Damper cooked in a camp oven. Courtesy of Shutterstock (A Life Beneath Stars), 2021.
A classic Aussie tradition from the bush, damper is the perfect staple to make on a family camping trip. This delicious recipe is so easy that you can get the whole family involved - think of it as a fun family bonding activity by the campfire! Or, if you just want to bake some bread without having to get up at the crack of dawn, damper is a quick and easy recipe to throw together with the kids.
This delicious damper recipe below contains the bush spices of ground Wattleseed and milled Saltbush, by our partner brand Kakadu Plum Co. The wattleseeds add a nutty, slight hazelnut flavour and smell, and the saltbush has a soft, salty flavour and can be used as a direct substitute for salt as a seasoning. Enjoy this family loved Australian damper with your breakfast or as a side dish cuisine.
How was damper traditionally made?
Damper, also known as 'seed cake' or 'bush bread,' is a food staple that's been made by Indigenous Australians for tens of thousands of years. Traditionally, damper is made by crushing and grinding native seeds, such as Spinifex seeds or Wattleseeds, with millstones into a flour and then combining it with water to make a dough, which would then be baked over the hot wood coals of a campfire. This type of bread helped form part of a balanced traditional diet as it is high in protein and carbohydrates.
Old Man Saltbush. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons (Cgoodwin), 2008.
Skill level: Easy
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cool time: 5-10 minutes
Cook time: 30-35 minutes
Yields: 1 loaf
What you'll need:
3 cups self-raising flour, sifted
1 tbsp. Wattleseed, ground
1 tbsp. Saltbush, milled
75g butter, chilled and diced
Directions:1. If you're making the damper over a camp fire, then get a nice bed of hot wood coals going. Do not preheat your cast iron pot until the damper bread is ready to cook. If you're baking the damper in an oven at home, pre-heat your oven to 200°C.
2. In a large bowl, add the sifted self raising flour, ¾ of the ground Wattleseed and ½ of the milled Saltbush and mix together. Using your fingertips, rub the butter into the self raising flour until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. This is a great job for the kids - it's also a messy one!
Kakadu Plum Co’s Ground Wattleseed. Courtesy of Yarn, 2021.
3. Next, add the water to the flour mixture and using a butter knife, make cutting motions through the mixture until it comes together. If the mixture looks a bit dry, add 1-2 tablespoons of extra water.
4. If you're at home, turn the dough over onto a lightly floured surface (like a marble or wooden countertop) and knead gently for a couple minutes until smooth. If you're camping, you can knead the dough in the large bowl, just make sure the bowl is lightly floured so it doesn't stick to the bowl.
How to Knead Dough:Do not over knead the dough as you will damage the gluten molecules that help the damper to rise, resulting in a rock-hard loaf. Over kneaded dough will feel 'tight' and tough, and it won't stretch when you try to roll it out.
A well-kneaded dough should be stretchy, elastic and will bounce back when poked. You can tell if it's underworked as it will be floppy and loose, it won't form a ball easily and tears when you try to roll it out. This is because the protein molecules in the self raising flour haven't formed properly enough to create gluten. Underworked dough will result in a flat looking loaf with a dense texture.
Kneading the dough on a lightly floured surface. Courtesy of Shutterstock (Chatham172), 2021.
5.Once smooth, roughly shape the dough into a disc shape and place onto a baking tray lined with non stick baking paper. If you're camping, roughly shape your damper into a disc shape about the same size as your cast iron pot and place the damper into the lightly oiled pot.
6. Using a sharp knife, with a bit of self raising flour on it, give the damper a score across the top. Do this by making a few slits on the very top of the damper with the knife. Scoring is important because it allows the build-up of carbon dioxide from the yeast to release properly when the damper is baking.
7. Dust the top of the damper with a little bit of self raising flour and the remaining Wattleseed and Saltbush. If you're using a camp oven, put the lid on the cast iron pot and place it in the middle of the bed of gently glowing hot wood coals. With a shovel, push the hot wood coals up around the sides of the entire pot so it cooks evenly, and shovel some coals on top of the pot. Bake the damper in the pot over your camp oven for about 30-35 minutes, or until the loaf is golden brown.
Kakadu Plum Co’s Milled Saltbush. Courtesy of Yarn, 2021.8. At home, take the damper out of the oven, and place it onto a wire rack to cool slightly for 5-10 minutes. If you're camping, take your pot off of the camp oven and take the damper out to cool for 5-10 minutes.
Recipe adapted from Coles, One Pot Chef Show and Greener Spaces Better Places.
What do you serve damper with?
Using a sharp knife, preferably serrated, cut the damper into thick slices. The damper will have a nice, crunchy crust with a soft, spongy inner. For a tastier result, serve warm, lathering with butter and your favourite spread. Your kids will also love this damper recipe for breakfast or school lunches with some good old butter and Vegemite or strawberry jam. Damper is also perfect for accompanying soup or a roast meal with vegetables.
How long does damper last?
Make sure the bread has completely cooled before storing it. To prevent the bread from going stale, wrap it up in some cling wrap or store it in some snap-lock bags. The damper is best consumed within a couple of days.