Sunday, December 9, 2012


The word on the street is that true injera is difficult to make. This is not true!

Really? you are saying as you scratch your head, injera is easy? I always thought you needed some serious cooking mojo to make that. I thought there was some secret to injera that no average muggle could master.

Not at all. Injera is not hard to make, it's a simple injera recipe that's been hard to find-- until now.

But wait, you are asking yourself, what is injera anyway?

Injera is the flat, spongy, circular bread traditional to Ethiopia. It is somewhere between a crepe and a pancake, it stores well in the refridgerator and can be easily reheated before a meal. It's a sourdough bread, which is part of what makes it so tasty.

Injera is made from teff, a gluten-free grain that is highly nutritious. (More on teff here.) If you go to an Ethiopian restaurant, they will serve you injera, but chances are good it won't be gluten free. In the U.S. at least, most of the injera has wheat flour mixed into the batter. (Sometimes it is made entirely from wheat.) You can make your own pure teff injera quite painlessly at home, however.

But why, you ask, would a person want to do that?

If you are on a gluten-free diet, like me and like so many others with Lyme disease or other causes of gluten sensitivity, then a simple, delicious bread recipe might well be welcome. If you are health conscious and obsessive about reading food labels, like me, you know that most gluten-free breads on the market are full of junk, and no more nutrious than your average white bread. Teff on the other hand is packed with protiens and minerals, and has a nutty, whole grain flavor that brown rice or chickpea flours can't hold a candle to. It has the robustness of a good whole wheat or rye, something I've missed sorely since I gave up gluten. Teff's taste is smoother and subtler than those to grains, however. Teff makes me want to jump for joy!

So how do you make injera?

Funny you should ask....


STEP ONE: SOURDOUGH BATTER (Make two days ahead)

In a large mixing bowl, combine:

1 cup of filtered water
1 cup of teff flour

Wash your hands and use them to mix the flour and water together, smoothing out all the lumps.
Cover the bowl with a clean cloth, set on your kitchen counter and leave for approximately twenty-four hours.

While the earth makes a full rotation on its axis, your batter will show signs of fermentation. It will bubble, it will puff up, it will have a pleasant, sour, grassy smell. Some water may well separate to the top by the end of the twenty-four hours, and have a bluish-brownish tint to it from the teff. This is fine.

At the end of first day, stir batter back together (you will see bubbles) and add:

1 cup of filtered water
1 cup of teff flour

Again, mix batter together with clean hands until lumps are gone, cover with clean cloth, let sit at room temperature for approximately twenty-four hours.

If you want to enhance the sourdough flavor from the start, or if you want to make more flour for a bigger first batch of injera, repeat this step as many times as you like. You can add as little as 1/2 cup water and 1/2 cup teff flour per day, but remember the two basic principles: 1-1 ratio of flour to water; feed batter every twenty-four hours while it is at room temperature. Ifyou are impatient to have injera sooner, you can cook your injera after two days, using step 2 first (see below).

You are now on the path to having a good sourghdough batter. This is a living thing that you will keep alive by saving approx. one cup of the batter each time you cook and storing it the in refridgerator for next time.


While I was figuring out how to make injera, I found many recipes on the internet that added quick-rising flour immediately before cooking, meaning adding wheat flour with a bit of baking powder and salt mixed in. Since we are making pure teff flour, this step will be a little different for us. Here we go:

Save at least one cup of sourdough batter in a jar. Put in fridge and mark the date on the lid.

Measure the rest of your batter. Per one cup of batter, add:

1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp sea salt (optional-- salt can also be sprinkled on bread at table to each person's taste)
stir briskly with large spoon or with hand held blender


Use a skillet or cast iron pan such as you would use to cook pancakes (or crepes if you have such skills) and a large lid that fits tightly on the pan. (I have found it's easiest to use a glass lid that is small enough to sit on the bottom of my largest cast iron skillet, so the seal is complete.)

Oil pan lightly with high-heat oil such as grapeseed or organic canola (non-organic canola is GMO, folks!). Put burner on medium heat. Test pan by flicking one or two drops of water. If the water sizzles and evaporates, pan is hot enough.( If oil starts to smoke, turn down heat.)

With a ladle or large spoon, pour batter onto skillet, starting in center and making a circular, outwards motion.

Stand patiently over your pancake and watch while bubbles form and the edges start to brown, about thirty seconds.

Cover with lid, set timer for seventy to ninety seconds. Do some dishes or straighten up kitchen until timer goes off. Once timer rings, remove lid, use spatula to take cooked bread from skillet and put on a plate to cool.

Rinse and repeat, rinse and repeat, until you have used all your batter.

Note: there is some finesse involved in cooking you injera, so the cooking time is approximate. My cast iron skillet tends to get hotter as I cook, especially once I've used the lid to cook the first pancake, so after that I turn the burner down to 3 on my crappy electric stove.

Bigger Note: this is homemade, whole grain injera. It's just not going to look like the injera at a restaurant. That's Barbie injera. This Naomi injera. The bread I cook isn't going to win any beauty contests. It's not perfectly circular and it's not giangantic. At first I aimed for making larger and larger bread, but then I realized I didn't have a container big enough for easy storage, it's harder to get off the pan, and the burner under my skillet wasn't big enough to cook it evenly. So now I just make injera about the size of the burner under my skillet, or about the size of dessert plates.

One cup of injera batter will make about five dessert-plate sized injeras.

Injera is delicious hot off the griddle, or you can cool it, layer it between waxed paper, and store in fridge in ziplock bag or large tupperware.

Refridgerated injera will keep up to nine days or so. I think it taste best hot, so I pop it back into the toaster for a bit and sprinkle with salt before eating.


Store the cup of batter you saved in the fridge. As I mentioned, there are living, healthy bacteria in this batter (just like yogurt) and you will need to feed them to keep the sourdough going. Every week or so, take the batter from fridge (it will have separated a bit, don't worry), transfer to mixing bowl, stir it up and add flour and water as in step one. You can cook more injera the next day, or you can return the batter to the fridge for the next week. I have gone as long as nine days between feedings and all was fine.


Over time, your sourdough starter batter will be strong enough that you no longer need baking powder to help you form the bubbles when you cook your flatbread. You may notice the fermentation is going faster, the smell is stronger, or you might just feel ready to cook it without the baking powder. After you've fed your batter and reserved  your cup for future batter, you can stir up the remainder with a ladle and start cooking your injera directly, without baking soda. (If it's not spongy enough, no harm done, just add baking powder and try again some other time.)

This is what 100% teff injera looks like. Mine, as I said, is considerably smaller. (Photo borrowed from National Geographic.)

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