LONG-LIFE BISCUIT FOR EXPLORERS 15TH TO 19TH CENTURIES
•3 cups of flour
•2 cups of water
•2 teaspoons of salt
Voyagers have been creating biscuits that can be preserved since ancient times, but long-life rations really came into their own during the 15th century, when they were the primary foodstuff of explorers — although they often became contaminated with mould and insects! Hardtack remained popular until steam power superseded the age of sail.
01 Preheat the oven to gas mark 5/190 degrees Celsius/375 degrees Fahrenheit. Prepare a flat baking tray or cookie sheet, but do not grease it. Next flour a chopping board or work surface.
02 Add the water and salt to a bowl and slowly sift in the flour, stirring with a palette or butter knife until the mixture thickens too much to stir.
03 Draw the dough together with your fingertips until it forms a rough ball shape. Turn out onto your floured surface and knead for five to ten minutes until the dough is firm but elastic.
04 Dust a rolling pin with flour and roll the dough out until it is around a centimetre thick. Give the dough a quarter-turn after every couple of rolls to keep the shape even and to prevent it from sticking to the surface.
05 Use a sharp knife or pizza cutter to trim the edges from your dough so it forms a square or rectangle. Divide the dough into smaller squares or rectangles; alternatively use a cookie cutter.
06 Using a cocktail stick or a skewer poke rows of evenly spaced holes into the dough.
07 Put the dough shapes onto your baking tray and cook for half an hour at gas mark 5/190 degrees Celsius/375 degrees Fahrenheit.
08 After 30 minutes, take the hardtack out from the oven, flip each cracker over and then bake for another half an hour.
09 Now remove from the oven and place on a wire rack, allowing the biscuits to cool completely before eating or storing them.
10 For less historically accurate (but better-tasting) hardtack, use soda water instead of ordinary water; it will make lighter, crisper crackers, but note this will also reduce their shelf life.