Hardtack is one of the survival foods of the American frontier. Movies and television often portray hardtack as being a bad-tasting, tooth breaking assault on the taste buds, but this is not at all true. This being said, traditional hardtack is nothing to write home about taste-wise. It is basically made of flour, salt, and water; mixed into a dough, rolled out, and baked. Simple to make, full of carbs, but not very tasty. The recipe that I am giving you here adds just four simple ingredients that make a world of difference in the taste of the final product. It’s so good, that if I lived in Beverly Hills, I’d call these handmade artisan-bread crackers; but, I live in the backwoods of East Texas so I guess I’ll just call it hardtack. Here’s the recipe:
1 ½ cups of all-purpose or whole wheat flour
1 cup quick oats oatmeal (not instant)
1 teaspoon of salt
¾ teaspoon of baking soda
¼ cup of sugar
1/3 cup of vegetable shortening, lard, or oil
¾ cup of warm water
In a mixing bowl combine the flour, oats, salt baking soda, and sugar and mix thoroughly
Add the shortening and cut it into the dry ingredients
Add the warm water and stir the mixture until you have a uniform dough.
The dough will probably be pretty sticky at this point. Sprinkle it with small amounts of flour as you kneed the dough. Keep adding flour until the dough no longer sticks to your fingers.
Divide the dough into two balls and set it aside.
Sprinkle your cutting board with flour and rub flour on your rolling pin.
Place one ball of dough on the cutting board, sprinkle flour on top of it, and roll the dough out thin; about an eighth of and inch thick.
Use the bumpy side of a meat tenderizing mallet to press indentions into the dough. If you dip the head of the mallet into flour after every third of fourth use, it will keep the head of the mallet from sticking to the dough. If you don’t have a mallet, use a fork to poke indentions into the dough. These aren’t just for looks. They help the cracker cook evenly inside and out.
Now take a pizza cutter, or just a regular knife, and cut out your crackers. I make mine about two inches square.
Place the squares of dough on a lightly greased baking sheet and bake at 375 degrees F. until the crackers are golden brown. On my old stove this is 18 minutes, but I’d start checking at 15 minutes if I were you. Meanwhile you can roll out and prepare the other ball of dough for baking.
Take the hardtack out of the oven and let it cool.
You’re now ready to bag it up and hit the trail, or if you’re in Beverly Hills, you’re ready to grate some sweet onion and break out the Beluga caviar. So happy trails or bon appetite, whichever is appropriate.