How to Make Damper – Your Guide to Making Australia’s Most Loved Campfire Food
Author: Tentworld Date Posted:27 August 2019
Traditional campers can’t imagine a trip to the great outdoors without damper. Here you’ll learn how to cook it in all sorts of ways.
Once a staple food of Australian bushmen, damper is one of the most famous camping meals today. If you haven’t had a chance to make it yourself, you must’ve at least tried it. It’s super easy to make and you can add all kinds of flavours to your taste.
So, if you ever wondered how to make traditional "bush bread" while camping, this guide will show you how simple it is. We’ll go over some of the most popular variations of this meal so that you can choose one that sounds the most appealing.
How to Make a Damper in a Camp Oven
Let’s start with the basics. In this section, you’ll see how to make it with plain flour and water using just your camp oven. If you own one, you already know that you can use it to make all sorts of delicious camping foods. Better yet, the cooking can be very enjoyable.
For this type of damper, you’ll only need two cups of self-rising flour and water. If you wish, you can also add a pinch of salt for more taste.
Here’s what the preparation looks like:
- Add two cups of flour in a large bowl along with a pinch of salt (optional).
- Slowly pour water into the bowl until the ingredients start to form a dough.
- Using your hands, gently cup the dough until you get the round bread shape. Make sure not to knead the dough but slowly cup it with your hands.
- Cover a lightly floured trivet with foil and put the dough on it. Put the lid on your camp oven.
- Cook for 20-25 minutes. The damper is well-cooked if tapping on it makes a hollow noise.
And there you have it! In 30 minutes or less, you can have a delicious loaf of damper that will make camping even more enjoyable.
How to Cook Damper without a Camp Oven
If you don’t own a camp oven, you should learn how to make damper on a campfire directly. The good news is that this is a rather simple thing to do. You’ll just need more ingredients than if you’re to cook it in a camp oven.
Here’s what you’ll need:
- 1 cup self-rising flour
- 1 tsp sugar
- 1 tbsp butter
- 3/4 cup milk
- Salt to taste
And here’s how to prepare it:
- Put the flour in a large bowl and then rub the butter in it with your fingers until it looks like breadcrumbs.
- Add the sugar and salt, and then slowly add the milk until the mixture turns into a dough.
- Split the dough into pieces the size of slightly bigger golf balls. When you’re done, roll each of the pieces to form the shape of a snake.
- Wrap each ‘snake’ around a clean stick. It’s better to use green sticks as the moisture will make the stick more durable above the fire.
- Hold a stick over the campfire and cook until the bread is golden-brown. Set it aside to cool and eat with your favourite topping. Repeat for the rest.
Not only will you be getting some delicious pieces of bread, but it can also be a lot of fun for everyone involved. Since you’re cooking the bush bread directly over a campfire, it shouldn’t take long at all.
How to Make Damper in Foil
For those of you who are willing to experiment a bit, here’s how to make damper using aluminium foil. For this option, we’ll use a damper recipe that will satisfy your sweet tooth. Here’s what it looks like:
- 2-1/2 cup flour
- 5 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp sugar
- 1 tbsp coconut oil
- 1 cup milk
- 1 cup dried cranberries
- 2 large sheets of aluminium foil
- Start a roaring fire with a large base of hot coals (scroll down to see how to make a great campfire).
- Melt the coconut oil in a pot over the fire.
- Lightly dust the aluminium foil sheets with flour and stack them on top of one another.
- Mix the rest of the flour, salt, sugar, and baking powder in a large bowl. As soon as the coconut oil has melted, add it to the mixture along with the milk.
- Add the dried cranberries into the bowl and kneed the whole mixture with your hands. When you notice the dough become springy, remove it from the bowl and set it on the aluminium foil sheet.
- Seal the dough inside the foil and then bury it deep in the campfire’s hot coals. Cover with more coals and light the fire around the damper.
- Cook for about 20 minutes before removing the foil and opening it to see if the it is well-cooked. If you notice a crispy crust, it means that it is almost ready. If not, leave it in the coals for a bit longer. When you notice it’s almost done, move it to the top of the fire and cook for another 5-10 minutes.
- If you see a crispy shell all around, break off or cut out a small piece to see if the inside is well-cooked.
- When the damper is ready, remove it from the fire and set it aside and let it cool to a comfortable temperature. Break it apart and serve with a topping of your choice.
If you ever wondered how to cook damper without a camp oven, aluminium foil and fire can be a great replacement. Keep in mind that you can also make it in your oven at home by baking the aluminium foil in it. But perhaps you’ll find it to be a lot more fun to cook it outdoors.
Now that you know how to make damper in a few different ways, let’s try to answer a few common questions about this delicious meal.
Is damper the same as bread?
Many people mistakenly refer to damper as ‘damper bread’. That’s because a loaf of damper looks exactly like a classic homemade bread. But here’s a fun fact for all the tradition enthusiasts out there – the other name for damper is soda bread. It is technically bread but the recipes don’t require yeast, so the texture is different than most types of bread. But with the use of self-rising flour, it’s nowhere as flat as unleavened bread either.
What’s the best topping or spread to use ?
The beauty of damper is that you can eat it with pretty much any topping. You can be as creative as you want with the additional ingredients. You can go from a basic two-ingredient recipe to one that’s filled with all kinds of tasty ingredients or with ready to eat camping food.
How to make damper with a perfect crust?
If you’re using your home oven, it’s easy to control the temperature and get that perfect crust. However, this is tougher with a camp oven, as it often retains moisture. However, you can get rid of moisture by placing a piece of wire under the lid of your oven to crack it open a little.
Should you preheat your camp oven?
It’s generally better not to preheat your camp oven. Unless you’re an experienced cook, this might burn the crust and leave the inside of the damper undercooked.
How long does it take for damper to go stale?
If you’re camping for a few days, it’s not a good idea to rely on one batch for too long. Without any preservatives, it will go stale very quickly. So your safest bet would be to make one loaf every day.
How long does it take to cook?
As described, once you have your ingredients, it shouldn’t take longer than 30 minutes. Cooking over an open fire is even quicker. Always check the crust for a golden-brown colour and the inside for doneness before you leave your damper to cool down.
How big should your campfire be?
Unless you’re cooking directly over the fire, the size of the campfire is not a concern, as long as you can make sure that there’s enough hot coal. And if you cook without a camp oven or foil, you’ll want to make a fire that will burn long enough to cook through the damper. Ready to start a campfire?
How to Build a Campfire
Unless you’re an experienced camper, you’ll want to do everything by the book until you get a hang of how everything works.
To build a safe and long-lasting campfire that you can use to cook damper and other meals, follow these steps:
- Choose the right spot – A campfire should be at least 3m away from your tent, supplies, and anything flammable. It would be best if you can protect the fire from wind altogether to avoid the risk of it spreading. In addition, you’ll want to find a flat surface to prevent any cinders from rolling over.
- Make the fire bed – In some cases, your camping site will have designated fire pits. But if it doesn’t, try to look for existing fire beds whenever you can. If there isn’t any, make your own on exposed earth, making sure that there isn’t any grass around, especially dried blades and stalks. If you can’t find any such areas around where you’re at, you can put in some manual labour instead. Pull out and remove all plants or pile some dirt on a platform that you’ll use as a fire bed.
- Make a ring of rocks – The idea is to have a ring of rocks that can contain the fire. Gather some dry rocks and use them to form a circle making sure to leave a little space in between rocks. This will allow air to circulate through the bottom of your fire.
- Gather the right wood – Look for only fully dried wood. Anything that’s green, wet, or unsnappable won’t do. It’s always a good idea to gather more tinder than you think you’ll need. It burns very quickly so you’ll want to have enough of it to light the kindling. Once it does, you’ll use logs to get the fire going.
- Lay the fire – There are numerous ways to lay your fire, but most people go with the standard tepee setup. Put a bundle of tinder in the centre and build a tepee out of your kindling. Make sure to leave enough space for air to flow through. Besides the kindling, also add a few smaller branches of fuel wood.
- Light the fire – The best way to light the fire is to light the tinder in the middle. After that, all you have to do is slowly build up your fire with fuel trees. Always start with small branches and work your way up to prevent large logs from putting out the fire.
And that’s it! Once the fire starts up, you can choose to make the bread either directly on it or by way of your camp oven or pieces of aluminium foil. Before you leave the ground, put out the fire slowly and double-check to make sure there are no cinders left.
Give It a Shot
Now that you know how to make damper in a number of ways, what’s stopping you from trying it?
We went over how to make damper on a fire, camp oven, and foil.
Unless you’re looking for that traditional taste, why not experiment with different flavours and toppings? With some practice, you’ll master the art of making delicious bush bread like in the old days.