Assistant Commissary General of Subsistence - Lt. Col. C.L. Kilburn - Notes on Preparing Stores for the United States Army and on the Care of the Same, etc, with a few rules for Detecting Adulterations - Printed 1863

Under Hard Bread

Should be made of best quality of superfine, or what is usually known as extra superfine flour; or better, of extra and extra superfine, (half and half). Hard bread should be white, crisp, light and exhibit a flaky appearance when broken.  If tough, solid and compact, is evident the fault is either in the stock, manufacture or baking; it should not present the appearance of dried paste. If tough and pasty, it is probably manufacture from grown wheat, or Spring wheat of an inferior kind. In all cases it should be thoroughly cooled and dried before packing. Kiln drying, where practicable, for long voyages, is particularly desirable; but if really and thoroughly dried in the oven, hard bread will keep just as well and its flavor is not destroyed. To make good hard bread, it is essential to employ steam; hand work will not do.

The dough should be mixed as dry as possible; this is, in fact, very essential, and too much stress can not be placed on it. Good stock, dry mixed, and thoroughly baked, (not dried or scalded) will necessarily give good hard bread.  If salt is to be used, it should be mixed with the water used to mix the dough. Both salt and water should be clean. Bread put up with the preceding requirements should keep a year; but as a usual thing, our best bread as now made for army use, will keep only about three months.  Good, bread, packed closely and compactly should not weigh, net, per barrel, more than 70 or 80 pounds; should it be heavier that 80 it indicates too much moisture.  The thickness of the biscuit is important; it should not be so thick as to prevent proper drying, or so thin as to crumble in transportation. The quality of stock used for hard bread can be partially told by rules mentioned in the article 'Flour,' as far as they apply.  The term 'sprung' is frequently used by bakers, by which is meant raised or flaky bread, indicating strong flour and sound stock. The cupidity of the contracting baker induces him to pack his bread as soon as it comes out of the oven, and before the moisture has been completely expelled by drying.  Bread of this kind hangs on breaking; it will also be soft to the pressure of the finger nail when broken, whereas it should be crisp and brittle.

The packages should be thoroughly seasoned, (of wood imparting no taste or odor to the bread,) and reasonably tight.  The usual method now adopted is to pack 50 pounds net, in basswood boxes, (sides, top and bottom 1/2 inch, ends 5/8 of an inch,) and of dimensions corresponding with the cutters used, and strapped at each end with light iron or wood.  The bread should be packed on its edge compactly, so as not to shake.

Bread thoroughly baked, kiln dried, and packed in spirit casks, will keep a long time but it is an expensive method. If bread contains weevils, or is mouldy, expose to the sun on paulins, and before re-packing it, rinse the barrel with whiskey.

Other Traditional Recipes

Army Hardtack Recipe


  • 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.

Swedish Hardtack

  • 1 cup water
  • 3 tbsp. vegetable oil
  • 3 tbsp. honey
  • 3 cups rye flour (or 1 1/2 cups rye & 1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour)
  • 1  1/2 tbsp. brewer's yeast (optional)
  • 1/4 tsp. salt

Mix liquids together.  In a separate bowl, mix dry ingredients.  Combine the mixtures, stirring to moisten throughout.  Form a ball.  On a floured surface, flatten the dough, and roll out thinly. Cut into squares and prick each cracker with the tines of a fork a couple of times.  Transfer to lightly greased baking sheets. Bake at 425° F for around 8 minutes, checking to be sure not to over-brown.  It is best served warm.

Simple Recipes

Flour, water, and a little salt. Mix them together to form an elastic but not sticky dough, Roll to a one-inch thickness, bake in a 400° F oven until slightly brown. Allow to cool. It may yet be soft. Put it in 200° F oven until it is hard. Prick with nail or sharp instrument. No baking powder, soda, sugar, cinnamon, raisins, or anything else.

Just mix about 2 cups of flour and a half-tablespoon of salt with enough water to make a stiff dough.  Roll it out thin on a cookie sheet.  Score it into squares of about 2”x2” and poke some holes in it (not all the way through). Bake it at 400 ° F for about 45 minutes or until it is lightly browned.  Let it cool in the oven.

Preheat oven to 400° F. For each cup of flour (unbleached wheat), add1 tsp. of salt. Mix salt and flour with just enough water to bind ingredients.  Roll the dough about 1/4 inch thick, and cut into squares 3 inches by 3 inches.  Pierce each square with 16 holes about ½ inch apart.  Place hardtack squares on cookie sheet and bake in oven until the edges are brown or the dough is hard (20-25 minutes), making sure all moisture is removed from mixture before taking out of oven.  Note: The longer you bake the hardtack, the more authentic it will appear. If you want to make it softer for eating, bake only about fifteen minutes.

Mix: two cups of all-purpose flour and a half teaspoon of salt.  Use more salt for authenticity. Mix by hand. Add a teaspoon of shortening and a half cup of water, stirred in a little at a time to form a very stiff dough.  Beat the dough to a half inch thickness with a clean top mallet or rifle butt.  Fold the sheet of dough into six layers. Continue to beat and to fold the dough a half dozen times until it is elastic. Roll the dough out to a half-inch thickness before cutting it with a floured biscuit cutteror bayonet. Bake for about a half hour in a 325° F oven.

The basic ingredients are flour, salt and water. General directions are also similar: Dissolve the salt in water and work it into flour using your hands.  The dough should be firm and pliable but not sticky or dry. Flatten the dough onto a cookie sheet to about 1/4 inch thick, and cut into squares 3 inches by 3 inches.  Pierce each square with 16 holes about ½ inch apart.  Bake in oven until edges are brown or dough is hard. 

Preheat the oven to 400° F For each cup of flour add 1 teaspoon of salt. Mix salt and flour with just enough water to bind. Bake 20-25 minutes.  The longer you bake the hardtack, the more authentic it will appear.

Use one part water to six parts flour. Mix in salt. Roll the dough flat and score into cracker shapes. Bake for 20-25 minutes at 400° F and let it cool until completely dry before storing in canisters. The crackers should be hard as bricks and indestructibly unappetizing.

  • A cup of water
  • 2 cups of flour
  • 6 pinches of salt

Mix flour, water, and salt into a stiff dough, kneading it several times.  Spread dough ½ inch thick onto baking sheet and slice into 3 1/2 by 3 1/2 inch squares.  Poke holes in dough, four lines of four holes across and four down.  Bake for ½ hour at 400.° F.   Remove from the oven, cut the dough into 3 inch squares. Turn dough over, return it to the oven, and bake for another ½ hour. Turn the oven off, leaving the oven door closed.  Leave the hardtack in the oven until it is cool.

Less Traditional Recipes

  • 2 c Flower
  • 1/2 tb Salt (optional)
  • 1/2 tb Sugar (optional)
  • 1/2 c Water

Mix together in an electric blender at medium speed until it has the consistency of playdough. Roll it out with a rolling pin to about 1/3" or so, the thinner the crisper, then cut it into 3 x 3 inch squares.  I use the barrel of a ball point pen to punch 16 holes (4 x 4) in each square. Bake at 375° F on the first side for 20-25 minutes or until it turns a light brown color, then turn them over and bake for another 15-20 minutes.

Small Batch, Just for a taste.

  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 1/2 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 tablespoon salt
  • 1/2- 3/4 cup water

Mix to a stiff dry dough.  It should not stick to your hands.  Add water slowly. Add more flour if needed.  Cut to 3x3 inch squares 1/4" to 1/2" thick. Now put 16 little holes in each one, using a 10 d nail or some other such thing. Toothpick are too small. Bake in an ungreased cookie pan, preheated to 400° F for about 20 to 30 minutes on each side, or until dry. Check it every now and then.

  • 1/8 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3 tablespoons buttermilk
  • 1 cup flour
  • 4 teaspoons real maple syrup
  • 3/8 teaspoons salt
  • 1-1/2 tablespoons shortening

Preheat oven to 425° F.  Mix the soda and buttermilk, then set aside. Combine flour, syrup, and salt.  Cut in the shortening.  Add the buttermilk mixture. Roll out very thin and score rectangles in the dough without cutting all the way through. Prick each rectangle several times with a fork.  Bake on an ungreased cookie sheet for 5-10 minutes or until golden brown.

  • 2 cups of flour
  • 3/4 to 1 cup water
  • 1 tbl spoon of Crisco
  • 6 pinches of salt

Mix the ingredients together to form a stiff batter, kneading several times. Spread the dough onto a baking sheet at a thickness of 1/2 inch. Bake for a half hour at 400° F.  Remove from oven, cut dough into 3-inch squares, and punch four rows of holes, four holes per row into the dough.  Turn dough over, return to the oven and bake another half hour. Turn oven off, leaving door closed.  Leave the hardtack in the oven until cool.

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup yellow cornmeal
  • 1/2` cup cracked wheat
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups buttermilk

Combine the flours, cornmeal, wheat, sugar and salt. Add buttermilk, mix well, and knead briefly. Shape dough into golf-ball-sized portions. Dust with flour and roll very thin.  Place on greased and floured baking sheet.  Bake at 400° F turning several times, until lightly browned on both sides. Cool; then store in waterproof container.

  • 2 Level teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 pinch of salt
  • 1 1/2 cup flour
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 4 eggs, well beaten
  • 1 jelly glass of orange marmalade
  • 1 lb Finely chopped walnuts
  • 1 lb Finely chopped dates

Sift ingredients together. Add the remainder of ingredients; mix well.  Bake about an inch thick on a cookie sheet in an oven at 375° F for about 45 minutes. Cut into squares while warm.

  • 2 cups of flour
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon of Crisco or vegetable fat.
  • 6 pinches of salt

Bake for 30 minutes at 400° F. Remove the dough from the oven, and cut it into 3-inch squares.  Punch four rows of holes into the dough. Turn the dough over, return it to the oven and bake for another 30 minutes.

A Sailor's Diet

  • 2 1/2 cups old-fashioned or quick oats.
  • 3 cups unbleached flour.
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt.
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda.

In a separate container, mix:

  • 1 1/2 cups buttermilk.
  • 3 tablespoons honey.
  • 1/2 cup melted bacon drippings or shortening.

Combine the two sets of ingredients. When the dough is thoroughly mixed, roll it out on a floured board to a thickness of about a quarter inch.  Cut out circles of dough with a large drinking glass dipped in flour and put them on a lightly greased cookie sheet.  Bake for about 5 1/2 minutes at 450° F.  Let the hardtack cool on a wire rack before serving with jam or jelly.