Gingerbread Hardtack (for super strong pieces that make large or tall houses)
2 Tb ground cinnamon
Optional: 1 tsp ground cloves, 1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp table salt
1 C molasses
3 Tb shortening, margarine or lard (butter tends to make the dough too firm and less pliable)
Preheat oven to 325'.
In microwave safe measuring cup, warm the molasses and shortening for 1 minute or less. It should be warm, NOT hot. Stir gently. The shortening might not melt completely, which is OK.
In a medium to large bowl mix together the flour, spices and salt. Add the warmed molasses combo and stir with a spatula until mixed. Knead in the bowl with hands until it holds together and then onto a lightly floured surface to have a nice uniform dough with no flour showing.
If your sheet pan has sides, place the pan upside down onto the counter. This is to be able to use a rolling pin without hitting the sides of the pan.
It helps to place a damp towel underneath the pans to prevent sliding while rolling this stiff dough.
Lightly dust the pan surface with flour and roll out your dough to about 1/8" thickness. Cut your pieces and remove all the dough that will NOT be cooked. Keep the extra dough wrapped up so it does not dry out.
Bake. Start checking at 15 minutes. The edges will be darker. Small pieces will take less time and larger pieces will take longer. Try to have similar sized pieces on a pan during cooking time.
I like this recipe because it's easy to make as needed without a mixer and not a ton of leftover dough. Leftover dough is very stiff and not easy to use.
There are light and dark molasses for color variations to the dough after baking.
1/2 honey/1/2 molasses makes for a lighter color gingerbread when baked. Add more flour if needed.
Adding dark cocoa powder instead of cinnamon to the flour makes an almost black gingerbread effect.
Red food coloring to the honey/molasses mix makes a nice brick color when baked.
Sprinkled chunky sugars and gently pressed into dough makes for nice effects when baked.
We live outside of Gettysburg I usually signed up for making hardtack when our kids would study the Civil War. In making this sturdy biscuit, I realized how amazingly hard the final product was and tweaked the recipe until it had a good gingerbread taste and smell. Feel free to use this recipe as a starting point and adapt with your own creativity!
Civil War Hardtack Printable Recipe for Hardtack
2 C all purpose flour
1 Tb fat (usually lard)
1/2 C water
1/2 tsp table salt
Preheat oven to 325'.
In microwave safe measuring cup warm the water and fat for less than a minute. It should be warm, NOT hot.
In a medium sized bowl mix the flour and salt, add the warm water and fat. Knead until all ingredients are mixed well. Roll on a lightly floured surface to about 1/4" thick and into a rectangular shape. Cut into 2" squares, poke with a fork and bake until golden. Start checking at 15 minutes.
Hard tack is very very hard, it's best dipped into hot tea or coffee to even be able to bite into. Adding spices like cinnamon or sweeteners like sugar or apple cider instead of water can help with flavor.
The original recipe was very basic and meant as survival food. It was not uncommon for men to eat hard tack riddled with bugs or meat that was spoiled and then march on.
2 C unsalted butter (4 sticks)
2 C white sugar
2 C molasses (Grandma's unsulphured molasses is a great product)
9 C all purpose flour (most likely will need a cup or more to get a stiffer dough)
2 Tb ground cinnamon
1 Tb ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground cloves
2 tsp table salt
2 tsp baking soda
In medium saucepan gently warm the butter and sugar. Stir until the sugar dissolves. This mixture should NOT be hot. Off heat add the molasses and stir well. Let the mixture cool to room temperature.
In a medium bowl mix together the flour, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, salt and baking soda.
In a heavy duty standing mixer add the dry ingredients, stir. Add the wet ingredients and mix on the lowest setting.
If the mixture seems too wet add more flour. Depending on the humidity the dough might need a cup or more of extra flour.
Be careful not to burn out the motor on your mixer. The dough should be slightly stiff. It might be easier to knead on a lightly floured counter to get a uniform consistency to the dough. No flour should be showing when kneaded.
Divide into 4 rounds and wrap in plastic wrap. Store at room temperature until all the dough is baked.
This is a large amount of dough, enough for all the pieces of a basic 4 sided house with 2 pieces for a roof. It's also great for any size gingerbread men cookies.
NOTES: This recipe tastes and smells great after baking.
If you want to go taller than a one story house, this recipe will not hold much weight.
Also consider humidity and weather. Lots of rain outside makes for damp air and the baked product will soften. A good example is leaving a bag of Oreo cookies open for a few days - they will get very soft from the humidity in the air.