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I'm trying to make Injera traditionally, without any starter, just teff flour (the white one) and water (tap water). I mixed it and left in a bowl, covered by dish towel, in my kitchen. After 60 hours I noticed the surface (just the surface) was grey with molds, something gone wrong! I'm investigating about the causes. First of all I live in central Italy, weather conditions are obviously different from Ethiopia. Maybe my kitchen is a too humid place? Could be something related to tap water (PH?)? Or maybe I let it ferment too long, as there were bubble even after 48 hours.. Any hints?

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  • Did you feed the starter? Typically for starting starters 3/4ths or so of the material will be removed once per day, and roughly equal weights of new flour and water added and mixed with the previous material. This gives the organisms new food to nom on. (Tap water may also be chlorinated, though that's less of an issue than not feeding the starter.)
    – thrig
    Oct 16, 2015 at 22:00
  • As I wrote, I didn't use any additional starter, just flour and water for the batter...do you mean to feed the natural yeast? Btw I didn't..
    – rok
    Oct 18, 2015 at 9:56
  • @rok Did you solve this? We are in Germany and never succeeded to make Injera with teff flour. Might it be that the wild yeasts available in Ethiopia are just very different from those in Europe? Even Ethiopian restaurants here seem to not be able to make pure-teff Injera. Instead they import finished injera from Ethiopia or use different flour mixes.
    – Alex
    Mar 6, 2022 at 16:19
  • No .. I didn't .. I tried many times but I always get molds, tried different areas of my house with different temperature/humidity but not able to succeed. I also believe that Teff we find in Italy, due to instrustrial processes are not so good for this.. Also seems that restaurant here uses mixed flour and also commercial yeast..
    – rok
    Mar 7, 2022 at 8:38

4 Answers 4

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The way I make injera is simple. Make a batter teff and water. Once your batter or dough is done take half a liter of water and pour it over your batter or dough. Let it seat for 5 days. After 5 days, REMOVE the separated water and keep it aside. You will need it to cover the batter again once you done cooking. Mix well the batter without the excess water and cook. Add new teff flour to replace what you took to cook.

THe batter ferments UNDER the excess water.

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  • It would be great if you could write this out in more detail, with measurements and the like.
    – fraxture
    Jun 12, 2018 at 3:11
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I haven't done injera yet but I make dosa which is similarly traditionally fermented and one of the most important factors to do this safely and effectively is temperature. My experience with dosa batter indicates that much lower than ~70F (~21C) really slows the fermentation down. I tried to find a more precise temperature recommendation and found a blog (Culinaria Eugenius) which recommends 30C (~86F) (and includes a really thorough walk-through, too).

I have a really good Ethiopian cookbook at home I can check later, but I don't know if it will have a precise temperature recommendation.

If your kitchen is on the cool side (and I hope it isn't a steady 30C for your sake :-) ), it may be helpful to ferment it in the oven. If you have a pilot light on a gas oven, that is enough heat to keep it warm enough, or if not, if you have an internal oven light you can turn on, that can be enough heat.

You would need to keep it out, covered, for some time first, though, as the oven is less hospitable to the wild yeasts you want to catch in the first place.

Your batter could have been ready after 2 days, although it will achieve a stronger flavor if you let it ferment longer.

Another recipe from Mesob Restaurant in NJ says that it can be anywhere from 2-6 days for it to complete fermentation, but for safety's sake, you really do want the fermentation to start quickly so that the good wild yeast can build up and get finished before anything bad gets a chance to take hold, especially in a humid environment that is friendly to such mold spores.

(Note, Mesob is a good restaurant and their injera is good, even if they do cut costs by mixing in other grains, so I trust their advice even though I haven't made it myself from this recipe.)

Regarding your current batch, another blog instruction for making starter says that you can simply remove the mold by skimming off the top. If there is enough alcohol in the mixture that may be safe, but I personally would be likely to throw it out and start over, which is what is generally recommended in answers to this question about sourdough starter.

Edit: None of my books say anything more useful than "room temperature" for fermenting. Most indicate that it should be ready in 2-3 days.

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  • My kitchen is 20-21 C steady, but I live in a humid place, maybe this combination is not the best for the batter. Anyway I made another attempt in a different part of the house, and after 2 days the surface of the batter was turning grey (is this a mold? or what?), there were no visible molds, but I threw it out. Just the surface was grey, under it there was a normal brown color, and stirring it there were a lot of bubbles.. Maybe just one day is enough in my place, or maybe the only solution it to use a starter..
    – rok
    Oct 18, 2015 at 10:22
  • Probably the starter will make things easier to control. Perhaps you could try again with the other method after some successes with the starter?
    – NadjaCS
    Oct 18, 2015 at 17:33
  • What was the good Ethiopian cookbook you mentioned?
    – fraxture
    Jun 12, 2018 at 3:07
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I have speculated about the reason for fermenting injera with sufficient water (water:teff weight ratio = 2) to form a layer on top of the batter.

After watching the batter slowly ferment for a few days I noticed that on close inspection what I had previously thought was a few patches of bubbles were not bubbles at all but perhaps a surface mold that was feeding on the nutrients brought to the surface by bubbles from the fermenting batter below.

I found that I could remove most of the surface mold with the edge of a folded paper towel, then after wiping the sides of the fermentation container as clean as I could, I was able to pour off the remainder of the liquid and have what appears to be a perfectly good batch of injera batter.

I suspect that the mold is a contaminant in the teff flour and something that you can't really get rid of. So the liquid cap layer is a feature rather than a defect in the design. It also turns out that a lot of the bacteria reside in the liquid layer so you want to carry some of it over in your ersho (starter) to the next batch.

There is an outstanding publication on Ethiopian fermented food containing a fairly complete section on injera, see: Ethiop. J. Biol. Sci., 5(2): 189-2245, 2006 [the section on injera begins on page 205] and you can find more of my notes at https://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/69026/injera

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I too had this issue and also began with a teff starter (ersho). I easily resolved the mold problem by pouring a thin layer of live whey / live kombucha on top. What this does is that any sugar water that separates from the teff will easily be digested by the lactobacillus or SCOBY, preventing the molds from consuming the sugars and growing. The acids produced by LAB/SCOBY also deter unwanted, foreign competition.

Injera is naturally sour anyhow so the flavors blend quite nicely. If the additional sour is not wanted, simple ladle it off when you wish to cook the injera. Still though, the probiotics and acids are healthy - take it as an exercise in furthering your appreciation for sours :)

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