Hardtack is a type of unleavened bread that is solid and was a staple of the diet for soldiers during the US Civil War. Hardtack was also popular on the sea for long journeys as it held up in conditions where traditional bread would have been ruined in short order.
Although hard, the substance was subject to being invaded by small grubs, weevils, and larva when not properly sealed. However, when properly kept hardtack can last over a half-century. In fact, US soldiers that went into the First World War were provided with hardtack made over a half-century earlier during the US Civil War.
If you are looking to create this camping favorite, the recipe is easy enough. All you need are six cups of flour and one cup of water to make traditional hardtack in five easy steps. When completed and the hardtack has cooled, you will need to wrap them if you want the hardtack to keep properly so that it does not become infested.
Preheat the Oven to 375 Degrees
A conventional oven works well. Brick ovens were used originally to cook the hardtack, but standard ovens will do the same job.
Mix the Water and Flour in a Single Bowl
Put the water in the bowl first, then slowly add in the flour while you continue to stir. When the mixture you have created becomes too thick for you to stir, it is ready to be made into hardtack.
Knead the Dough
You will have to knead the dough and roll it out until it is about a half-inch thick. It does not have to be perfect, but about a half-inch will allow for the proper baking of the hardtack itself.
Cut into Squares & Poke Holes
You’ll want to cut up the mixture into squares that are 3” x 3”. That way, they will bake evenly so that nothing is left soggy. After the squares have been made, you’ll need to use a skewer to poke holes into the mixture in order for the middle to cook as evenly as the sides. Four across and four down work well for hardtack as it will look like a large cracker when done.
Arrange & Bake for 30 Minutes on Each Side
Lay out the squares on a cookie sheet that has not been greased. Then, place it in the oven and bake for roughly 30 minutes. Then flip the squares over and bake for another 30 as this will fully cook the squares into hardtack. When ready, they will have a light brown color to them so you can pull them from the oven. Let them set for about 30 minutes and then they are ready to eat.
You can add salt to the mix for a little taste, but truthfully hardtack was often added to meals which means that it needed no additional flavor. There are other recipes for hardtack that call for extra ingredients, but if you want to stick with tradition then the recipe of six cups of flour and one cup of water will do.