"" Writer's Wanderings: Australian Damper

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Australian Damper

One of the first meals we had in Australia at a restaurant in The Rocks area of Sydney came with a bread called damper. Traditionally, it is unleavened bread baked in a camp oven in the coals of a fire out in the bush. It’s a bit like Irish soda bread and many think it may have originated with Irish immigrants (convicts). During colonial times it was a staple food in the bush because the dry ingredients were easily carried and they only needed to add water to make the damper. The original version consisted of coarse flour (occasionally stretched with flour milled from wild seeds or nuts), bi-carb or salt, and water.

Today’s damper is easier to make with self-rising flour and flavored more with butter and milk. Bake it in the oven, a Dutch oven, wrap it in foil and bake it in the coals of your campfire or make balls of dough to toast like a marshmallow over your fire and then fill the hole the stick leaves with honey or jam.

When we were at Ayers Rock and enjoyed our breakfast at dawn in the dessert, the damper (pictured) was wrapped in foil, cooked in the coals, and served with maple syrup.

Here’s today’s version of Australian Damper:
2 cups self-rising flour
½ tsp salt
1-1½ cups milk
2 tsps sugar
2 tsps butter
Extra flour as needed

Mix the flour, salt and sugar together into a bowl.
Cut in the butter until fine crumbs form.
Add milk slowly and mix to form a soft dough.
Knead lightly on a floured board until smooth.
Shape into a round loaf, brush with milk and cut a cross in the
top surface of the dough.

( for oven cooking )
Grease and dust with flour a round cake tin. You can substitute a
flat baking pan, but the round tin gives a better shape to the loaf.
Place dough in the pan and bake at 375° F for 30 - 40

( for campfire cooking )
Grease the camp oven (Dutch oven) and dust with flour
Add bread dough and cover.
Place in your campfire, cover with hot ashes and coals and bake for
about 30 minutes.

Note: to test if it's done, tap on the loaf and it should sound hollow. Cut into moderately thick slices and serve while still warm. Top with butter, golden syrup, or your favorite jam.

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