Nutella

Injera (Ethiopian Flatbread): Fermented Gluten-free Batter (2)

The batter used to make Injera relies on fermentation to rise. My carefully-planned Ethiopian dinner was to be a surprise for N, but when the batter didn’t rise even after 24 hours, I panicked. Trying to eke out warmth from this late spring weather into the batter was futile – the optimum temperature for fermentation is between 75-80°F.

 I ended up using the “oven” method to coax both batters (one batch made with dry active yeast and another with air-borne wild yeast) to rise. This endeavor reminded me of some tips to help with fermentation of a batter made with flour, yeast, and salt:

  • Use a wide stainless steel pan to increase the surface area exposed to air; this helps more of the batter to be exposed to capture both wild yeast from the air and heat to start the fermentation process.
  • Use non-chlorinated water (chlorine inhibits yeast from fermenting).
  • Use kosher salt, as iodized salt slows down fermentation.
  • If the air is not warm enough, heat the oven to 200°F. Once the temperature is reached, turn off the oven. Put the batter in to the warm oven for an hour. This warms the yeast and starts up the fermentation process. Remove the batter from the oven and let the process continue naturally outside. Another method using the oven is to turn the oven light on, and leave the batter in the oven overnight. Remove the batter from the oven and let the process continue on outside.
  • In cool weather, plan for the meal two days ahead! The ideal temperature for dry yeast is 75°F and for naturally-occurring wild yeast found in the atmosphere is 80-90°F.

Injera

Teff flour – 1 cup

Water – 1 cup + 1 tbsp

Kosher salt – ½ tsp

Yeast (instant active dry) – ¾ tsp

  • Sift the flour
  • Warm 1 tbsp. of water. Add the yeast to the water. Mix until yeast granules are dissolved.
  • Add the water and salt to the yeast solution.
  • Add the liquids to the flour. Mix well.
  • Keep aside in a warm place, for 24-48 hours. Bubbles on the surface of the batter or cracks that appear on the puffed up surface indicate that the batter is ready.
  • When ready to cook, add a little water to get the batter to a pouring consistency.
  • Heat a non-stick skillet.
  • Using a ladle, drop in 2 tbsp of batter into the middle of the pan or skillet. Using the back of the ladle spread the batter in one continuous motion, working from the center in concentric circles toward the edge of the skillet. When little bubbles appear on the surface of the batter, the injera bread is ready. There is no need to flip the injera over, as the steam causes it to cook through.
  • Keep the bread stacked. Makes about 6 pancakes.

 

The batter can also be made without yeast.

 

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N., who is a Nutella fiend, came home for the weekend, and I used the remaining gluten-free teff flour to make Nutella-based cookies. The texture of the cookies is more like bran muffin, which also balanced out the sweetness of Nutella.

Teff Flour and Nutella Cookies

Teff flour –1½ cup

Agave nectar – ½ cup

Nutella – ½ cup

Oil – ½ cup

Cinnamon (or your preference) extract – 1tsp

  • Preheat the oven to 350F
  • In a food processor, mix the agave nectar, Nutella, oil and cinnamon extract.
  • Add the teff flour and combine well.
  • On a greased cooking sheet (stains the cookie pan), add a tablespoon of the cookie batter. Flatten the batter with the spoon.
  • Bake for 10-12 minutes. Makes about 10-12 cookies.

 

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Compound Butter: Solidifying Flavors

I was alerted to the death of Michele Ferrero, the renowned maker of Nutella, by a flurry of texts from A. and N. – huge Nutella fans. I read in her obituary that Nutella  was discovered accidentally. With cocoa being in short supply during the war, hazelnuts were added to cocoa powder to get the same creamy consistency associated with chocolate. The concept of stretching food is all too familiar to a home cook, and I was reminded of this when I made compound butter.

Compound butter is easily created by whipping unsalted butter with herbs or interesting combinations such as lemon zest and herbs or hazelnuts and cocoa. There are two advantages in creating compound butter;  the flavor and aroma of herbs are preserved, and their essence can be summoned up instantly. For example, in the middle of another cold spell, adding compound butter made with fresh cilantro and lemon zest  gave tilapia the fragrance and taste associated with summer and warmth.

The process of making compound butter is simple. All you need is butter at room temperature, parchment paper or saran wrap (which I prefer), and your imagination. Start with readily-available ingredients like herbs, but before long, you will be trying different blends and pairings. An added bonus is that there are no right or wrong measurements – just trust your taste.

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Lemon Zests and Cilantro Compound Butter

Lemon –1, zest

Unsalted Butter (room temperature) – 4 tbsp

Cilantro – 1/3 bunch, washed and leaves chopped

Salt – ¼ tsp

Saran wrap

  • Whip the butter and all the ingredients in a bowl, until well incorporated.
  • Pile the mixture onto the saran wrap. Form the mixture into a log shape. Roll the saran wrap tightly around the log of compound butter. Freeze or chill until needed.
  • When ready to use, cut a disc or two and add them directly into the skillet to flavor fish or vegetables.

 

 

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Note: The hazelnut and cocoa compound butter that I made worked well as a sweet spread, while the balsamic vinegar and cracked pepper butter was simply tossed with cooked kale and mushrooms.