What’s In a Name?

Sometimes known as bush bread, damper is an unleavened (that means yeast-free!) bread that was noshed by Australian bushmen and explorers of yesteryear as they rambled through the Outback. Some say it got its name because it would “dampen” the appetite. Others claim the origins come from the way the way a Sydney baker “damped” his fire with ashes to preserve the coals for morning baking. Wherever the name came from, the recipe has lasted the test of time—it’s considered an Australian staple.

No Pan, No Problem

Think of this simple bread as the convenience food of the 1800s (way before 7-11 opened up). All it required was “good” flour, salt, and water or milk. It could be prepared anywhere easily, since the first two ingredients were easy to carry, and cooked quickly due to its thin disk shape.

After the dough was shaped, sometimes in a pan or on a sheepskin, it was buried and baked in the red hot coals of a fire. (Some say the explorers learned this baking technique from Australia’s Aboriginal population!) Then it was dug up, cut up, and served with dried or cooked meat, or sometimes golden syrup for a treat.

Bake It ‘Til You Make It

Sure, this all sounds appealing for someone who lived in the PAST, but didn’t they eat this stuff before the invention of flavour? And easiness? Fear not, modern camper/baker. You can impress your friends and campsite guests with a tasty modern version of this classic. Follow our instructions and you’ll be noshing delicious, fresh baked bread around the campfire in no time.

Easy Campfire Damper Bread
Makes 1 Loaf
Adapted from Adventure Dining Guide

2 1/2 cups flour
5 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1-2 tbsp. butter
1 cup water (or milk)
2 big sheets aluminium foil

  1. Get your fire going and make sure it’s got plenty of hot coals at the base.
  2. In a bowl, combine flour, baking powder, and salt, whisking to combine. Stack the sheets of aluminium foil and lightly dust with flour.
  3. Melt butter over the fire in a pot. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients in the bowl and add water(or milk) and butter.
  4. Mix and knead the ingredients together until the dough is smooth and springy to the touch, approximately 7-9 minutes. (If too sticky, dust with a little more flour.)
  5. Shape the dough into a disk about 1-2 inches thick. Seal inside foil, and place in the hot coals, burying it well.
  6. Bake for 20-25 minutes. Carefully remove the damper from the fire and check on it. It’s ready if it’s golden brown, and sounds hollow when tapped.
  7. If it sounds unbaked, carefully wrap it up again, re-bury in coals, and bake for 5-10 more minutes. (Make sure the middle is cooked by breaking off a or using a knife to check the middle!)
  8. Remove from fire and let cool for a few minutes. (Outback knowledge suggests storing damper on its side to keep it fresh and crispy!) Cut up and serve with butter, vegemite, or whatever toppings you heart desires!