Monday, December 5, 2011

Injera (Flat Sourdough Bread)

Yield: 18 rounds

In Eritrea, this is usually made from a very small gray grain called teff. The bread is an integral part of most traditional Eritrean meals. Each piece is the size of a large pizza. Injera serves as both plate and utensil; foods are ladled onto it, and pieces are torn off and used to scoop up the food. Normally, one or more pieces are planned per person. However, at home Jack and I use a fork and either break up the injera in the dish or use it like Italians use bread and sop up the juices. We generally eat 1/3 of a round per meal.

This recipe uses ingredients and methods the Eritrean Diaspora living in America follow. Unless you already have sourdough in the refrigerator, you need to start at least four days ahead of when you plan to eat it. It takes three days to prepare the sourdough starter and an additional day to make the bread.

2 cups all-purpose flour
8 cups of self-rising flour
½ cup cornmeal
9 teaspoons solid shortening

1. Mix the all-purpose flour with 2 cups of water. Put the mixture in a large jar and cover the jar with plastic wrap.
2. Let the jar stand at room temperature for (3 days). This is the sourdough starter. Discard the water that has risen to the top of the starter.

3. In a large bowl, mix together the self-rising flour, cornmeal, 8 cups of water and all of the sourdough starter. Let this batter stand at room temperature for (24 hours). It will become bubbly.
4. Remove 1 cup of the batter to a pot and add ½ cup of water. Cook this mixture over a low heat while stirring until it becomes thick about (10 minutes).
5. Remove the mixture from heat and let it cool. Stir the mixture back into the batter.
6. Add 2 ½ cups of water and mix well. Let the batter stand at room temperature for (2 hours).
7. Remove 3 cups of the batter and put it into the jar you used to make the sourdough starter. Refrigerate the batter and use it as the sourdough starter the next time you make injera (beginning with Step 3).

8. Melt ½ teaspoon of the solid shortening in a large frying pan.
9. Remove 1 cup of the batter from the bowl and pour it in a stream into the hot pan in a counterclockwise spiral, starting from the outside edge of the pan.
10. Cover the pan and let the injera cook until the edges begin to brown and curl up and the middle is dry about (2 minutes).
11. Invert the pan over a clean dishtowel. The injera should fall out of the pan. The first injera may not turn out as well as the following ones.
12. Repeat the steps from Step 8, until all the batter is gone.
13. The rounds may be used immediately or; after they cool, they may be stored wrapped in plastic in the refrigerator for a few days.

If you like to make bread, this is fun. However, Martha buys ours from a bakery. If you live close to an Eritrean restaurant (there’s one in Boston & Cambridge, and another in Portland, ME), you may be able to order injera from them.

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