Saturday, September 29, 2007

The Quest for Injera IX

Wish me luck

Here's what the ersho looked like after sitting for several days. On the first evening, the whole bowl rose to the top, then it fell leaving behind stuff on the bowl. When I went to make the injera, I just scooped off the top and used the starter that was underneath. I soon as I scooped the top layer off, the starter began to bubble and sigh. It was weird!

This really has turned into an epic story! Based on feedback from yesterday, I decided today was the day to convert my starter, called "ersho", into the teff batter, called "lit." I'm really excited because the injera recipe I'm following calls for fenugreek seed, and the addition of this spice makes me think that I finally found directions that'll work. Masala dosas are also made from a fermented batter (urad dal, fenugreek, salt and rice) and I've read that fenugreek is an important ingredient to make successful dosas because of the way the ground seed interacts with the wild yeast and aids in fermentation. Anyway, since I've had repeated success making dosas at home, the similarity between the two batters gives me confidence to plug ahead.

Here's where I am now. I have a bowl of lit fermenting away on our kitchen table. It looks like the color of injera, and there are little bubbles on top. Scroll down to the bottom of this page to see exactly what's going on.

This starter epic is making Prove My Love by The Violent Femmes dance through my head:

Just last night I was reminded of just how bad it had gotten and just how sick I had become*but it could change with this relationship de-de range we've all been thru some shit and if were a thing I think this things begun*tell me now what do I have to do to prove my love to you*special favors come in 31 flavors we're out of mints pass the life savers*I'm droppin hints candy for candy-coated tongue*you'd be so good so very good for me*what do you think tell me honestly*I'm wait wait wait w-wait wait waiting for you to come
I think tomorrow's gonna be the big day. Here's hopin'. ETA: My friend Hirut, who knows how to make injera, just checked my blog and says the starter looks right!!!

Hmm! I didn't throw the starter away, like I threatened yesterday. When I checked it this morning, it seemed frothier and happy. So based on K.'s excellent advice, I just plugged along with my regular routine. I came home this afternoon, and it's really frothy and seems happy again. Good ol' cheap white flour to the rescue, huh? So, I think I'm going to continue with K's advice and with the white flour and see how it is tomorrow.

It's dead. I dumped off the hooch like K. suggested to me, but no avail. I added more white flour today, but nothing. What a bummer. I'm motivated though, I'm starting over again tomorrow and will stick with white flour. Does anyone know if this is a typical result with whole wheat flour?

For whatever reason, the whole wheat flour doesn't seem to be doing the trick. It's sour, alright, but there is no bubbly activity like there was on day three after I'd added the unbleached white. I had to make an errand at the drugstore and picked up some cheap white flour while I was there. I just added some, so if it reacts well and gets really foamy, I will start to convert it to teff tomorrow!

The starter is no where near as high today as it was yesterday. I wonder if it prefers the white flour? I ran out and only have wheat flour in the house, so today I tried adding some whole wheat pastry flour, instead of the higher protein atta flour I added yesterday. It smells very soured though, everyone in the kitchen shrieked when they got a whiff of it, I think it's reminiscent of Parmesan or blue cheese...

The starter has risen a lot today! There is some liquid settled near the bottom of the jar, and it has a very, very sour smell. Things are looking up!

A chip of nail polish, some ball fringe, and a look at our Prius through dirt covered windows. So poetic.

My quest for injera starts today, with this sealed jar of wheat flour and water. I'm trying to make a sourdough starter that will hopefully add magical properties to some teff flour. I finally found some at the Rainbow co-op last Saturday, while traversing through Jackson, Mississippi.

I know it seems boring, but with trust, injera is born.

  • Day 1. 1/2 cup atta flour mixed with 1/2 cup warm water.
  • Day 2. 1/2 cup unbleached white flour mixed with 1/2 cup warm water. Day 1. contents added to mixture and moved into a bigger jar (Day 1 contents had a bit of liquid on top and a nice slight sour smell).
  • Day 3. Half of the starter is discarded. Another 1/2 cup atta flour is mixed with 1/2 cup warm water and fed to the bubbly mix.
  • Day 4. Half of the starter is discarded. Another 1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour is mixed with 1/2 cup warm water and fed to the mix.
  • Day 5. Half of the starter is discarded. Another 1/2 cup cheap, enriched white flour is mixed with 1/2 cup warm water and fed to the mix.
  • Day 6. Same as Day 5. No bubbles. I'm starting over tomorrow...
  • Day 7. It was frothy this morning, I repeated Day 5, discarding half the starter and adding 1/2 cup white flour and a scant 1/2 cup of warm water. Hoozah!
  • Day 8. Repeat, repeat repeat.
  • Day 9. Today's the big day! I sifted three cups of teff flour with 1 teaspoon of ground fenugreek seeds (I ground whole seeds in a coffee mill). Then I mixed the sifted mixture with 1/4 cup of the ersho (sourdough starter) and 1 cup of warm water to make a fairly stiff dough. I kneaded the dough for about two minutes and then added 3 cups of warm water. With an immersion blender, I mixed the water and teff dough-ball together to get a batter the consistency of a thin banana smoothie.
  • Day 9. So I just reread through the directions and realized that I skipped a step! So I just ran into the kitchen and started over (though I'm keeping the above to see if it works). I took 1/4 cup of the sourdough starter and mixed it with one cup of teff flour. Then I added two more cups of warm water. This will ferment for three days and become the "ersho." Once I have ersho, I can repeat what I did today to make the lit. So fuckin' confusing! So now to be clear, I have two sourdough starters in the fridge, one ersho starter brewin' on my kitchen table, and whole 'nother bowl of something-or-other--we'll see what becomes of that!


  1. This is so no boring. I've been thinking about doing this for some time, so I'm really interested in hearing how this turns out for you. I love injera, and would love to be able to make bread with starter rather than packaged yeast. I'm waiting with bated breath to see what you find out :o)

  2. Go go power rangers!

    I'm crossing my fingers for you.

  3. Oh man, I have sourdough starter.. does that mean I can make injera?!

  4. Ooh, good luck with the injera! I've tried making it before but, for some reason or another, it didn't quite work... You've inspired me to try it again! :)

  5. kitteeeeeeee
    did you get your package?? how dare you shop for teff flour & beat me to the punch? i don't mean to hit you, but darn!
    but your package holds happy stuff anyway. it will arrive to dazee today i bet!

  6. and i quote, "that tomato is fucking huge"

  7. that looks awesome! i love injera, so i'd love to see how this goes for you!!!

  8. Pardon my ignorance....but what is injera?

  9. dear kittee:
    speaking from experience, your starter will behave better and not cause your friends to shriek if you pour the liquid off (hooch) and then stir at least once a day even if you aren't feeding it (at least for the first little while). I will just stir it back in if it is on the bottom (this doesn't happen to me very often) or there is less than a cm, but with the quantity of hooch you have, I would pour it down the sink. your starter will have less boozy acidity to fight in order to be free and frothy and strong.
    k (toad_hall).

  10. S.,
    Injera is an Ethiopian spongy flatbread that is eaten with stew. You can see a picture of it here: (the stews are ladles on top of it and then pieces are torn off and used as utencils).

    Hey Toad_Hall!
    That is some sweet and needed advice. I'm gonna pour the hooch off right now and then feed it again tomorrow.



  11. I've been following your injera quest. I really want it to work out for you, so I can learn how it's done!

    Speaking of injera... you know who has the best Ethiopian restaurants? Washington D.C.! And you know what is near D.C.? Northern VA! I love the idea of meeting up there. You said you'd be there in early January... is January 9th too late for you? (That's when I get in)

  12. dear kittee:

    I haven't tried w-w. but i currently have two starters on the go -- unbleached white which has never cause me trouble (am I jinxing it?) and a rye flour starter which is extremely lively. Your presumed dead one might still come back - you might just have to give it two+ feedings - your day three photo looks good, and then day 4 is when it starts drowning in alcohol (but I suppose not a bad way to go heh).

    Also: don't know whether this is helpful, but I keep my starter in the fridge as it's usually too hot around here (and I'm considerably north of you) I feed it, let it sit on the counter for a bit until I see a bit of activity and then pop it in the fridge. the cold helps slow things down enough that you can keep on top of optimal feeding cycles (does that make sense? if not I can clarify). If you aren't already doing that, it might help once you start getting reactions a la "day 3"

    also, one other trick -- feed your starter with slightly less hydration - ie. keep it just a slight bit more on the stiffer side - more like a stiffer muffin batter than pancake.
    best wishes!

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  14. do you have something "feeding" it? isn't there supposed to be sugar or a "milk" in there too? i know my mom makes this "friendship bread" with a starter, that you then give the friend a cup of, and it's flour, sugar and milk.
    she has been doing it for years. i'm talking many, many years. i will ask her while i'm here.
    otherwise, won't martha stewart know?

  15. kittee, if you unlock the secrets to injera I will be creating a shrine to you in my kitchen.

  16. That looks like SO much hooch! I pour the thinnest layer of hooch off my starter a few times a week. I'm not sure what that means, but I'm throwing it out there.

  17. michelle!
    yes I do feed it. the yeast feeds on the flour i add every day, so no need for milk or sugar in this variety.

    melisser, are you referring to the hooch in the day four photo? thanks to k., i have the hooch situation under control these days.

    thanks for the support, y'all!


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