Living History at Home: Making Hard BreadApril 9, 2020
Flour, water, and salt — if you're lucky. That's all it takes to make hard bread, later known commonly as "hardtack." Hard bread was commonly distributed to soldiers during the Revolutionary War. Fresh-baked bread was not always available while on campaign, and softer breads can spoil quickly. Plus, hard bread is simple to make and lasts a long time, making for practical sustenance during long campaigns and on sea voyages.
Joseph Plumb Martin described the rations promised to soldiers upon enlisting in his 1830 Memoir of a Revolutionary Soldier, rations that included hard bread. He wrote:
"When we engaged in the service we were promised the following articles for a ration: one pound of good and wholesome fresh or salt beef, or three quarters of a pound of good salt pork, a pound of good flour, soft or hard bread, a quart of salt to every hundred pounds of fresh beef, a quart of vinegar to a hundred rations, a gill [a quarter of a pint] of rum, brandy, or whiskey per day, some little soap and candles, I have forgot how much, for I had so little of these two articles that I never knew the quantity."
Watch Tyler Putman, Gallery Interpretation Manager at the Museum, demonstrate how to make hard bread.
Hard Bread Recipe
2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup water
Directions: Mix flour, salt, and water until you have a ball of dough. Roll or pound out to 1/2" thickness, then fold and pound or roll again. Repeat 4 times. Cut into desired shapes (usually squares or rounds). Bake at 350 degrees for 30-40 minutes, until just becoming golden. Let cool and eat or save in a barrel for several years.
Interested in more living history? Check out our Living History at Home: Roasting a Pumpkin cooking demo as well as our Artisan Field Trip series, including interviews with historic costume maker Jana Violante, carpenter Brian McDonald, shoemaker Shaun Pekar, and bookbinder Paul McClintock.
Virtual Spring Break with the Museum, sponsored by PECO, ran online in April 2020, featuring do-at-home crafts and activities, virtual story time, Artisans Field Trip living history interviews, and live Q&As with Museum staff.