Want to learn how to make damper? This rustic oven damper is loaded with olives and oregano. Serve it hot with butter for an irresistible starter dish.
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It’s both simple and versatile with an outback history, but what is damper, exactly? In its most basic form, damper is a bread made from wheat flour and water. Damper is classified as a soda bread, meaning that it uses chemical leaveners (like bicarb soda or baking powder, which is present in self-raising flour) instead of yeast for rising.
Damper is the perfect recipe for exploring your creativity. It makes an excellent mop for sauces and gravy, but can also be served with butter, jam, or golden syrup for a sweet treat. As for other damper ingredients, anything from chocolate chips to bacon can be added to the dough for some extra flavour, colour, and texture. This damper with parmesan cheese, olives, and herbs is perfect as a snack or for supper, especially when served warm with a drizzle of quality olive oil.
To begin making damper, preheat the oven to 200 degrees celsius and lining an ovenproof casserole pan with baking paper. You could use a baking tray, but placing the dough in the deep dish will help keep it uniform and encourage it to rise instead of spread. Thinly slice the pitted olives, grate the parmesan cheese, and chop the cold butter.
Combine the flour, polenta, and half the parmesan cheese into a large mixing bowl and season with a pinch of salt (and pepper, if you like). Give this a stir, then add the cubes of chilled butter. Pinch the butter into the dry ingredients until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Add the olives, rosemary, and oregano, and stir to combine.
Make a well in the centre of the breadcrumb mixture. Slowly pour the buttermilk into the well, using a round-bladed knife to bring the mixture together until it forms a soft and sticky dough. When no dry patches remain, turn the dough out onto a floured work surface. Knead gently until the dough is smooth, malleable, and no longer sticky.
Shape the dough into a disc the same size as your casserole pan and place it inside. Use a small, sharp knife (a paring knife works well) to score a cross into the surface of the dough. This will help prevent cracking and encourage rise while the damper cooks. Bake the damper for 45 minutes or until it sounds hollow when tapped. This simple oven damper recipe is best served warm or at room temperature, with extra rosemary sprigs and a light drizzle of olive oil.
If you wanted to take a more traditional route, you could make your damper recipe with fire.
When cooking damper in coals, you’ll need a camp oven. Cast iron works great for cooking with fire as it gets very hot and retains heat evenly. Make sure your campfire has burned down to smouldering coals; don’t put your camp oven into flames. Once you’ve made your damper dough, put it into the cold (no need to preheat) and oiled camp oven. Pop the lid on and carefully place it onto the hot coals. Use a shovel to pile more coals around and on top so that it is completely and evenly covered. Cook under the coals for 35–40 minutes (time will vary based on the heat of the coals). The campfire damper should be crusty and golden on the top and sound hollow when tapped. Be sure to check out Curtis Stone’s campfire damper for some visual instructions.
Another way to cook damper using fire is to wind long rolls of damper dough around a skewer (or a stick if you’re really going bush). Cook your damper like a marshmallow over the coals or open flames. Damper made this way will usually have a smokiness to it and possibly some charring, which offers robust flavour without adding anything beyond its basic ingredients. Your damper may be a little doughy when cooked this way, but is still tasty (and safe to eat since no eggs are used in the dough).
Damper is an Australian classic that has evolved over hundreds of years. For another great easy damper recipe to share with friends, try these cheesy damper rolls. More pull-apart bread options include this 3-cheese and herb monkey bread and this bread wreath.