Damper is an Australian soda bread traditionally made in the wilderness using the coals/ashes of a campfire or greased camp oven. Originally, it was unleavened and formed with only flour, salt, and water (the only supplies available). Now, self-rising flour is generally the base and milk or beer may be used in place of the water. Seasonal grains and nuts are also occasionally added.
With only a handful of ingredients and no rising time, this was a great bread to make with Evan. He doesn’t always have the patience to wait for some of the yeast breads to proof. Don’t have the ashes or coals from a campfire available? I prepared this recipe using a 390 degree oven. The bread is often served with golden syrup or dried/cooked meat. Golden syrup is a thick, amber colored cane sugar syrup popular in many European baked goods. It is available in the international/British section of some larger grocery stores and on Amazon:Lyle’s Golden Syrup, 11 Oz Bottles, (2 Pack)and Lyle’s Golden Syrup,454 GRAMS. Butter, jam, or honey would also be delicious.
I don’t generally keep self-rising flour on hand, so I used a combination of all-purpose flour, baking powder, and salt. If you want to use self-rising flour, add about 3 cups with just a pinch of salt and omit the baking powder.
I cut 4 slashes into the top of the bread before baking to make 8 wedges. This was perfect for serving. I have also seen crosswise cuts, none at all, or even the dough wrapped around sticks to cook over hot coals or fire.
Damper (Australian Soda Bread)
Adapted from Manu’s Menu
2 3/4 cups all purpose flour
4 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
5 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled
3/4 cup water
Golden syrup for serving
In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, and salt. Cut the chilled butter into cubes and mix into the flour using a dough blender, forks, or your fingers. Once the mixture has a coarse texture with no pieces larger than a pea, stir in the water to bring the dough together. If too crumbly, add a little more water. If too sticky, add a little more flour. Knead just until smooth, being careful to not overwork.
Preheat oven to 390 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or lightly grease.
On a lightly floured surface, form the dough into a circle about 7 inches (18 cm) wide. Transfer to prepared baking sheet.
Dust a sharp knife with flour with flour and cut 8 wedges about 1/4-1/2 inches thick into the top of the dough. Dust the top of the damper with flour.
Bake in preheated oven until hollow when tapped and lightly golden, 30-40 minutes. Allow to cool on a wire rack for about 5 minutes before serving. Best the day it is made warm or at room temperature with golden syrup.