A water biscuit is a type of biscuit or cracker. Water biscuits are baked using only flour and water, without shortening or other fats usually used in biscuit production. They are thin, hard and brittle, and usually served with cheese or wine. Originally produced in the 19th century as a version of the ship's biscuit, water biscuits continue to be popular in the United Kingdom, with the leading brands (Carr's and Jacob's) selling over seventy million packets a year.
Three different varieties of water biscuit: Left: Supermarket Own Brand, Right: Excelsior from Jamaica, Top: Carr's Table Biscuit
Carr's water biscuits are sold as Table Water Crackers in the United States. Several varieties are available. "Table Water" refers to water of a quality that is suitable for drinking at the table.
In 1801, Josiah Bent began a baking operation in Milton, Massachusetts, selling "water crackers" or biscuits made of flour and water that would not deteriorate during long sea voyages from the port of Boston. A crackling sound occurred during baking, hence the name. This is where the American term "cracker" originated. His company later sold the original hardtack crackers used by troops during the American Civil War. These were commercial versions/refinements of the hardtack biscuits which had long been used by the British Royal Navy and other European navies.
Several versions of water crackers exist in ex-British colonies, such as Jamaica, where Excelsior brand water crackers are a popular breakfast/snack staple. They are often served with a spread, including a spicy pepper-and-herring paste called Solomon Gundy.