Swagmans Treat - Damper with Blackberry Jam
Damper is to Australia what Bagels are to America and Scones are to England.
Elegantly put by Wikipedia "Damper is a traditional Australian soda bread, historically prepared by swagmen, drovers, stockmen, and other travellers over hot coals"
I remember when I was in grade two, we were learning all about Australia and our culture. My dad was invited into class to introduce us all to the wonderful sounds of the didgeridoo, another parent taught us all how to make Damper, and I have been obsessed with Damper ever since. I would take it over a scone any day! but with its ingredient list consisting of just flour, butter, salt and water, it's not the most flavoursome dessert. So what ingredient could I add to it that was just as Australian to make it a kick ass dessert... Vegemite!!! I'm just kidding. Blackberries!!! Blackberries grow wild all over Australia, sure they're not native (they were introduced in the 1800's) and sure they're technically a 'weed' (invasive weed actually) but because they're everywhere, and because I grew up seeing them all over the outback, suburbia and the cities... they're Australian in my eyes.
MY TIPS FOR MASTERING THIS BAKE
#1 How much water a damper needs varies depending on the weather. For example, I required 1 whole cup of water today, it was 16 degrees Celsius. As the temperature rises, your butter will become softer and will work into the flour more, therefore you won’t require as much water to bring the dough together, in the colder weather, the butter remains solid and the water is your sole source of 'stick' for the dough.
#2 If you dough becomes sticky at any point in time, which could occur due to too much water being added, the butter melting as the dough is worked, or just due to the addition of the Jam! Simply use a desert spoon to sprinkle flour onto your damper and work it in gently. Repeat this step until your damper is once again dry to the touch.
#3 Don't overwork your damper. The damper gets it's traditionally flaky texture from tiny pockets of butter expanding and creating air pockets as it heats in the oven, if you work the butter into the dough too much your dough could become quite solid.
#4 Damper can be deceiving while baking, it may appear to be finished with it's golden crust, but before switching off your oven, turn your damper over and tap it on the base, it should sound hollow! If you'r unsure, pop it back in the oven for a little while longer, it's designed to be cooked over red hot coals, so don't be scared to form a but of a crust in order to allow it to cook through to the centre.
#5 If you would like to get fancy and carve a design, or mark out your servings into your damper dough (I usually just tear my damper apart along it's natural creases), coat a sharp knife in flour and slice into the dough, but keep it shallow! This indent will expand and become more prominent once the dough has expanded in the oven.
Be sure to send us a photo of your batch and let us know how ‘yummy’ it was!