Friday, February 28, 2014

Foodie Fridays: Injera Bread

Today's recipe is an easy-to-make bread based on a national dish of Ethiopia called injera.  Traditionally, injera is a yeast-risen bread made with the flour of a tiny grain called teff (although other types of flour can be substituted since teff can be expensive and hard to find).  The teff flour is mixed with water and allowed to ferment before use, similar to sourdough starter, giving the bread a slightly sour taste.  The recipe I found in my only African cookbook (which I mentioned last week) calls for wheat flour which is not fermented, and uses club soda as the leavening agent instead of yeast.  Injera bread is actually more like a slightly thicker crepe with a unique spongy texture, and the cooking technique is similar to that of crepes.

I have had this bread in Ethiopian restaurants, where it is torn into smaller pieces at the table and used like a utensil for scooping up sauces and stews.  It is quite versatile and can be employed for the same purpose with non-African dishes as well.  I made it to use as a scoop for a failed Mexican casserole attempt that ended up more like a watery stew, and it worked quite nicely.  Making injera does take a little time as the rounds must be cooked individually, but you could double the recipe (I actually halved the original recipe) and freeze any bread you do not eat for future meals.  I think injera bread could well become a staple in our house!

Injera Bread

2 1/4 C. flour
1/4 C. whole wheat flour
1 T. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1 C. club soda
2 C. water

Combine the first four ingredients thoroughly.  Pour in the club soda and the water, and whisk until the batter is smooth and rather watery.  Heat a 12-inch skillet over medium heat until a drop of water sizzles in the pan.  Pour a scant 1/2 C. of the batter into the skillet and quickly swirl the batter around to completely coat the bottom.  Let the batter cook until the top is just dry (do not flip and do not overcook -- you do not want to brown the bottom).  Remove from the pan and stack on a plate.  Repeat with the remaining batter, stacking the cooked rounds on top of each other.  Serve as an accompaniment to any savory sauce or stew.  Makes about 9 8-inch rounds.

Note:  This bread should have a light, spongy texture and a pale color (no browning).  The surface will be covered with tiny bubble holes that extend all the way to the bottom.  Be sure not to use too much batter -- if the round is too thick the middle will be underdone and doughy rather than spongy.  This bread is supposed to be bland as its purpose is to serve as a vehicle for very spicy foods, so it is not especially interesting plain (although I happen to love its spongy blandness!).  My husband even suggested eating it like a pancake, with butter and syrup, and it would probably be quite tasty that way!

A traditional Ethiopian meal served with injera on a communal
 platter or tray called a gebeta, which is placed on a colorful
basket table known as a mesob.
(from Wikipedia)

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