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I found a pack of flour in the cupboard that I'd forgotten I'd bought. I'd vaguely wondered what ship's biscuit was like since I was shown one while going round HMS Victory with [livejournal.com profile] timill and others years ago, so it seemed like time to try. There are plenty of recipes on the Internet, and they're all about the same:

Preheat the oven to 190C, 375F, with the usual adjustment for fan ovens.

1lb flour, brown or white, but I doubt self-raising is a good idea.
1tsp salt.

Mix with water (about a quarter pint) to form a stiff dough. Roll out to about 8mm thick and cut up into pieces - I used a pizza wheel. Authentic military hard tack came in 3" squares, but I cut it much smaller, since I expect this batch to be mostly used for tasting rather than as staple food. Poke dents into both side of each piece with a stick (I used the butt end of a chopstick). Place the pieces on an ungreased flat baking sheet. Bake for 30-40 minutes (it doesn't seem necessary to be precise), turn the pieces over and bake again for the same time, after which it should be golden brown. Allow to cool before sampling.

It really is very hard. "Toothbreakers" was one nickname, and it's only minor hyperbole. Once you break up a piece, you'll discover it's brown all the way through. It tastes OK, if unexciting: basically like extremely crunchy bread. I can see why military cooks would frequently grind it back to flour and make something more interesting.

It should keep more or less indefinitely in a cool dry place: I'm using an airtight jar, and hoping that weevils don't actually appear spontaneously.

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[livejournal.com profile] darth_hamster requested cake recipes:

Put in large saucepan:

12ozs mixed fruit (raisins etc.) A few glace cherries are nice, but you have to chop them pretty fine, or they sink.4ozs margarine
8oz brown sugar
2 teaspoons mixed spice.
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda.
13 and a half oz tin crushed pineapple (if there seems to be a lot of juice in tin drain off one tablespoonful) I drained it a bit harder than that, and used 13.5oz semi-drained weight.

Melt these together and boil for 3 minutes.  Allow to cool. This takes at least an hour.

Prepare a 8 inch cake tin by lining the bottom with grease proof or baking parchment. Preheat the oven to 160C.

Weigh out 8 oz self-raising flour, and a pinch of salt into a large mixing bowl. Stir in cooled mixture and then 2 large beaten eggs.  The mixture needs to be fairly cool otherwise the eggs cook.

Pour batter into tin and bake for 1.5 to 2 hours on a middle shelf. Test for doneness with a skewer at the earlier time and if skewer comes out sticky, bake some more. The cake is best if caught when the skewer is only just non-sticky, and still damp.

Allow to cool in tin, before running knife round edge and turning out. A few days maturing in an airtight box seems to help.


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