Friday, May 27, 2016

Damper: National Quick-Bread of Australia

Some recipes are too easy not to make. Damper is one of them.

Damper, a cross between a scone and a biscuit, is the official and national bread of Australia. Unlike an Irish soda bread which uses buttermilk as the leavening agent, damper simply uses self-rising flour. Loaves were baked by ranchers in the outback in cast-iron Dutch ovens over wood-stoked embers. Lacking a camp, my bread in the oven baked to a moist, tender crumb and nice crust.

This recipe makes a small loaf and is perfect for two to four people. I found it a bit on the salty side; so, next time, I will omit the salt since the self-rising flour has plenty. I will add a bit of sugar, instead.

Authentic damper used water, but any liquid may be used, including beer or milk. Butter was never used, but a dollop or two does wonders for the texture. I suppose one could also use a drizzle of olive oil, instead. Or lard.

Slather it in butter. Or honey. Or jam. Even maple syrup. Scrummy!

My mistake here was that I did not flatten the dough into a six or seven-inch disk as instructed. Instead, I baked it as a sphere. No problem. It was perfectly done in the center and not at all doughy. It just took a few minutes longer in the oven. I used a convection oven at 370 degrees Fahrenheit and turned it up a wee bit the last few minutes to get a rosy crust on all the nicely risen tips. It is done when it sounds hollow when tapped on the underside.

Next time, like Southern biscuits, I may brush it with melted butter as soon as it comes out of the oven to tenderize the crust.

This is the kind of recipe that, like my great Uncle used to say, "excites the imagination." I'm thinking of a loaf with lemon zest, chopped rosemary and golden raisins. Or, certainly, a handful of grated hard cheese, chopped chives, and a bit of onion and bacon! Or Greek olives and dried tomatoes.

Yes, I did weigh the ingredients. So should you. How many times have you told yourself you were going to invest in a scale? Ah haaaaaaa....

Best to keep the dough a bit on the wet side. You can always add more flour as you knead it.

  • 250 grams self-rising flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt (optional) or
  • 2 teaspoons white sugar or brown sugar depending on taste
  • 25 grams unsalted cold butter (a good heaping tablespoon or so)
  • 175 mls. tepid water (begin with 2/3 cup .... )

In a medium bowl, add flour salt and/or sugar. Whisk to combine ingredients.

Using fingertips, grind/sift butter into flour mixture.

Add water beginning with about 2/3 cup. Stir with a knife or spoon. Add a tablespoon or more if necessary.

Place dough on floured surface. Knead for 2-3 minutes until it becomes elastic. Form into a neat ball. Pinch underside to form a nice seam .... or

Flatten into a round, about 6.5 inches or so.

Place on a greased baking tray. Using a sharp knife or serrated knife, lightly score into quarters (about one-quarter-inch deep. Brush with milk or butter (optional).

Bake in a 375 F. oven for about 30 minutes or until when tapped it sounds hollow.

Best eaten warm; but, cold ... not at all bad.

You don't need those refrigerated rolls or biscuits! Terrific with soups and stews!