Trail bread six weeks old

Hard Tack Trail Bread

(As featured in the March 2009 issue of Practically Seeking)

Imagine a bread that is healthy and nutritious, easy to make, simple to carry, requires no refrigeration and will last indefinitely on a shelf or in a backpack. How handy!
Of course, it also happens to be as hard as rock.

A staple of Cowboys, hikers and backwoodsmen alike, Hard Tack Trail Bread is called "hard" for a reason!
But when you're on the long trail, out in the back country, or putting back emergency stores, this is exactly the sort of food you'll want to have on hand.

Made from flour, cornmeal and honey, this quick and easy bread can be made plain or jazzed up. In the bread we're making in the photos, we've substituted some of the white flour for Amaranth flour to increase the nutritional content and add a nice, nutty flavor. (You could also use acorn, millet, cattail, or any number of other "wild" flours to the same effect.) We are also using a blue cornmeal, just to see what color the bread will turn out!

The Trail Bread in the photo above has been sitting in our kitchen for almost six weeks now, one sealed in a ziploc bag, and the others just sitting on the open shelf, and none have shown any signs of mold or deterioration.
The key here seems to be the honey. The more honey you add the harder the bread will become and, presumably, the longer it will last. It appears to act as a natural preservative and stabilizing agent, the honey's natural antibacterial properties preventing any unwanted "growth" on the bread. When you go to finally eat your Trail Bread, dipping it in a liquid (preferably a warm drink, like coffee) will soften it up and make it chewable once again.

Tips & Tricks for making your Trail Bread:

Step-by-step Instructions for making Hard Tack Trail Bread:

  1. Gather your ingredients of 1 cup white flour, 1 cup whole wheat flour, 1 cup cornmeal, and 2 cups of honey, and pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees. (Feel free to experiment with substituting different types of flour. We're substituting a ¼ cup of the white flour with Amaranth flour.)
  2. Trail Bread Ingredients

  3. Grease a muffin⁄cupcake tin in preparation for the batter. This will keep it from sticking. (You could also use paper cupcake liners, so long as you spray them well with a good no-stick cooking spray. Otherwise you'll never get the papers off!)
  4. Grease Pan

  5. In a large bowl, thoroughly mix together the white flour, whole wheat flour, (any additional flours) and cornmeal.
  6. Add Cornmeal Add other flours Mix flours Flour well combined

  7. Take the 2 cups of honey and heat them carefully until the honey has become thin and runny. Do not allow it to come to a boil.
  8. 2 Cups Honey Heat honey until thin

  9. Pour the honey into the flour mixture and combine until the honey has been completely mixed in with the flour.
  10. Add honey to flour Mix honey into flours Combine thoroughly

  11. If the batter is too thick, add some hot water, a little at a a time, until the batter is of a thin enough consistency to drop off a spoon.
  12. Add a little hot water if batter is too thick

  13. Fill each greased cupcake holder about ½ full with batter. (Makes about 18 cakes.)
  14. Drop batter into pan Fill each cup about 1/2 full

  15. Bake at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes, until cakes are golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
  16. Insert toothpick at center Clean toothpick means finished baking Finished cakes

  17. Turn the finished cakes out from the pan and allow to cool. While still warm the cakes will be realtively soft, but as they cool they will lose their spongy texture and within a few days will become hard as rock! This bread requires NO refrigeration and will last almost indefinitely — but once it hardens be sure to soak it in some milk or coffee or some sort of liquid first, or your teeth might regret it!
  18. Allow to cool Cakes will get hard as rock


    So take some Hard Tack along on your next hike for
    a little trail-worthy sustenance,
    and Have Fun!

    (Many thanks to our friend Dan Atkinson
    for sharing both his Trail Bread and his recipe with us,
    so that we could pass it along to you!)