I first heard about hardtack as a child when reading stories of American pioneers. In my child’s mind I pictured these rugged pioneers bouncing along in their covered wagons, each one gnawing on their own rock-hard cracker the size of a medium pizza. I also read other long-ago stories with sailors and soldiers eating hardtack for every meal.
This food that everyone ate, but nobody seemed to like, captivated me. What did hardtack taste like? Would I like it? Was it really too hard to bite or chew?
The fascination with this hard cracker stayed with me. Then I started backpacking last year and needed take-along food that wouldn’t spoil. Hardtack came to mind. Certainly there had to be a recipe for it on the Internet.
And recipes there were. Not just one, but many. Although amounts varied, the ingredients in hardtack recipes stayed the same: Flour, Salt and Water.
True to my dump-it-in cooking tendencies, my hardtack would have more than those three ingredients. And, since this would be taken on the trail I wanted it as nutritious as possible.
I used whole wheat flour in place of white, but actually measured and added the recipe’s amount of salt. Then I rummaged through my cupboards and pantry and pulled out chia seeds, soy flour, rye flour, sesame seeds, flax, and corn meal. After mixing dry ingredients together, I added the water.
Although the recipe said to roll the dough out to ½” thickness, I flattened it to ¼”. Instead of cutting the dough into 3” squares before baking, I cut it into bite size pieces–easier to eat on the trail. (This also necessitated a shorter baking time.) I used a fork to poke holes in the dough, then baked it.
A basic recipe for hardtack is given below. Try it, experiment. Have fun!
Mix together 5 cups flour (NOT self-rising), 2 cups water, and 3 teaspoons salt. The mixture will remain somewhat dry but more water can be added if needed.
Place on an ungreased baking sheet (non-stick works best) and bake at 375°F (350°F for convection oven) for 30 minutes. Remove from oven, flip over the pieces and then bake another 30 minutes.
When done baking, let it sit on cooling racks for a few days to harden and dry completely. Store in airtight containers. To eat, soak in water for about 15-20 minutes. Blot off excess water and fry with hot oil in a skillet.
Eat as is or be creative, adding: Cheese, Pancake Syrup, Sugar & Cinnamon, or Whatever.