Many years in Alaska taught me the importance of having certain staple foods always on hand. One of these was “hardtack” or dry bread, also known as “Pilot Bread.” The most popular commercial-brand hardtack in Alaska was Sailor Boy Pilot Bread.
Interbake Foods of Henrico, VA, (now appears to be permanently closed) produced the ubiquitous 2-lb. boxes of Sailor Boy Pilot Bread biscuits. Virtually every food store in Alaska carried the staple. The Pilot Bread used to be readily available in the Lower 48 states, but now it is nearly impossible to find in stores. I’ve ordered Pilot Bread through Amazon, but the product always arrives pulverized by the shipping process. A better solution: Make it yourself. By home baking hardtack, you can use sourdough and create a healthier, more flavorful cracker.
Alaska Sourdough Hardtack
- 2 1/3 C all purpose flour
- 1 C whole wheat flour (optional, but really adds flavor)
- 3 tsp. sea salt
- 1 1/2 C water
- 1/2 C sourdough starter
Knead the ingredients together by hand or, optionally, use electric mixer with dough hook. Turn out onto floured board. Roll out to approximately 1/2″ thickness and cut into squares with a knife or circular pizza cutter. Use a sharp-pointed tool like a toothpick or meat skewer to poke some holes in the hardtack dough. Arrange the perforated dough on a baking sheet and bake @ 350° F for 20 min. Turn squares over and bake for another 20 min.
Beyond the baking time, I recommend letting the hardtack rest for several hours until very dry. Because they are dry—practically devoid of moisture when finished properly—hardtack crackers will keep in storage for a long, long time.
You’ll never return to saltines or stale store crackers once you try this Sourdough Hardtack.