Damper bread (sometimes known as bush bread) is a traditional Australian soda bread which is cooked over a fire or in the coals. It’s become quite well known in the UK over the last few years as a staple campfire food of forest school. You’ll often see pictures of it being cooked over a fire while wrapped around sticks.
It’s a really easy food to create with simple ingredients, fun to cook over a campfire and being a bread you can add various things to it to enhance the flavour, either as ingredients or toppings.
Damper bread’s simple ingredients hark back to its origins as a food of cattlemen travelling in remote regions of the Australian bush. They used their simple rations in whatever way they could to try and create food. Therefore the main ingredients of this type of bread are flour (which was part of their rations) water and sometimes milk (from the cattle). Modern recipes (see below) sometimes contain additions or use self-raising flour to give the bread a bit of a rise.
There are many similar campfire bread recipes that have originated in different parts of the world and you’ll often hear these mentioned in the context of camping, bushcraft and forest school. The two most well known of these are Danish stick bread (Snobrød) and Bannock Bread which originated in Scotland and was brought to North America by settlers.
Is Damper Bread the same as Danish Stick Bread and Bannock Bread?
All three certainly look very similar and Danish stick bread is also a favourite of Scandinavian forest schools, but the main difference between Damper and Snobrød is that the Danish version contains yeast and Damper Bread does not. On the other hand Bannock Bread and Damper Bread are near identical although various recipes exist for both which all vary slightly, but neither contains yeast.
How do you cook it?
There are a few different ways that damper bread can be cooked in the outdoors.
Dutch oven : Shape the dough into small rolls and place inside a pre-heated dutch oven which is on a charcoal fire and then cover with hot ashes. Cook for 20-30 minutes
Wrapped around sticks : Like its Danish equivalent, this bread can be wrapped around sticks to be cooked and older children can toast it over the fire. This method doesn’t usually result in the best culinary results, but as we all know with toasting marshmallows that’s not really the point is it! Burnt on the outside and uncooked in the middle can still be a lot of fun.
In foil parcels : Wrap small dough rolls in tin foil and cook directly on hot coals. Make sure you have tongs on hand to remove the hot packages from the fire.
On a long-handled outdoor frying pan : Rolled out like flatbread and cooked directly on the frying pan which is placed on the coals (see image below)
Damper Bread Recipe
The recipe I have chosen is measured using cups as I find this the easiest method of cooking when away from home or with children. The key ingredients for damper bread are self-raising flour and milk/water everything else tends to vary from recipe to recipe.
2 cups of self-raising flour
3/4 cup of milk
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons of soft butter
Combine all ingredients in a bowl rubbing together like breadcrumbs initially and then bringing together as a big lump of dough. Allow to rest for a little time (minimum thirty minutes or as long as you’ve got) before shaping for cooking
Tips and enhancements
- Try adding shredded wild garlic leaves, olives, grated cheese or rosemary
- Wrap the bread around a hot dog on the stick
- Melt butter over the fire and add crushed garlic to dip the toasted bread in
- Fill the middle of your stick toasted bread with jam or chocolate spread
- Wrap sticks in foil before putting bread on them if the sticks are wet or muddy
- For a vegan alternative switch milk for oat milk and butter for margarine