Sea-Biscuit, a sort of hard, dry bread, formed into flat cakes: when intended for long voyages, it is four times baked, six months before it is shipped 5 after which it will continue good during a whole year. In order to preserve such bread from insects, Mr. Hales recommends the fumigation of the casks with sulphur, after they have been filled. Biscuits may likewise be preserved, by packing them in casks well calked, and lined with tin.
In the preparation of biscuit, a proportion of ten pounds of leaven (rather more stale than that commonly used for bread), is diluted in warm water, with one hundred pounds of flour, which is kneaded; but the water should be added by-small portions, to prevent the necessity of adding more flour : when the dough can no longer be worked by the hand, it is pressed with the feet till it is perfectly smooth, glutinous and compact. The kneading being finished, the dough is worked up in parts: at first it is formed into rolls, which again pass through the hands of the baker ; this is called rubbing. When the weight of each piece is determined, it is made round, flattened with a rolling pin, and then placed on a table or board exposed to the fresh air, in order to prevent too quick fermentation. Care is taken that the oven be less heated for the baking of biscuit than bread ; and as soon as the last cake is formed, that which has been first made, is pierced with several holes, with the point of an iron, which at once flattens it, and gives vent to evaporation : it is then placed in the oven. The biscuits are kept there about two hours, and when drawn out, they are packed with great caution' in boxes, lest they should break. Each box commonly contains either a half, or a whole quintal 3 and, when filled, is placed in a close, warm room, with which the heat of the oven has a communication. The biscuit here parts with its superabundant moisture, and undergoes what is called a sweating.
A good biscuit breaks clean and crisp, has a shining appearance within, and the outside is glossy. When soaked, it swells considerably in the water, without crumbling, or sinking to the bottom of the vessel.
As the composition of biscuit is connected with the general principles of making bread, we shall only observe, that the defe6ts which prevail in many bake-houses are similar to those where biscuit is prepared ; such as an imperfect grinding, which leaves the bran in the flour, or the flour in the bran, and injures the manufacture. Ovens too high, and not closely stopped, consume much fuel, and produce an indifferent baking.
One of the first rules in the preparation of biscuit should be, never to make it of any but choice wheat, very clean, and dry, because it ever continues to carry with it this original principle of preservation; while corn, which is naturally moist, be it ever so well ground, and worked, has a tendency to become worse. For this reason, rye and maize are unfit to be manufactured into biscuit.
It must be confessed with regret, that sea-biscuit of the best preparation often carries in it a principle of destruction. Sometimes it is in the bran, which occasions insects, and hollow spaces in the interior part of the biscuit, giving it a disposition to mould; and sometimes it is a want of cleanliness which prevails in the bread-room of the vessel.M. Card on, a biscuit-baker of Hesse, in conjunction with four others of the business, has recently-made some experiments, the result of which is: that lOOlb. of flour give 126lb. of dough ; which, divided into cakes of eight or nine ounces, when well baked, afford 90lb. of biscuit. Instead of making use of old leaven, and of tea or twelve pounds weight to each quintal of flour, he recommends to use the leaven while fresh, in a quantity of fifty pounds, and to make the dough less firm, that it may be kneaded with more ease. He has shewn biscuit, made after this manner, to several masters of ships, who have found it excellent, and that it stands the test of floating on the surface of water, without falling to pieces.
What an expence would it save the State, and how many valuable lives would be preserved, ii biscuit were made with sufficient skill, and attention to economy !