|Place of origin||Australia|
|Region or state||Aboriginal culture|
|Main ingredients||Wheat flour, salt, water|
Damper is a thick homemade soda bread traditionally prepared by early European Settlers in Australia. 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, 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. 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. It was also a basic provision of squatters. The basic ingredients of damper were flour, salt, and water. 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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- Pascoe, Bruce (2018). Dark Emu : Aboriginal Australia and the birth of agriculture. Broome, Western Australia. ISBN 9781921248016.
- 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.
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- 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.
- "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; ..
- "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.
- "Damper Details". www.theoldfoodie.com. Retrieved 29 December 2016.
- "Damper (Australian Soda Bread)". Tara's Multicultural Table. 13 July 2016. Retrieved 29 December 2016.
- Hayward, Tim (2020). Loaf Story A Love-Letter to Bread, with Recipes. London: Quadrille Publishing, Limited. ISBN 9781787134782.
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