“Bread is the Staff of Life” and our cultural history is closely associated with our Florida culinary history as reflected in the art of bread making. Hardtack, hoecakes, biscuits and Cuban bread… the story is a part of the culinary history of Florida.
From the lowly hardtack or ship’s biscuits of European explorers and Civil War soldiers to the upper class status symbol of the beaten biscuits on the Southern plantation, the path of a biscuits and breads reflects the progress of civilization in America. Biscuits, muffins, corn pone and hoecakes have evolved along side the indigenous people of this land and the newcomers as well.
Native Americans taught early settlers how to make corn pone, years later Southern plantations were serving the iconic beaten biscuit. After the Civil War the, fluffy buttermilk biscuits became the staple on farms and homesteads. With industrialization, Cuban bread was delivered daily from the local bakery in Ybor City near Tampa.
Hardtack was prepared for trips at sea, since it would keep for long periods of time and later soldiers carried it in there pockets as a food source.
Don Tristan de Luna and his shipmates were not well prepared when they reached the shores of the Pensacola area. A hurricane wiped out the food supply left on the ship, so the soldiers and settlers lived off of hardtack, bacon, dried beef, corn, cheese, oil, vinegar and wine. With only three ingredients it was easy to make and was often broken into pieces and put in some kind of liquid like broth or coffee.
How to make Old Fashioned Ship Crackers or Hardtack
Remember it’s called hardtack for a reason and if you try to bite into it you might find it hard on your teeth.
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons salt
¾-1 cup water
Mix together flour and salt then add water, being careful not to add too much water or the dough will be too sticky to work with. Knead on a lightly floured surface and roll to about ½ inch thickness.
You can then beat it and fold it over and beat again like old Southern biscuits.
Cut the dough into 2-inch squares with a pizza cutter.
Punch holes through the top with a fork, flip over and punch holes in the other side.
Place on a cookie sheet and bake at 325-350 degrees for 30-45 minutes.