Hardtack (Ship’s Biscuits)
“Seasons go and seasons come steady as the beating drum.” Isn’t that the truth? I can’t believe we’re entering another season already! Time just keeps pushing us along, leaving us to make choices and find our own paths in life. You’d think after all the times I watched Pocahontas I’d be prepped for this. Pocahontas is another one of my go-to Disney movies. It’s absolutely stunning and always makes me feel like a pile of mush by the end of it. The title character is courageous and understanding and has taught me to look just around the riverbend and to paint with all the colors of the wind.
Today I’m taking a cue from my beloved movie and being a little daring by making hardtack. Yeah, that’s got nothing on traveling to a new world or uniting different peoples, but it’s scary in its own right. This food (Does this still count as food?) has sustained many a traveler, soldier, etc. at sea and on foot so I’m curious to experience it first-hand. Plus, Meeko can’t seem to get enough of these biscuits, so they must be good right?
Recipe makes about seven 3-inch biscuits.
3 cups flour
1 1/2-2 teaspoons salt
Less than 1 cup water
Preheat oven to 250 degrees F.
In a large bowl, combine flour and salt. Gradually mix in water until the dough comes together. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and roll out to a 1/2 inch thickness. Use a cookie or biscuit cutter to cut out rounds of dough. Mine were 3 inches in diameter but you can make them any size. Place the rounds on a parchment-lined baking sheet and use a skewer or similar tool to poke a liberal amount of holes into each round.
Bake hardtack for 4 hours, turning over halfway through baking. Remove from the oven and cool completely. (If you actually want to eat one without soaking it in hot milk or something for at least 30 minutes, now would be the time because they’re still kind of soft.) Let the hardtack sit overnight to harden. Now they’re ready for anything!
Variations: Traditional hardtack was baked multiple times to extend its shelf life, so if you want to make true “molar breakers,” bake them again and let them cool completely.
There are no holes in the hardtack in the movie, so you can try making some that aren’t docked, like the one in the picture below. They get a little puffier and stay a little softer than traditional hardtack.
You can also replace the water with milk and add 2 teaspoons of sugar and 3 tablespoons of softened butter to make a tastier dough. This will result in softer hardtack that won’t keep as long.
Turns out hardtack’s not all that bad. I can say that because I’m not like the settlers aboard the Susan Constant who had nothing else to eat besides hardtack and gruel for months. But I do think it’s pretty good in a survivalist sort of way. I even embraced my inner John Smith and gave a softer one to a raccoon. (Yes, a live raccoon. It’s a long story.) She ate it, so I guess she liked it. Unsurprisingly, she’s camera shy, so I had to settle for a picture with my Meeko stuffed animal instead. (He’s the one that makes the fun raccoon noise when you squeeze him!) Playing with toys and hardtack makes me wonder if I’m really on the right path. As weird as it is, it’s the one I’ve chosen and I’m sticking to it.
Tune in next week for more Cartoon Cravings!