Today, my dudes, we’re going to do some eatin’, and what better way to do that than through simple carbs. My mum’s going to hate this (love you, ma!).
I was thinking about something simple and easy that can be made by anyone, especially since we’re still in the middle of a pandemic. Enter the iconic Australian damper!
Traditionally made by swagmen and other travellers, damper is a bread (similar to soda bread) cooked in the ashes of a campfire and eaten with meat or, like every kid that goes on a school camp knows, with golden syrup or butter and some billy tea. I mean it’s perfect by itself, really.
All we’ll need is flour, salt, milk and butter. It’s basic. Plain or self-raising flour is fine and since I have plenty of plain flour to use, I’m going with that. Of course, any of these ingredients can be substituted and have things added to it like cheese, onion and herbs. Traditionally damper only used flour, salt and water but I’m going to sub water for milk and add butter for longer shelf life, colour and the flavour they bring. When going the water route I’ve seen some recipes also do water and olive oil (225ml water and 1 tablespoon of olive oil).
Simply combine flour and salt in a bowl then add the chilled butter and incorporate it all together by rubbing it in between your fingers and thumbs.
Next is the milk and mix it up. If using a spatula or spoon isn’t cutting it, a butterknife works really well and cutting into the mixture to start combining it all then turn it out into a floured surface and give it a little knead into a ball. Even though damper resembles a bread it doesn’t need to proof but there is debate about if it needs to be.. kneaded. There’s plenty of recipes saying you don’t need to do anything, just form it into its distinctive ball, then there’s plenty of others that say you only need max a minute, two minutes, then max five minutes until smooth. So I tried both.
Splitting the mix in half I scooped up one half, gave it a knead aka slight smooth around and popped it on a sheet pan, the other I kneaded for about a minute as this portion of dough is quite small.
With that, they baked for 30 minutes at 200C. While mine looked beautiful as I took them out, I opened one and saw that it was a little under-cooked inside, so I popped it in for 10 more minutes.
The kneaded one puffed up a little bit more than my smoothed out one yet because the smoothed one had trapped a lot of little pockets in it. When it comes to taste and texture, I found my kneaded one a tiny bit denser but nothing really different- not to say there’s aren’t huge differences when done more.. professionally?, just in my case I found that it didn’t matter if I kneaded or not. Next time I won’t actually knead, save myself some time!
Once out of the oven I should let them rest for up to an hour but I love hot bread so I’m cutting into that sucker. You can put anything on it; butter, jam, honey or golden syrup, meat pieces or slices.
3 cups flour
1 tsp salt
1 cup milk, cool or room temp works
2 tbsp butter, chilled
(wash brushed over the top can be milk, egg or butter)
- Preheat oven to 200C/400F.
- Combine flour and salt. Mix together.
- Add butter and rub mixture between fingers until it roughly resembles breadcrumbs.
- Slowly add milk and mix together.
- Turn onto a floured surface and knead until smooth or whatever (refer above).
- Place onto a tray, slice an X over the top and brush milk over the top. Bake for 30 minutes.
- Remove from oven and let it cool for however long you have the patience for, preferably until completely cooled.