Spiced HardTack, Ships Biscuits – Well Hard Biscuits!


For some weird reason I have a thing about hard biscuits and having read about hard tack or ships biscuits they really appealed but the just plain flour & salt seemed a little lacking in any flavour and so I tweaked it a little… A slightly more modern take on ships biscuits. They sort of remind me of Rusks and would probably work well for teething, although its the adults in our house eating them.

Now I’ve started a blog you would have thought I’d be a little more thorough on taking enough photos but obviously not, you don’t want millions of photos of every step do you? I’ll add some more photos when I make the next batch.


  • 200g Plain White Flour
  • 400g Wholemeal flour
  • 100g Golden Granulated Sugar
  • 10g Baking Powder
  • 40g Skimmed Milk Powder
  • 2 tsp Ground Mixed Spice
  • 2g Salt
  • 220g Water

You can substitute your favourite spice instead of mixed spice, cinnamon or perhaps ginger. The amount in the recipe gives a gentle flavour/hint, add more if you want them to have stronger flavour. Similarly with the sugar, increase or reduce to taste the amount shown gives a light sweetness.



Sieve the flours into a bowl with the baking powder, add all of the other dry ingredients and mix well to combine.

Make a well in the middle and the water and mix with either your hands or a spoon, I tend to use a spoon at the start and once most of the water is combined then use my hands to bring it all together. What you should end up with is a very stiff dough, depending on your flour you may need some addition water. Be careful adding it as you don’t want this too wet, my tip is to run your hands under the tap and then mix/knead the dough so it picks up the water from your hands, you may need to do this a couple of times.

Once you have your stiff dough then give it a bit of a knead to make sure it’s all combined, we’re not looking to make a bread dough so just enough kneading to make the consistency smooth and everything is combined evenly.

Take your blob of dough and flatten it into a squarish block wrap it in cling film and leave it to relax for 30 mins.

Preheat your oven to 180C.

Now we need to roll out our relaxed block of dough to about 8mm thick. Lightly flour your work surface before starting, you can either roll it out by eye like I did, or if you can find a couple of 8mm thick pieces of wood you can use these as guides to roll things out to an even thickness.

Once you have your slab of dough then we need to cut it into 9 x 9cm squares, this is best done with a knife and a metal ruler. Use the knife/ruler to just mark out the squares and then use the edge of the ruler to do the cutting, just press down hard on the lines to cut through. Doing it this way seals the edge and gives a nice finish.

You should be able to get around 12-14 tiles with some left overs depending on the thickness. You can use/bake any leftovers, they don’t look as pretty but still taste good.

Place your tiles on a baking tray, you can pack them fairly close as they shouldn’t spread. Once on the tray take a bamboo skewer or toothpick and make 5 x 5 holes in the tiles, or less as this can be quite time consuming, use the blunt end, push in, twist out.


Now it’s time to bake for the first time, place your tray of tiles on a low shelf and bake until golden, which should be about 30-40 minutes, turn halfway through to give an even bake and cover with some foil if it looks like they are going to catch/burn, beware they burn easily.

Take them out place on a rack and allow them to cool.

The recipe that I adapted doesn’t talk about a 2nd baking but I found that after a day that they had gone soft inside an airtight container, obviously the first bake didn’t drive off all of the moisture from the centre of the tiles and this was getting reabsorbed into the rest of the biscuit and making it soft. The Wikipedia article on ships biscuits talks about them being baked 2-4 times. A lot will depend on how wet your dough is, very hard dry dough is harder to cut/roll but has less moisture to bake out.

Put the biscuits in an air tight tin for 24 hours. The next day put the oven on to 120C and put the biscuits in on a low shelf and bake for a further 60 mins, at this temp they shouldn’t pick up any additional colour but cover with foil if it looks like they are.

After the hour take them out and place on a rack to cool.

Once cool place in an air tight tin/packet. They should keep for a very long time although in practice they don’t seem to last that long as they are rather scrummy if you like this sort of biscuit. If they do soften then put them into the oven again at 120C for a time to drive off the moisture.

They certainly aren’t fancy but everyone here loves them, beware though they are hard and by hard I mean rock hard, teeth shattering hard. I’ll often gnaw on whilst working, a single tile will take a while to work through, not a quick snack.