How to Make Traditional Australian Damper Bread

When I went to the King of the Ranges Competition, while I was in Australia recently, I watched two men making damper bread (see left). In case you are wondering what damper is, it's an unleavened bread that the drovers used to bake, in the early days, while on the move with their cattle in the outback. (I dare say the swag-men made it too, as they camped by their billabongs.)

The dough is mixed in a bowl, and then turned out onto a flat surface to shape into a flat round.

The original ingredients of damper were just flour, water and salt, and sometimes milk. This was kneaded together to make a dough-like consistency, and then cooked in a camp oven (similar to a Dutch oven) over hot coals from a fire. The bread was then eaten with meat, or smothered in golden syrup.

The damper bread dough is in the camp oven, which is standing on the hot coals. 
Here you can see the lid being put on, it is covered in coals to ensure even baking.

Sometimes the men were too hungry to wait for the loaf to be cooked in this way, so they devised a quicker method. They simply wrapped the dough around a stick and held it in the fire to cook, rather like toasting marshmallows. They called these “Teddy Dumbbells”, and filled the hole left by the stick with jam or syrup.

Taking the lid off the camp oven. It is very hot. He is standing on hot coals, 
notice the thick soles to his boots!

Damper is still made today in Australia, and is especially popular at barbecues. Today's damper is likely to be made with self raising flour, and have added extras. like nuts, herbs,spices, fruit, or cheese. Our damper-maker told us of a friend who rolls a piece of mozzarella cheese into the centre of his, which melts into the bread as it bakes. It sounds delicious! The damper we tasted had raisins and sultanas in it.

Cutting me a slice of the finished bread.

Of course, today, damper bread is often baked in an oven. If you would like to try damper bread, here is the recipe given to me at the King of the Ranges:


4 cups self-raising flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups milk
handful of raisins and sultanas
butter, for greasing the pan
extra flour


Sift the flour and salt into a bowl.
Mix in the dried fruit and make a well in the middle of the mixture.
Pour in the milk and mix thoroughly.
Turn out onto a flat surface dusted with flour, and shape into a flattened round.
Grease the camp oven, or a round baking pan, and dust with flour.
Place dough in the camp oven or pan.
Cut a cross in the top surface of dough.
Close lid of camp oven and bake in the hot ashes of your camp fire for about forty minutes, or bake in preheated normal kitchen oven for 30 minutes at 220° C (425° F).

Elizabeth Coughlan


  1. seems a straightforward enough recipe for even me to attempt (will be first on the list if I ever get round to baking!)

  2. thats not the true damper, it was made with plain flour, water and salt. nothing else

    1. If you had read the whole blog, you would have seen the words: "The original ingredients of damper were just flour, water and salt, and sometimes milk." So I am not sure what your problem is. I suggest you read the words carefully, so you will understand why I have put in the final recipe.

    2. I find it Amazing that for the Original recipe the measurements ...
      Oven temperature..and so on.....
      Where the hell did Drivers or Swaggies carry all this on their backs ?

    3. Dear Big Fat Kahuna, At the beginning of the article, the original recipe says that the damper bread was cooked over hot coals on the ground, as in the photographs. Then, if you read down, you will see the words, "Of course, today, damper bread is often baked in an oven", then the modern day recipe is shown. So they didn't carry ovens around, as you suggest, just the basic ingredients.

    4. I make the damper and put it on top of a easy stew(casserole) and then into oven finishes of the dish and is crunchy outside and soft inside with the gray juices on the bottom :) 1 pot meal with all the veg

    5. That sounds really yummy! Thanks for sharing!

  3. Thank you for posting your article. I found it while researching camp bread. The official state bread of Texas is Pan De Campo which is almost the same as your original Recipe. I have enclosed a link if you are interested in seeing how we make "your" bread.

    1. Yes, your pan de campo recipe is almost the same, apart from the baking powder. Thank you for posting your link, I found it most interesting.


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