, and copper can cause reactions to occur during fermentation and make the process more difficult sometimes resulting in discoloration of your injera or batter.
It is also best to have a container with a wide enough opening for easy access for cleaning and replacing water, as necessary. Having it be clear, especially when making injera for the first time, is helpful. It needs to have a tight-fitting lid or the ability to be sealed to keep the bacteria and moisture contained.
A small glass or plastic jar with a lid work perfectly for storing your starter. Glass or food safe plastic are the best for decreasing the chance of unwanted reactions to occur. Having a clear container can also help you assess the health of your starter without too much manipulation.
Keep in mind the room temperature, which should be between 68 to 72 degrees Fahrenheit. If the place you plan to store the starter tends to be colder, use warmer water (80-95 Fahrenheit). If the room tends to be hotter, use colder water (62-66 Fahrenheit).
On average an injera starter will be at its highest level of activity about 3 days after initially being mixed. However, many factors can speed up or slow down the fermentation. Therefore, we suggest a clear container so that you can observe without disturbing the process. You can use the visual cue guide in the directions section of the “Starter” tab to better determine the perfect activity level of your starter.
Starter should be discarded if it was placed in direct heat/sunlight for a prolonged amount of time. The visual cues your starter needs to be thrown away are orange or pink growth, which signifies mold growth. If there is no activity and thick chunks are floating, that means you have overheated the starter and it is best to start over.
If the starter does not seem active enough it is likely because it is past the optimal fermentation stage and the bacteria has started to run out of food. Add a 2:1 ratio of flour to water (opposite of the making starter ratio) as needed to return to the appropriate consistency and mix well. Leave in room temperature for up to a day and proceed to use.
The water at the top of your batter is commonly known as “top-water.” When you notice your top-water getting dark and sometimes purple in color it can look concerning. Rest assured, the dark color of your top-water is a natural and common process called hooch. It’s a sign that the alcohols that have developed during fermentation have run out of sugars to feed on. This usually happens when the temperature in the environment around the starter increases. When the hooch is dark in color it is a sign that it’s time to feed your starter.
Though the hooch is harmless, it’s best to pour it off and discard prior to stirring and feeding your starter. If you’re noticing the dark water is happening more often than you can keep up feeding it then move it to a cooler area to slow down the fermentation.
If you end up storing it in the fridge, be sure to pull it out ahead of time and let it come to room temperature before moving forward with your injera recipe.
After mixing and kneading the dough it should lift off the sides of the container with ease. You should also be able to press it down without getting too much residue on your hands. The thicker the dough the less chance there is of it absorbing too much water.
There is not an exact answer to this; however, you want it to be enough that you can discard the water to get rid of the sourness. Covering the dough with a layer of water also helps keep mold from growing on the dough. The water should cover the entire surface of the dough and be at least 1-3 inches thick depending on the amount of injera dough.
You want to limit the amount of mold that grows in your container, for flavor, smell, and overall proper fermentation. Washing down the sides with water or placing the dough in a different container to store than the one used to mix can help decrease the amount of residue on the sides of the container.
There are a couple of ways to control how sour your injera gets while it is fermenting:
This varies on how large the injera batter batch is. If you make the full recipe very hot absit is okay since the cold water you add to dilute the batter will cool it down quickly. Alternatively, if you make a small batch add 1-2 cups of cold water directly to the absit in the saucepan then let cool for 20 minutes prior to adding to the rest of your batter.
Although we don’t suggest it, if you do not mind adding a few additional ingredients into your injera recipe you can easier mimic the results achieved with absit. Here ae a couple of alternatives:
A good way to measure consistency is by looking at the back of the ladle after taking it out of the batter. It should be thick enough to coat but thin enough it still drips off the ladle. If you make it too thin, the edges of the injera will be crispy, and if it is too thick the injera will be doughy and sticky. If you add too much water, you can place the batter in the fridge and increase the rate at which the batter and the water separate (this usually takes 2-4 hours). After you remove it from the fridge remove all top water into a separate cup and set aside. Mix the batter and add the top water back in as needed.
If you miscalculate the readiness of the batter it might not be active enough or it may be too strong. However, you do not need to throw away the batter.
Make sure you plan on making the injera 4-8 hours after you pour in the absit. If you do not think you will make injera right away, you can store in the fridge overnight. However, if the batter is not active when you are ready to make the injera you may need to add baking soda to reactivate your batter.
Injera cracking is often due to an absit issue. Since 100% teff injera is gluten free, absit is needed to help the teff flour bind together and create a soft texture. If your absit to batter ratio is off, then the yeast will not have enough sugars to consume and the batter will not adhere properly when cooked. Take note of this and adjust as you continue to make new batches. You can always troubleshoot by adding baking soda or changing the temperature at which you cook the injera. Make small test injeras in increments (every 50 degrees Fahrenheit) to learn how your heating surface performs.
Injera show visual cues of spoilage like most breads. If white spots start to appear it means the injera is no longer good for consumption. This can start to happen if kept uncovered for 1-2 days, especially in warmer environments. It is best to store any injera you do not plan on eating immediately in the fridge or freezer, depending on how long you want to keep it. Keeping injera in a Zip loc or large plastic bag can help keep the moisture and keep it from getting hard.
The Teff Company grows Maskal Teff in the western USA, a non-GMO gluten-free grain that’s a superfood full of high quality complex carbohydrates, proteins, minerals, and fiber. Explore our website to learn how to make injera and find other teff recipes using our teff flour, a delicious compliment to Ethiopian food, Eritrean food, or any gathering.