Expedition To Australia II: Breads And Sweets, Mate!

When the rest of the world thinks of Australia, there’s a lingering concept of ‘the outback’ that pervades the whole picture. Even today, Australia is thought of as a land of rugged ranchers and intrepid outdoorsmen, and its traditional breads echo that image in simplicity and heartiness…

Damper Bread - © BBC.comAussie Damper Bread: The national traditional bread…

Australians – especially those in urban areas – consume a lot of the kind of same bread the rest of the world runs on: Plain, white wheat-flour slices. But all over the country, traditions persist in the making and enjoyment of classically Australian loaves – some daily breads and others special-occasion sweet doughs. And as we’ll discover, breads native to neighbouring New Zealand are also beloved in Aus…

On our menu today

Damper: A classic Australian rustic bread, using only flour, water and salt. Without leavening, it’s pretty dense and heavy. Many folks who make it today often add some baking powder to make it lighter and more palatable. It was originally baked in the coals of a campfire out in the bush. ‘Damper’ is said to refer to the practice of ‘damping down’ a fire by covering it with ashes, reducing it to glowing embers.

Rawena: A popular New Zealand bread enjoyed across Oceania. A traditional Maori sourdough bread, using potatoes and a starter called ‘bug’. The potatoes must be floury, like Russets, and the starter must be carefully made and allowed to mature over three days.

Rawena Bread - © Tamara West - NZ Herald

The dough must be left at least 2 hours to rise before baking. A unique finish is imparted by brushing the top with melted butter and sprinkling with powdered sugar just before the end of baking.

Takaku Bread: Also known as ‘Cartwheel Bread’ for the radiating surface cuts on its top. This is perhaps the simplest of the Aus/NZ breads, requiring only flour, salt and water. But (like Damper) folks now-a-days often add baking powder to producer a lighter, softer loaf.

Boston Bun: A sweet bun beloved by all in Aus and NZ. The recipe – like most Aussie breads – is simple: Mashed potatoes, self-rising flour, sugar, milk and mixed fruit.

Boston Bun - © taseatlas.com


You can, or course, use regular flour and baking powder if you don’t have self-raising. This quick-bread recipe is rich and moist, and is customarily topped with a thick layer of coconut icing. A classic dessert or snack.

Desserts and Sweets

Lamington: The official national cake of Australia. A buttery yellow sponge cake dipped in chocolate icing and coated in shredded coconut. A two-later version is stuffed with vanilla frosting , topped with chocolate frosting and dusted with coconut. It’s found in literally every bakery in the country.

Anzac Biscuits: The equivalent of hard tack, developed for the Australia and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) in the First World War. It’s a mix of oats, flour, golden syrup, sugar, butter, baking soda, water, and desiccated coconut.

ANZAC Biscuits - © carolinescooking.com

And it has an amazingly long shelf-life. This biscuit is definitely a ‘biscuit’, not a cookie, and the NZ government has even passed a law protecting the name and recipe.

Fairy Bread: A beloved dessert specialty that no kid’s birthday party can be without. It’s simply slices of bread (whatever kind of ‘plain’ bread you want) smeared with lots of butter and sprinkled with multi-coloured cake decorating sprinkles. Easy enough that the kids can make it themselves! But folks of all ages love it.

Caramel Slice: Australians love their squares! North Americans will note the shocking similarity to the famous Nanaimo Bar. This one features a thick shortbread base topped with a rich caramel pudding/cream, and frosted with hard, dark chocolate. So sweet, it’s best served cold, when the flavour is subdued a bit…

Jelly Slice: A three-layer square composed of a biscuit bottom crust, a cream layer and a jelly dessert top. Sometimes studded with the fruit with which the jelly is flavoured.

Jelly Slice - © cookingwithnanaling.com

The most popular flavours are strawberry (red) and mango (orange or yellow).

No shortage of breads and sweets!

In fact, when I was researching this post, I ran across a web page titled: ‘67 Desserts To Make Us Proud to Be Australian‘. Visit it at your leisure! Tomorrow, we’ll sit down at the bar and sample some classic Australian beverages…

~ Maggie J.