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Damper (food) facts for kids

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Damper
Rosemary beer damper.jpg
Damper bread
Type Soda bread
Place of origin Australia
Created by Stockmen
Main ingredients Wheat flour, water

Damper is a traditional Australian soda bread, historically prepared by early settlers, swagmen, drovers, stockmen and other travellers. The bread is different to bush bread, which has been made by Indigenous Australians for thousands of years and was traditionally made by crushing a variety of native seeds, nuts and roots, mixing into a dough, and then baking the dough in the coals of a fire. There is ongoing investigation into whether this technique of various Aboriginal peoples influenced the development of colonial-era damper, similarly cooked in the ashes of a camp fire.

Damper is a bread made from wheat-based dough. Flour and water, with some butter if available, is lightly kneaded and baked in the coals of a campfire, either directly, or within a camp oven. When cooked as smaller, individually-sized portions, these damper "bush scones", are often called "johnny cakes". It is uncertain if this name was influenced by the term for North American cornmeal bread. However, Australian johnny cakes, while often pan-fried, remain wheat-based.

Damper was utilised by stockmen who travelled in remote areas for long periods, with only basic rations of flour, sugar and tea, supplemented by whatever meat was available. The basic ingredients of damper were flour, water and sometimes milk. Baking soda or beer could be used for leavening. Damper was normally cooked in the ashes of the campfire. The ashes were flattened, and the damper was cooked there for ten minutes, often wrapped around a stick. Following this, it was covered with ashes and cooked for another 20 to 30 minutes until it sounded hollow when tapped. Alternatively, damper was cooked in a greased camp oven. Damper was eaten with dried or cooked meat or golden syrup.

Damper is an iconic Australian dish. While considered quintessentially Australian within that country, and synonymous with early European settlement and rural life there, bread making is such an ancient and widespread practice, that this form of bread baking is not unique to colonial or pre-colonial Australia. Other cultures have similar versions of hearth breads, and versions of soda breads are made in camping situations in many parts of the world, such as has been noted in New Zealand and the United Kingdom.

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