Saturday, June 22, 2013

Gluten Free Hardtack for the Gettysburg 150th

For more than a year now my family, my family and I have been making plans for our 2013 summer family vacation to Gettysburg for the 150th commemorative celebration.  Our son is a re-enactor with the 2nd Wisconsin Infantry, Company K - part of the "elite" Iron Brigade - as he likes to refer to the men in black hats.

Since we began making plans, we have realized that gluten and dairy cause great inflammation for our son's sinuses, basically making him miserable. Thus, it has become my quest to come up with a gluten-free hardtack recipe - my first attempts being shared here.

I thought I could simply make a more bland version of the awesome paleo flat bread recipe I came up with months ago, posted in the history of this blog (search for recipes in the cloud tag and you will find it). You know... leave out the garlic, rosemary, thyme....season with sea salt only, and a bit of agave nectar.  I've never made crackers, and perhaps I should have looked up a hardtack recipe first, to get an idea of really how basic it is.  My error, I came to realize after the first attempt - was that I added eggs. Eggs were a rare commodity in the Civil War, if I understand correctly, there are no eggs in hardtack.

The first batch, which I poured into a 9x9 pan (thinking it would be easy to cut into 9ths for 3x3" sqaure standard issue hardtack - which is the size advertised on a sutler's web site) - rose a bit too much. Hardtack is approximately 1/4" thick and batch number one is nearer to a 1/2".  So no, it did not turn out to qualify a replica of hardtack, but what it reminds me of is a dense shortbread. We tested it and it is quite good with a spread of fruit preserves on top, or would be great as a shortbread with berries.

Back to the drawing board....liking the taste of experiment number one, and finding a hardtack recipe on line, I realized all that I should be adding for liquid is water. Figuring I really could not mess up a gluten free staple too badly, I went ahead and increased my recipe so it would work in a large stoneware bar or jelly roll pan (mine is a well seasoned Pampered Chef brand).

If you have a solider that requires gluten free hardtack, give this a try. It may not be authentic, but it won't inflame, and it probably tastes a lot better as well.  After all, the Union has been reinstated and our "soldiers" may as well enjoy their modern day hardtack, if only a little.

Dry ingredients, blend together in a bowl:
3/4 c. brown rice flour
3/4 c. arrowroot starch
1 1/2 c. almond flour
1 1/2 c. sweet sorghum flour (coconut can be used, but the sweetness of sorghum is nice)
1 t. aluminum free baking powder
2-3 t. finely ground Celtic or Himilayan seasalt

In large bowl lightly whisk together:
1/2 cup of water
1 T agave nectar or honey (optional)
1 T. coconut oil - warmed to liquid state

Using a wooden spoon, slowly blend in the dry ingredients. Add 1/2 cup more of water, or that needed to create a pancake-like batter. Pour into a lightly greased (coconut oil recommended) or seasoned stoneware pan. It should self-level, but if not use a spatula to help spread evenly in pan.

Bake at 350 degrees for 5 minutes, or just long enough so batter is slightly set to allow poking of holes for an authentic appearance. My understanding is that a 3x3 piece of hardtack has 9 holes - originally created by a block of wood with screws.  Return to oven to bake for another 20 minutes. Allow to cool completely, cut into 3 inch squares.

If making gluten free hardtack becomes more frequent around here I will have my husband create a block of wood with screws for quick "hole making".

Our batch has a bit more crackling on top, and after the fact I learned that poking holes prevents this. My recipe above is altered from my original, removing in 5 min. versus 10 to poke the holes. I  learned the reason crackers have holes is to prevent the crackling on top. Par-baking  just enough so that holes can be poked, and the batter won't resettle to fill the holes back in, should do the trick.

I will soon be creating a third attempt, omitting baking powder, because of course I keep searching for hardtack recipes and learning more.  Less water, and rolling it out next stay tuned.

Meanwhile, if you are heading to Gettysburg next week and need some gluten-free hardtack for your soldier - this tastes pretty good. ALSO, it is a complex carb, and should be low glycemic and a decent snack for someone dealing with diabetes, but I can't guarantee that.

To your gluten-free heatlh,
Rita S.


  1. I was very excited to find this recipe! I was searching for gluten free hardtack for a Horatio Hornblower themed party menu. I wanted to keep it as authentic as possible, but needed to avoid the gluten of original hardtack!

    Thanks so much!

  2. Now that Pillsbury has come out with a rice flour mix, have you tried that?