Ballad to the damper
Damper is my favourite treat
With butter and jam I love to eat
You fill my tummy up to the brim
You give me energy to muster and swim
Fluffy hot from the open fire
If I said it weren’t great I’d be a liar
So Damper please don’t go a stray
Cause I love to eat you everyday
– Russell Coight
Ok, possibly not the best poem, but don’t let that put you off, damper really is a wonderful bread. Damper is an Australian institution and is the Australian version of soda bread. Although I grew up in New Zealand I first learnt to make damper on a school camping trip. You know the kind of hellish trip where you have to hike into the bush, set up camp, and survive on your own for a few days. Anyone who knows me knows that my idea of camping involves a hotel and hot and cold running water so this was not my idea of fun. I am still convinced this was the teachers’ form of revenge on unruly children…not that I was unruly….not often anyway.
Traditionally damper was only made from a couple of ingredients: flour and water. Although sometimes milk was also added, if available. This made it an ideal food for the stockmen in Australia who spent weeks at a time out in the back country all they had to do was add liquid to the flour and then cook it in the ashes of the campfire… voila (or as they would have said crikey!) there you have a loaf of very simple rustic bread.
This is a great bread to make if you are a bit daunted by using yeast because, well, there isn’t any. The raising agent is self raising flour so in actual fact it’s a bit like a large scone. Originally the bread would have been served with honey or golden syrup and a cup of billy tea. I have added rosemary and cheese to make a savoury version to have with hot soup.
Rosemary and Cheese Damper
Adapted from The Australian Women’s Weekly Sweet Old Fashioned Favourites.
Makes one loaf.
- 525gm self raising flour
- 30gm butter, chopped
- 135ml milk
- Approx 220gm water
- 4-5 rosemary stalks, (approx. 2 tablespoons), remove leaves from the stalks
- 1 tablespoon of olive oil
- 30-40gm tasty cheese, grated.
Heat the olive oil in a small saucepan or frying pan, add the rosemary and cook for a couple of minutes. Remove from heat.
Use a slotted spoon to remove the rosemary from the oil. Chop rosemary finely. Put aside for later.
Place self raising flour and butter in a mixing bowl. Rub butter and flour together until fully combined.
Add milk and water and combine. I usually use a knife and cut the flour into the liquid.
Turn the dough (which will be sticky) onto a floured bench and knead until dough is soft. You may need to add extra flour if the dough is too sticky.
Add rosemary and knead to combine.
Knead the dough into a tight ball. Place on a baking tray covered with baking paper.
Cut a cross on top of dough.
Cover the top with cheese.
Rest damper for 30 minutes.
Bake @ 210°C for approx. 30minutes. Bread should sound hollow when tapped on the bottom.