Hard Tack Biscuits

With the Sweden canoe trip fast approaching I wanted to make some traditional style food to take along with me. One of the items I am taking is hard tack biscuits, you may have heard of these as a sailor’s worst nightmare as on long sea voyages they were among some of the only food stuff not to spoil. Now when I said they didn’t spoil, they didn’t, but they did start to become a home for various weevils and their larvae. So providing perhaps unwanted protein along with the required carbs and salt.


They are so very easy to make and, to be honest I rather enjoy them, perhaps that’s as mine don’t yet have the added protein in them. Basically they are just flour, salt and water mixed and baked into a VERY hard biscuit that makes a great trail food when carbs may be hard to come by.

There will be various methods of making these if you trawl the internet, but this is a version I have used on several occasions and had good results every time. I add ground black pepper just to pimp up the taste a bit and I find that by adding a sprinkle of rock salt you get that occasional crunch and salty kick. If you are not a fan of salty foods try just 1 tea spoon of fine salt and see how you go.

You will need:

  • 2 cups of plain flour.
  • 1 cup of water
  • 2 tea spoons of fine grain salt
  • A sprinkle of rock salt
  • A good grind of black pepper


Measure out 2 cups of plain flour into a mixing bowl, add the salt (both fine and rock salt) and the ground black pepper, stir these together dry just to mix in the seasoning.


Next start to add the water, but be careful don’t pour it all in at once. Start mixing this together making sure you work any wet flour into the dry flour mix. You want this to be a very dry mix with the texture of a scone mix or if you have made bannock bread then very similar to that. The mix should crumble rather than stick. Carry on mixing until the mix is dry and crumbly, then add more water if needed, but not too much.


What you are aiming for is for all the mix to pull away from the sides of the bowl and just start to form a soft, dry ball in the bowl. If the mix is sticking to your fingers and the bowl it is still too wet, keep mixing working the damp mix into the dry. If you have added too much water you can rescue this by adding a bit more dry flour. Take care here as you can keep going backwards and forwards adding more flour and more water until you end up with a bowl full to the brim. Easy does it is what we want.

When you are happy with the mix and if has formed a crumbly lump of “dough” without it sticking to your fingers but moist enough to be formed. Switch your oven on, a high heat of about 250 -300 I find works best, then sprinkle a little dry flour on a worktop and take the dough out of the bowl and start to work it flat on the worktop.


A rolling pin is good to help with this. I try to keep it in a square-ish shape whilst rolling it flat just for ease of cutting later. Roll it out until it is an even thickness of about 1cm. 


Now transfer this onto a flat baking tray, sprinkle the tray with a little dry flour just before you put your rolled out mix onto it, this stops it sticking. Now you need to cut it into biscuit sized pieces. I find a pizza cutter wheel is perfect for this, also use a fork and poke a generous amount of holes in all of the biscuits.


When done whack it in the oven on a middle to high shelf. Cooking should take about ½ hour, but I have found it best to turn the biscuits over half way through. Cooking times may vary so keep an eye on them. You are looking for them to turn a light brown in colour and start to go hard. Give them a tap with a finger nail to see if they are firming up. When they have cooked on both sides take them out and place then on a cooling rack, don’t touch them as the will be very hot.


Once cooled give them a try, they should be very hard, crisp and not doughy in the middle. They will keep for a very long time, but best stored in a plastic tub or box. I also keep some in a zip lock bag inside a leather pouch in my day sack.


If you find them just too hard for your teeth, you can make a slightly softer version by adding some butter into the dry mix, but reduce your quantity of water if you do this.

You may have noticed from the photos that I have used a maize flour mix, this was just to see how they turn out. Very well indeed, mighty tasty and ready to be packed away for Sweden.


 Ian Nairn

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