Damper.

PaddyL
I keep seeing recipes in Australian cookbooks for Damper.  At first I thought it was a sort of soda bread which would hardly be surprising with the number of Irish immigrants to your country, but now it appears to be more along the lines of the bannock baked by pioneers in Canada, and campers anywhere.  Why is it called Damper?
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lamp's picture
lamp 2008 October 6
That is a good question Paddy, to which I have no answer!

Traditionally, as I know it anyway, damper is made with self raising flour, water and salt (therefore it is basically a soda bread) and is either baked in a camp oven or just buried in the ash of a fire which has died right down.
PaddyL 2008 October 7
And discovered that it's called Damper because you have to 'damp down the flames' to create a place in the ashes of your fire for your bread.  It does sound a lot like our bannock, though.
JohnD's picture
JohnD 2008 October 8
Bannocks are griddle breads...ie, baked on a griddle. Damper is baked in the actual fire, or more correctly, the ashes. This technique has no recorded equivalent in Euro-anglo baking. However it was widely done by Australias original people (aborigines), and became widespread as the colonists copied this technique, but used their (Irish) soda bread mix instead of the wild seed mix the kooris used....the Irish were not as racist as the English, and freely mixed with the kooris, and intermarried. This is why so many aborigines have Irish surnames....and the technique survived.
Yep, the flames must be "damped" and hence..."Damper". The flue mechanism on a scotch wood-fired oven is similarly called a damper.
Millciti's picture
Millciti 2008 October 10

So John what is a Scotch wood fired oven? 

Just curious, if they are different from any other type. Are there any good sourdough damper recipes?

Terri
JohnD's picture
JohnD 2008 October 10

A Scotch w/f oven has a seperate firebox on the side which opens into the baking chamber.Previously all ovens were fired by burning wood directly on the sole (floor). This method is much cleaner and easier for the operators.It also has a damper or flue on the opposite side to the firebox, and the crown (ceiling) is specially shaped to make the flames return efficiently, and exit through the flue which opens to the chimney. It is a result of the industrial revolution of the 18-19th centuries, as the firebox is cast iron, as is the stock(doorway).The ovens are constructed of red brick.

All bread was baked in these ovens until world war 2, and there were numerous ovens in cities and the country. Most of these ovens were puposely and cynically demolished by the bread monopolies which took over the trade in the 1950s, in order to destroy competition. The victory of Capital over Democracy.The rest were demolished because shiny electric and gas ovens were favoured, and realtors wanted all the space for new buildings......the ovens were usually in favourable locations (obviously) which are now office space.
Scotch ovens (if u know how), bake beautiful bread, and because of their insulation are hugely energy efficient compared to elec or gas.
There are rare ones still in operation.
I reinstated them as an important cultural item in my "Natural Tucker ", "Firebrand" and Newrybar bakeries.

My ex partner David Brown still makes beautiful bread in a version of one in the Firebrand bakery, ripponlea, Melbourne.The Natural Tucker oven has been allowed to collapse, and the Newrybar oven has been left to rot by the current owners.
Millciti's picture
Millciti 2008 October 11

Thanks John, it is hard to believe that anyone could do that… Left to rot!!! What are they thinking!!!

I really am interested in Bread History, and as someone who is trying to improve nutrition, took an interest in sourdough.  I believe that along with many other food preparation processes, most of us have taken the wrong direction in how we make our bread.  It is a sad fact that many of the modern conveniences of 21st century are probably going to shorten our life spans.  Many dietary problems could be fixed if people would go back to preparing and eating real foods.

My husband and son are willing victims, err - participants in all my bread/food experiments.  Last month I lost my oven for 3 weeks after hurricane Ike came through the <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" />Midwest.  I was forced to bake my bread on my grill.  It actually worked so well, especially for baking pizza, that we are all really thinking about building an outdoor oven.  So, do you know where I could get plans and or parts for such an oven?  Would it have to be village bakery sized to work?  It really sounds wonderful, is the name because of its thriftiness or cultural heritage?
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Do you still have pictures?  Sourdough Damper?


Terri 

 


matthew 2008 October 13
Terri

Brick Ovens - primarily for bread google ovencrafters and "The Bread Builders" by Dan Wing and Alan Scott
- Forno Bravo (US website) have a number of plans for ovens styled more around Italian pizza ovens, but there are many people who use them very successfully for making bread also
- Rado Hand(?) @ traditional ovens also has designs for outdoor ovens of a similar, but different design to Alan Scott at ovencrafters.

Finally, there is a yahoo group for brick ovens where you can get much information and advice about building an outdoor brick oven.

Hope this helps.

Matthew

lamp's picture
lamp 2008 October 14
[quote=Millciti]
.... Are there any good sourdough damper recipes?

Terri
[/quote]

I'm not sure anyone has tried it Terri. The dough for a damper is fairly stiff compared to a SD because the "rise" comes from the self raising flour, and you want to be able to handle it when you put it into the fire.

I suppose if you made a low hydration SD and underproved it, it could work ;-)
Millciti's picture
Millciti 2008 October 14
Thanks guys - Matthew and Lamp!

Great info to help pursue my search from both of you.  Part of my interest is in the Tradition, or history of the bread. We went to a 1840's frontier reenactment / heritage festival in Piqua Ohio.  We would like to participate so I have been trying to find recipes that work well in a fire pit or dutch oven.  Like your aborigines,  the North American Indians are mixed into our heritage and their ways affected the methods used for cooking on the frontier trails.  

I haven't found a suitable sourdough trail biscuit yet either, they just didn't post their recipes on the web back then I guess... :)  So If you have a recipe that calls for a substance known as saleratus (baking soda) I could be headed in the right direction.  By sticking to straight sourdough I was hoping to avoid the more "modern" self rising flour recipes.   I have made some pretty stiff doughs though.

If I only make partial sense wait till tomorrow ... Mondays are my longest week day.  Work starts at 6:30 am and school ends at 8:00pm.  I am just a bit toasted right now... 

Terri

Terri

JohnD's picture
JohnD 2008 October 14
"toasted"? good one mate! lol.
 The "dough" used by the aboriginal people ( Pitjatjantjara) when they make seed damper, is actually runny. The secrets in having a perfect bed of coals with a depth of ash over them. The wet-ground batter is carefully poured from a coolamon(wooden bowl) into the ashes to make a small damper. Glowing twigs are suspended above it to toast the top.
But its correct that a stiffer dough is more successful for we regular folk, but its all in the fire being correct and the dough not being too large or thick.The ashes just brush off.
In India, sometimes you can still see chapatti (wholemeal wheat flatbreads) being made on to hot coals.
For the biscuits, use a thin active sourdough leaven as the liquid part of the bix recipe, add the soda to the flour, then mix it with leaven,  a fat (lard) , maple syrup til you have a bix texture..soft for bix/ hard for hard tack. shape or roll and cut out and let them sit for 20 mins. the sourdough acids set off the soda.Also awesome deep fried!

lamp's picture
lamp 2008 October 15
I like that idea John...I might have to try it sometime.

While working on a mine in North Queensland some years ago, we had to get cultural clearance to look for artifacts before we could dig any holes. Generally we found stone spear heads but we did come across a couple of grinding stones that were used for grinding up the seeds from spinifex grass, apparently to make damper....I never knew it was so liquid it was poured from a coolamon though. The only meal I had with the locals was a lunch of bush turkey cooked in a fire they made in a dry river bed...no damper then. ;-)

When we made damper while camping, it was always with a firm dough and it is always best eaten hot with lots of butter that melted and ran all over your fingers. :-)
Millciti's picture
Millciti 2008 October 16
Sorry I didn't get back to you yesterday.  I was all prepared with a funny reply and lost it when I cleaned my cookies out...and got logged out.

But this is exactly what I am talking about!  The real stuff, and yes hard tack was a big staple back then, not the stuff of fond memories though from what I have read.  I think that it was pretty poor tasting stale.

So this damper was kind of a pan-less pancake then.  I wonder if I can find the equivalent in Native American cooking?

As for your descriptions I am starting to feel the need to practice, butter running through... Now where did we put all those piles of branches from Ike?  Where did I put my dutch oven?
MICHAEL TURNBULL 2009 March 7
SIR I READ WITH INTEREST ABOUT THE SCOTCH OVEN I WORK IN A BAKERY IN GALASHIELS SCOTTISH BORDERS SCOTLAND IN A SMALL CRAFT BAKERY.WE HAVE A WORKING SCOTCH OVEN THAT IS THE SAME AS YOU DESCRIBE.THE OVEN IS NOW OIL FIRED WITH THE FLAME AT THE RIGHT HAND SIDE INSIDE THE OVEN AND THE DAMPER TOP LEFT.WE BAKE TRADITIONAL SCOTTISH BREAD BANNOCKS BLACKBUN CLOOTIE DUMPLINGS ETC IN THE OVEN.THE OVEN IS OVER 100 YEARS OLD AND WAS BUILT BY JAMES CRUICKSHANKS EDINBURGH BUT HAS NO DATE ON IT.THE OVEN IS LOADED WITH A TRADITIONAL PEEL AND HOLDS 24 BAKERY TINS

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