In Brazilian cuisine, tareco is a hard biscuit that is eaten as a snack with coffee or as an appetizer before a meal. It may also be used in the preparation of various desserts. These types of biscuits are very popular in Brazil, and the Brazilians have even had poems and songs written about the tareco biscuits.
These Brazilian biscuits may be purchased ready-made from a store or a supermarket, or they may be made at home; they are quite easy to make, and preparation usually only takes an hour or less. The principle ingredients used to make these types of biscuits are corn flour or wheat flour, eggs, vanilla, and sugar; cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg can also be used.
The eggs are first whisked in a mixer until they are nice and fluffy, and then the wheat or corn flour, sugar, vanilla and any other ingredients are added to the egg batter. The mix is processed in the mixer and then whisked until a well-kneaded dough is formed. Pieces of the dough are then separated and are shaped into small, round and flat disks that are arranged in separate lines on a prior greased and floured baking sheet. Next, the disks are baked in an oven for up to ten minutes. They are then removed, turned over and put back in the oven to cool; the biscuits harden as they cool.
The hard tareco Brazilian biscuits probably developed from the hard-tack biscuits; such biscuits were a food staple in the British and Spanish naval fleets in the age of exploration. In those times, people needed to have food that could be stored or preserved for a long time without spoiling, and it also had to survive any rough handling and transportation. It was not realistic to take fresh food on very long voyages at a time when storage facilities were rather inadequate. Taking biscuits made of wheat or corn flour was a more convenient and reliable option.
Since biscuits are liable to soften as they age, the biscuits intended for the long voyages had to be made very hard. They generally underwent two baking processes, and sometimes they were even baked as many as four times. The hardened biscuits could then be safely stored in food barrels for up to a year or more. For eating, the biscuits were usually dipped in water, gruel, soup, or alcohol to soften them.