The Simple Ration
Hardtack, among the simplest of breads, and made of just flour, water, and sometimes salt, has remained popular though history due to its resistance to spoiling, very long shelf life, and ease of carrying when on the move. So long as it was kept dry, it would remain edible for years, and was therefore popular as a war ration. Though such a basic bread has been created since man discovered flour, hardtack is noted for its popularity on board ships on long voyages and as a main food ration during the American Civil War. The hardtack would be baked in large rounds, packed away in barrels, and used through out the course of the war.
As proof of hardtacks ability to last forever, there is a piece of it from 1862 in the Wentworth Museum, in Pensacola, Florida, that has been deemed "still edible."
Hardtack was traditionally made with whole wheat flour and water, and baked at fairly low temperatures til it was bone dry and hard as a brick. Salt wasn't always used, but in my opinion, it adds some much needed flavor.
This Recipe is for 2 servings, each solid and about the size of a deck of cards and rather filling. For additional servings, simply multiply the recipe.
-1 cup flour
-1/2 cup water
-1 tsp salt (optional)
Preheat oven to 350 F.
Mix the salt into the water. In a large bowl, add the flour and slowly pour in the water, mixing as you do, until a dry dough forms. (I used almost the full half cup)
On a floured surface (or in the bowl, if it is large enough) knead the dough until its firm, does not stick to your hands, and springs back when touched.
Once you have a firm, dry dough, either roll or flatten the dough out to 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick. Then use your favorite cookie cutter to cut out the dough, or simply cut it into two pieces. I used a small tupperware to cut out mine.
Place on an UNGREASED cookie sheet, and poke holes along the top with a fork. Flip it over, and do the same on that side.
Place in the oven for 30 minutes, flip them over, and cook for an additional 30 minutes.
After they're done, youll want to leave them out (or place them in an open brown paper bag) overnight, to ensure they are thoroughly dried out.
And There you have it! Your hardtack is ready to take on the trail, place into your bug out bag, keep around as a simple snack!
If you're new to making hardtack, here is a few things to keep in mind:
-You want to dry out the hardtack, not burn it. If it starts looking like its getting rather dark as you cook it, lower the temperature. Cooking it longer at a lower temperature will help ensure its thoroughly dry.
-Salt is optional, but its all the flavor that is there. If you prefer it salty, add an extra half teaspoon or so to the mix, or sprinkle it on top before you cook it, and press it into the dough a little.
-Flavoring Hardtack can be tricky. Most anything you'd use to flavor a bread or pastry will lead to the hardtack possibly spoiling faster than normal, or attracting bugs. Here is few ideas of things that will flavor your hardtack and not cause it to spoil too much aster (if at all):
~Lemon extract and honey. I have tried this recipe and it is among my favorites. You can find it here http://mikebridge.hubpages.com/hub/Flavoring-Hardtack-Lemon-Honey
~replacing the water in the recipe with coffee adds a light coffee flavor. I'm not too crazy for it, but maybe it is the type of thing you'll enjoy :)
~Cinnamon and Honey: I haven't tried this one yet, but neither ingredient will hurt the shelf life of the bread, and it is a pleasing flavor combination. I'll be trying it soon :)
~Half corn flour or half oatmeal in place of half the flour: Itll just add a little variety and varied nutrition to your hardtack. Both oatmeal and corn flour will last just fine when baked dry, and might be better suited to fit any meals you plan for your hardtack. I'll be giving them a try soon as well :)