When it comes to cooking, there is nothing more Australian than putting alcohol where it wasn’t originally supposed to go. Presenting Beer Damper – an adult twist on a great Australian recipe! We show you how to make this delicious bush delicacy in time for your next camping trip.
Originally made by roaming stockmen, drovers and swagmen, damper is a simple wheat-based bread created from three basic ingredients: flour, salt and water. It was inspired by Aboriginal ‘bush bread’ and the recipe hasn’t strayed too far from the original over the years.
That being said, us humans are curious creatures and began experimenting with the classic recipe. After many failed attempts, some genius (who may have had a couple at the time) decided to replace the water with their beer.
‘Madness’, you may be thinking. ‘That would taste horrible. Who wants beer flavoured bread?’ Well, as we have learned through cooking it ourselves, Beer Damper has fast become a favourite amongst the team!
So in an effort to find the best recipe, we tried a few different variations using different beers and ingredients in the recipe.
Here’s what we came up with…
- Camp Oven and Fire Pit or household oven (depending where you’re cooking)
- Utensils to handle a hot camp oven (if using one) and to prepare the dough
- Large bowl
- Flat surface to knead dough on (like a chopping board)
Discover more: Camp Cooking 101: your recipe for success
These are the basic ingredients we recommend. For variations and substitutions on the recipe, see after the ‘method’ section.
- 3 Cups of Self-Raising Flour
- 1 Pinch of Salt (roughly the same as a teaspoon)
- 375ml of your favourite Beer
Beer Damper Recipe Method
- Preheat your oven at home to 200 degrees or 180 degrees if it’s fan-forced. If you are cooking it in the great outdoors, begin preparing your campfire and pre-heating the camp oven for cooking.
- Combine the flour and salt in a bowl. Loosely stir together.
- Make a fist-sized well in the centre of the mixture.
- Pour about three-quarters of your beer into the well and begin to combine with your hands or spoon. The ideal mixture is one that is soft and sticky but doesn’t overly stick to the sides of the bowl. Add the remaining beer if needed or just drink it yourself.
- Place the dough on a lightly floured surface and knead gently for a few minutes. Be careful not to over knead the dough, as the damper may lose some of its consistency when baked.
You can now divide up the damper into smaller pieces or keep it as one big loaf.
Home Oven Cooking
If you are making this at home, simply place the dough on a tray lined with baking paper and leave it in the oven for 30 to 40 minutes. We suggest checking on it at the 30-minute mark and cooking for a little bit longer if necessary.
You’ll know the beer damper is cooked through when you hear a hollow sound when tapped. Alternatively, you can skewer the centre of the dough and if it comes out clean it is done.
Camp Oven Cooking
If you are cooking this in a camp oven, you will need to grease and dust the inside with flour before putting the dough in or put the dough in greased foil inside the oven instead. Once done, place the dough inside and cook with the lid on. You don’t want to cook it over the flames, as that will just cook the outside. Instead, put the camp oven over the coals of your fire with a few placed on top for good measure.
Check on the beer damper after 20 minutes to see how it’s going. It typically takes 30 to 35 minutes to cook in a camp oven. To see if it’s ready, either tap on it to see if it makes a hollow sound or skewer it and see if the knife comes out clean.
Serving the Beer Damper
Traditionally, a damper is served with either butter or golden syrup. However, jam, cream, hazelnut spread, peanut butter and maple syrup are all good alternatives. You can even cut your beer damper up and eat them like a scone or use it as a substitute for sandwich bread.
Variations and Beer Damper Recipe Substitutions
- 1 tablespoon of caster sugar: can be added during the second step if you want to make your beer damper sweeter.
- Plain flour and baking powder: can be substituted for self-raising flour at the same ratio. Add one teaspoon of baking powder for every one cup of plain flour.
- 2 or 3 tablespoons of butter: will give the cooked beer damper a lighter texture. If doing so, you will need to hand-rub the butter into the flour and salt mixture before you add the beer.
- Milk or water: can be used to substitute half of the beer if needed. For example, if you put in 180ml of beer, you’ll need 180ml of milk or water.
- Brushing the top: can also be done with either milk or water if you really want that perfectly golden crust.
- Other alcoholic beverages: including cider will also work in-place of beer. We didn’t try adding any pre-mixed drinks into the damper, so that might be something you may want to try yourself!
- Additional seasoning: such as grated parmesan, chives, spring onion, bacon bits, garlic, cheese slices, dried herbs, sundried tomatoes and sesame seeds can all be added to give your beer damper some extra flavour.
- Scoring the top: can also be done prior to baking if you want the dough to rise a certain way.
- Other cooking methods: such as putting the beer damper dough in foil and chucking it straight on the coals, or putting the dough on a green stick and roasting it like a marshmallow are also other ways to cook it.
In our experiment, we decided to make two versions of the Beer Damper. One with the basic ingredients and a filtered beer (we used an Asahi Super Dry). The second contained a few of the variations we discussed above, including added caster sugar, butter, brushed milk crust, scored the top and an unfiltered beer (we used Gage Roads Break Water Australian Pale Ale).
The original recipe tastes very similar to the damper we grew up with, just with a very slight beer aftertaste. It’s slightly more dense than the ‘added variations recipe’ and a little bit more crumbly.
Added variations recipe
The unfiltered beer gives a slightly more obvious beer aftertaste to the bread, although still not overpoweringly strong. The added butter and sugar made the dough lighter and fluffier, similar to a household loaf of white bread. The milk brushing and scoring on top made the crust golden brown and easy to pull apart.
See, we told you it would be a hit! Just try to save some for yourself before everyone else grabs a piece.
When we do it again, we are going to add in some extra seasonings to the Beer Damper such as bacon and cheese. Although the added butter and sugar isn’t needed to make great Beer Damper, we believe it improves the recipe ever so slightly if you can fit those extras into your hiking pack or car.
Keep in mind that Beer Damper will go stale quicker than other types of bread due to lack of preservatives in the recipe. However, since it’s made from such basic household ingredients, it can be easily cooked every few days where needed.
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