Damper is a type of bread historically made by explorers and travellers of the Australian wilds such as bushman, swagman, and drovers who only had limited supplies on the go. Considered a cultural dish as well as a must have for campers due to its few ingredients, ease to cook, and great taste.
To make Damper you need self-raising flour, baking powder, table salt, measuring cup, water or milk, and a bowl or container to mix the damper in. A camp oven or pot is optional depending on how you want to cook the bread.
To make, first of all, get a good fire going. Not too big or you’ll hurt yourself putting the pot on and taking it off. Mix six cups of flour, one tablespoon of baking soda, half a teaspoon, or a pinch, of salt and 180 ml of water or milk in your bowl or container. If while mixing your dough looks dry don’t be afraid to add some more milk or water; on the other hand, if the dough is still sticky add in some more flour.
You can start off mixing with a spoon to blend all the ingredients together, or just skip straight to getting your hands dirty, and the perfect damper mix is when you pick up the dough and it doesn’t stick to your hands. When you’re happy that the mix is nice and blended and not sticky knead the dough by hand till it’s a nice ball shape and you’re ready to start cooking.
With any kind of camp cooking, you need a good fire going which means a nice bed of coals. Once you’re done that, if you’re using the camp oven, stick it next to the fire to preheat. When cooking you don’t need the actual fire, but rather the bed of coals which still has a lot of heat in there. It’s important not to cook on the main fire or else you’ll burn whatever you’re cooking, so carefully take some of the coals and make a new pile to cook on. When you’ve done this stick the camp oven on the new pile, carefully, stick the damper dough inside and put the lid back. Then you take another shovelful of coals from the main fire and stick them on the top of the camp oven, this way you create an oven environment with heat coming from below and above the bread, ensuring an even, all-rounded cook.
Let it sit for roughly 20 minutes then check it to see if its ready or needs some more heat, being careful not to lose the coals from the lid. If the damper is still soft white and not springy to touch it needs time to cook and needs some more heat on top and below. Place the lid back and add more coals, then wait another 10 minutes or so.
You’ll know the damper is ready when it’s a nice golden brown and crusty which springs back if you poke at it.
You can eat it on its own, or add some things to enhance the taste such as jam, butter, honey or syrup, but you should still have a beautiful loaf of Aussie bread that is delicious and filling, as well as giving you the experience of Aussie camp cooking.