Damper (food)

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A modern damper
Typeunleavened bread (traditionally)
Place of originAustralia
Created byStockmen
Main ingredientsWheat flour, salt, water

Damper is a thick homemade bread traditionally prepared by early European settlers in Australia.[1] It is a bread made from wheat-based dough. Flour, salt 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.[2]

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.[1] It was also a basic provision of squatters.[3] The basic ingredients of damper were flour, salt, and water.[4] Baking soda or beer could be used for leavening if available, but traditionally it was an unleavened bread. 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.[5] Alternatively, damper was cooked in a greased camp oven.[6] Damper was eaten with dried or cooked meat or golden syrup.

Damper is an iconic Australian dish.[1] Other cultures have similar versions of hearth breads, and versions of soda breads are made in camping situations in many parts of the world,[7] including New Zealand and the United Kingdom.

When cooked as smaller, individually-sized portions, these damper "bush scones" are often called "johnny cakes".[8][9][10] 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.[11][8]

The bread is different from 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 them into a dough, and then baking the dough in the coals of a fire.[12][13][14] 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.[15][16][7]

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  1. ^ a b c "The History of Australian Damper | Little Aussie Travellers". Little Aussie Travellers. 10 December 2014. Retrieved 29 December 2016.
  2. ^ "Australian food history timeline - Damper first mentioned". australianfoodtimeline.com.au. 16 September 1820. Retrieved 29 December 2016.
  3. ^ "Reviews: Australia, from Port Macquarie to Moreton Bay, &c. By Clement Hodgkinson". Simmonds's Colonial Magazine and Foreign Miscellany. Vol. 4, no. 13. Simmonds & Ward. 2 January 1845. p. 101. Retrieved 21 November 2021. [excerpt from book]: I have myself known many squatters who, ... were content to live on an unvarying course of salt beef, damper, and tea; ..
  4. ^ "Van Diemen's Land. Tasmania Lakes". The Colonial Magazine and Commercial Maritime Journal. Fisher Son, & Co. 3 (11): 363. 1 November 1840. Retrieved 21 November 2021.
  5. ^ "Damper Details". www.theoldfoodie.com. Retrieved 29 December 2016.
  6. ^ "Damper (Australian Soda Bread)". Tara's Multicultural Table. 13 July 2016. Retrieved 29 December 2016.
  7. ^ a b Newling, Jacqui; Hill, Scott. "Our daily bread | The Cook and the Curator | Sydney Living Museums". blogs.sydneylivingmuseums.com.au. Historic Houses Trust of NSW. Retrieved 14 February 2021.
  8. ^ a b The Macquarie Dictionary. St. Leonards, N.S.W.: Macquarie Library. 1981. p. 954. ISBN 0949757004.
  9. ^ Santich, Barbara. "Bold Palates, Australia's Gastronomic Heritage". www.southaustralianhistory.com.au. Retrieved 13 February 2021.
  10. ^ Eley, Talisa (23 August 2017). "Food for thought at NAIDOC Week 2017". The Source News. Griffith University School of Humanities, Languages and Social Science Journalism Media Centre. Retrieved 13 February 2021.
  11. ^ Morris, Edward Ellis (1898). Austral English: A Dictionary of Australasian Words, Phrases, and Usages, with Those Aboriginal-Australian and Maori Words which Have Become Incorporated in the Language and the Commoner Scientific Words that Have Had Their Origin in Australasia. Macmillan. p. 253.
  12. ^ Pascoe, Bruce (2018). Dark Emu : Aboriginal Australia and the birth of agriculture. Broome, Western Australia. ISBN 9781921248016.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: location missing publisher (link)
  13. ^ Wroth, David (August 2020). "Damper Seed - Aboriginal Art Stories - Japingka Gallery". Japingka Aboriginal Art Gallery. Retrieved 8 September 2020. Millstones for grinding seeds into flour have been discovered, which have been dated to 50,000 years old.
  14. ^ Florek, Stan (5 August 2014). "Food Culture: Aboriginal Bread". The Australian Museum. Retrieved 13 February 2021.
  15. ^ Behrendt, Larissa (22 September 2016). "Indigenous Australians know we're the oldest living culture – it's in our Dreamtime | Larissa Behrendt". The Guardian. Retrieved 14 February 2021.
  16. ^ "Australian Aboriginal people were baking bread and farming grain 20,000 years before Egypt | ARCHAEOLOGY WORLD". Archaeology World. May 2020. Retrieved 14 February 2021.

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