There are a number of recipes across the Internet, so I chose one that was really old. I figured I'd start with an original recipe to get an authentic "flavor" for the stuff.
I chose a recipe from this site. I started with the Army Hardtack recipe:
Ingredients:I made up the dough with a little bit less water than suggested - about a quarter cup less. I chopped the dough ball in half to make it easier to work with -
* 4 cups flour (perferably whole wheat)
* 4 teaspoons salt
* Water (about 2 cups)
* Pre-heat oven to 375° F
* Makes about 10 pieces
Mix the flour and salt together in a bowl. Add just enough water (less than two cups) so that the mixture will stick together, producing a dough that won’t stick to hands, rolling pin or pan. Mix the dough by hand. Roll the dough out, shaping it roughly into a rectangle. Cut into the dough into squares about 3 x 3 inches and ½ inch thick.
After cutting the squares, press a pattern of four rows of four holes into each square, using a nail or other such object. Do not punch through the dough. The appearance you want is similar to that of a modern saltine cracker. Turn each square over and do the same thing to the other side.
Place the squares on an ungreased cookie sheet in the oven and bake for 30 minutes. Turn each piece over and bake for another 30 minutes. The crackers should be slightly brown on both sides.
The fresh crackers are easily broken but as they dry, they harden and assume the consistentency of fired brick.
From what I've read, getting a consistent thickness is one of the keys. I used the lid of a juice bottle as a "regulator" to gauge the thickness -
I rolled out the dough, and cut it into approximately 3 inch squares. -
I then used a large serving fork to dimple the face of each piece. This was done to the front and back of each piece -
It was then into the oven and cooking them for the prescribed time. Viola! Hardtack -
First impressions: As the recipe noted, after it dries, it is as hard as fired bricks. Holy crap! How did anyone coming across the plains in Conestoga wagons have any teeth by the end of the journey?!
I also strongly suggest making them a bit thinner. Mine were about 1/2 inch thick. After they were dried, they were impossible to break by hand.
My next batch will be about 1/4 inch thick. My guess is they will be a bit more brittle and I'll have more breakage, but at least they'll be managable. At 1/2 inch thick, these bad boys could be used as weapons!
As expected, they taste kind of like a whole wheat cracker. I'm going to try some of the other recipes with all-purpose white flour, and more salt. I'll package them in vacuum-sealed bags, and put them in my Get Home Bag. They'll be more of a stomach filler than a significant caloric addition.
To consume them in earnest, I'd envision putting them at the bottom of a bowl of soup and letting them re-hydrate before trying to eat them. Hopefully, when they're a bit thinner, they can be consumed more like a big, stiff cracker, rather than brick-o-flour.
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I'd love to hear if anyone else has made these things up. How long will they reasonably last and how do you consume them without risking dental damage?
My wife was going to bring in this batch to her 5th grade classroom, but I nixed the ideas as I was worried some kid would bite one, break a tooth, and I'd get to pay for his tooth repairs!
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