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There are recommendations for mixing the batter by hand before fermenting. But being a microbiologist by education, I feel this will be a tad bit over as skin bacteria is not what you are looking to ferment the batter, but the airborne harmless ones. Hence I don’t follow that.
It can become very difficult to get the fermentation in winters, here is a recommendation from a friend- add in a couple of tbsp of previously fermented batter ( last weekly prep ) to the one you are freshly doing, something on the lines of a starter culture.
Adding salt before fermentation is purely a matter of personal choice, my mother in law doesn’t recommend it and I go by her experience.
If the weather is cold, it is a brilliant idea to set the prepared batter in the warm oven with the oven lights on, just for warmth.
The batter stays well in the fridge for a week. Don’t leave it out for long in warm weather as it tends to turn sour due to over fermentation.
The Indian grocery stores will carry just skinned urad dal and skinned and split urad dal. My mother in law insists on the skinne, bead-like one rather than the split one. in my experience, the split one doesn’t rise well and leads to harder idlies. I don’t have a logical explanation for this, but this is my experience.