This week’s Great British Bake Off was all about bread, something I have a love/hate relationship with when it comes to baking it.
I used to love baking bread and wasn’t too bad at it, then came a period where it never seemed to go right. The only bread I tend to make at the moment are these bread rolls which are super easy and very slightly adapted from my friend Barbara’s recipe. If you’re at all interested in baking bread you must check our her wonderful blog all about bread and things that accompany it.
I tried to face my bread demons with an attempt at baking an amazingly pink beetroot bread. What I learnt was I must always check the type of yeast I’m using and how it’s meant to be activated! My bread was a fabulous colour but didn’t rise properly and so didn’t cook properly.
I wasn’t sure I’d manage to try some more bread as we’re going on holidays at the weekend, so there’s the usual pre-holiday panic of packing and getting on top of work. But when I was putting away the Aussie herbs and spices hubby brought back from a business trip quite a while ago, the jar of saltbush caught my eye, in particular when I read the label explaining its use in damper.
Damper is a traditional Australian bread, typically baked in the coals of a campfire and gets its name because the fire is damped to then cook the bread amongst the hot coals. Damper can also be wrapped around a stick and cooked over a fire.
Originally made by stockman who might be in the outback for weeks or months with only basic provisions, it consisted simply of flour and water without any raising agent. Now people tend to use self-raising flour or add baking powder, as well as add butter and milk to the dough.
Saltbush is a very hardy long-living shrub that doesn’t mind droughts and is very common in the dry inland of Australia. As its name suggests, its dried leaves have a salty ‘herby’ taste which were used in the past along with the ground roasted seeds by indigenous Australians mainly to flavour damper.
I decided to do a dairy-free take on a modern damper recipe using the saltbush for an authentic outback flavour.
AUSSIE SALTBUSH DAMPER
Prep time: 10 mins
Cook time: 30-35 mins
Makes 8 servings
250g plain self-raising flour
200g wholemeal self-raising flour
2 tsp saltbush
1 tsp salt
100ml oil (I used extra virgin olive oil)
300ml cold water
1/4 tsp saltbush, extra
Heat the oven to 200C and line an oven tray with baking paper.
In a food processor, combine the plain and wholemeal flours, saltbush, salt and oil until the oil is fairly evenly distributed.
With the motor running, pour in the water a little at a time until the dough has just come together in a ball (you might not need all the water).
Tip the dough out onto a floured surface and very briefly knead (about 1 minute) then form into a round shape.
Place the dough onto your prepared tray. Dip a sharp knife into flour and score the top in a star pattern to create 8 wedges. Sprinkle the extra saltbush over the top.
Bake for 30-35 minutes until lightly golden and when you tap the bottom it sounds hollow.
Cool on a wire rack for a few minutes.
- omit the saltbush (difficult to get outside Australia) and replace with chopped fresh rosemary
- sprinkle with Parmesan before baking
- add chunks of cheese to the dough when kneading for a cheesy damper
- use beer instead of the water to get a yeasty flavour
- use your hands instead of the food processor to mix the dough (great for little ones to get involved)
Please share some of your easy/foolproof bread recipes so I can beat my bread demon!