Damper is a traditional Australian soda bread, historically prepared by swagmen, drovers, stockmen and other travellers. It consists of a wheat flour based bread, baked in the coals of a campfire.
Damper is one of Australia’s most iconic symbols of bush life.
It was made famous by drovers, who baked this bush bread in the coals of their camp fire, and has been recognised as a staple of bush life for decades.
It is believed that Damper was originally developed by stockmen, who needed a way to carry food with them into remote areas. They’d sometimes be away for weeks at a time with little or no access to supplies, so weren’t able to carry foods that would spoil. Damper, in this case, provided them with a filling food option they could cook easily.
Another theory is that Damper, also known as bush bread or seedcake, is a European term that refers to the bread made by Australian Aborigines for many thousands of years by crushing a variety of native seeds, and sometimes nuts and roots. The bread is high in protein and carbohydrate and helped form part of a balanced traditional diet.
The traditional method of cooking damper involved wrapping the damper dough around a stick and cooked in the flames of a campfire. Alternatively, it could be put into an iron pot and cooked by burying it into the hot coals. The bread is called damper because it the fire was typically 'damped' to allow the bread to be cooked over the ash covered coals.
A Damper poem by Herbert Nehrlich 2
Out in the bush we know our stuff,
life can be difficult and rough.
The outback is a giant hamper
all that is missing is the damper.
Thus, you'd expect that we create
(that is myself and me good mate)
each day some damper in the coals
it bakes quite nicely in those holes
that we first dig and fill with sticks
a few green leaves, some five or six
set fire to and left till noon,
then scrape the earth off with a spoon
as not to foul the finished bread
like the explorer Willis said:
'You cannot run a decent camp
without for nights a petrol lamp
and who could be a happy camper
without his billy tea and damper? '
Which is so true, but let me show
to all who'd like to some day go
into the Aussie outback and
there try on things their city hand.
You take some proper wheaten flour,
keep out the weevils (they taste sour)
add beer to it and mix with vigour
you'll see the dough soon growing bigger,
when all is mixed and you have tasted
another minute would be wasted.
You wrap it after forming loaves
(the size must fit our inground stoves)
into green leaves, most leaves will suit
then, in the fire, use your boot
to cover all with just a measure
of earth, until the gourmet's treasure
has disappeared away from view
and then you wait, and have some brew.
A coldie will help pass the time
it washes off the outback grime
and then you smell the damper's soul
you go and take him from the hole.
There is another kind of damper,
it also does employ a hamper
but this has nought to do with food
but rather with a certain mood.
But, I must say I'm truly sorry
the second part of this here story
must wait, as I now douse the lamp
it's all about a status damp.
- 250 g self-raising flour
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 25 g unsalted butter chilled cubed
- 175 mls milk
- 1 baking tray
- 1 bowl
- 1 knife
- 1 pastry brush
- STEP 1 - Mix the flour with the salt in a large bowl. Add the butter and rub it into the flour with the tips of your fingers, until it resembles fine crumbs.
- STEP 2 - Stir in the milk with a round blade knife (butter knife) to make a soft but not sticky dough.
- STEP 3 - Turn out onto a lightly floured work surface and shape into a soft, smooth ball.
- STEP 4 - Set the ball of dough onto a tray or baking sheet and flatten gently to make a round about 17 cm across. Cut a deep cross in the dough and brush lightly with milk.
- STEP 5 - Bake at 190C for 30 minutes until golden.
- STEP 6 - Serve warm or at room temperature.