Making Dampa in the Bush
Damper is a kink of bread, which is
baked in the hot ashes of a fire.
Early Settlers were often isolated relied on a very small group of stables which were both durable and easily transportable such as flour, tea and sugar. These were supplemented by fresh meats when available. Conventionally made bread was generally not available as established bakeries were few and far between and not many people had access to ovens.
The early settlers created their own version of bread, cooked as required on an open fire at the campsite. For this purpose, the traveler simply mixed flour with a rising agent (baking powder) and water, to produce a stiff dough that could be baked on the coals of a wood fire. In time, a variety of flour with the rising ingredient pre-mixed became available, known as "self raising" flour.
This bread became known as "damper" (perhaps because the fire was "damped" down to a moderate heat for this particular purpose). Damper is very similar to Irish Soda Bread, and probably developed from recipes brought over by Irish immigrants/convicts. This technique remains firmly embedded in the folk memory of modern Australians.
Damper is very inexpensive to make and does not require any special hardware other than a basic mixing bowl. It can be baked on an ordinary open wood fire. It is flexible in that you can make as much as you want whenever you need it and. It is also very fast to prepare. Depending on the method used in can be ready in as little as 5-10 minutes once the fire is ready.
This entry would not be complete with out the Damper recipe:
- 2 cups self-rising flour
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup milk or Beer
- 2 tespoons sugar
- 3 tablespoons butter
This bread made by bush settlers can be baked on the open fire or in a regular oven. There are as many variation for making Dampa. Some recipes suggest using beer instead of milk. Some say to wrap the dough around a stick and cook over an open fire.
Mix the flour, salt and sugar together in a bowl. Cut in the butter until fine crumbs form. Add milk or beer to make a soft dough. Knead lightly on floured board until smooth. Shape into round loaf, brush with milk or beer, and bake for 30 to 40 minutes, or until the loaf makes a hollow sound when tapped.