Embossed Dog Cookies

I typically try to avoid posting any recipes that require special equipment. HOWEVER, I got an awesome embossing rolling pin this week, and the dog treats that I made using it were so pretty that I just couldn’t resist sharing the recipe with you.

You can find embossing rolling pins at specialty kitchen stores, like Sur La Table or Williams-Sonoma, or online at Amazon.com or baking supply sites. But, believe it or not, an excellent place to look for embossing rolling pins is at yard sales. Yard sales (and rummage sales, flea markets, etc) often have beautiful antique rolling pins hiding amongst bins of used kitchen stuff for DIRT CHEAP. You can find some real treasures this way–as long as you don’t mind having to hunt around.

My new "dog paw" rolling pin from Humble Elephant.

My new “paw print” rolling pin from Humble Elephant.

This time I ordered my embossing rolling pin from a shop on Etsy called Humble Elephant. They offer lots of really fun, laser cut rolling pins, and they’ll even create custom designs for you. Be sure to check out Humble Elephant’s shop at www.etsy.com/shop/HumbleElephant.

Embossed cookies are deceptively impressive, because the technique actually requires very little work or skill to get a dazzling result. Once you have rolled your dough out into a thin sheet using a standard rolling pin, you simply roll the embossing rolling pin over the dough to transfer the design. You should only roll the embossing rolling pin over the dough once, because rolling back over the dough may blur or distort the design. To ensure that the design comes out perfectly on your first roll just be sure to press down very firmly with even pressure as you roll the pin.

The real key to beautifully embossed cookies is using the right dough. It’s essential that the dough be soft and not stretchy. (For human cookies, shortbread or sugar cookies work well.) When testing this recipe, it took me a couple of tries to figure out the blend of flours that would allow the embossed design to look the best on the baked dog treats. I ended up with a blend of white rice flour and oat flour. This gluten-free dough is on the delicate side, but it is still easy to work with. It rolls out nicely and cuts out easily, but you may want to use an offset spatula to help you move the cut-outs of dough to the baking sheet without distorting the shape or the embossed design.

Embossed Dog Cookies

Embossed Dog Cookies

Makes about 2 dozen (2 ½ inch) cookies

 

3/4 cup white rice flour, plus more for dusting

1 1/2 cups oat flour

3/4 cup broth (beef, chicken, fish, vegetable, your choice) or water

 

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.

2. Combine the flours in a bowl.

3. Add the broth or water, and stir to combine well. Press the mixture together with your hands to form a smooth, homogenous dough.

4. On a countertop dusted well with white rice flour, roll the dough out into a sheet about 1/2 inch thick using a standard rolling pin. Next, roll your embossing rolling pin over the dough once. Be sure to press as firmly as possible to ensure that the design shows up clearly on the dough.

5. Use your desired cookie cutter to cut the dough into pieces. Arrange the pieces on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. (This dough is fairly soft, so you may want to use an offset metal spatula to help transfer the cookies to the baking sheet.)

6. Bake for 13 minutes. Remove the baking sheet from the oven, flip each of the cookies over, and then return them to the oven for an additional 6 to 7 minutes. The cookies should be firmly set and lightly browned. Allow the cookies to cool completely before removing them from the baking sheet.

 

These treats should be stored in an airtight container inside the refrigerator.

 

 

DIY Puppy Pop Art

I dragged my mom along on my odyssey into collage art. These are the works of art that she created using photos of her three dogs.

I dragged my mom along on this odyssey into crafting. Here are the collages that she created using photos of her three dogs.

This week I got my creative juices flowing and made a paper collage project using a photo of my dog Pacey. I got the idea for the pop art style collage from Trudy K Taylor’s tutorial “How to make a pet collage with your children.” (Click here to visit her blog: http://trudyktaylor.com/making-mondays-make-a-pet-collage-with-children-your-children/). My plan was to create three different paper collages of Pacey’s face and then frame them together à la Andy Warhol’s pop art prints.

A version of artist Andy Warhol's famous "Marilyn Diptych"

A version of artist Andy Warhol’s famous “Marilyn Diptych”

Making these collages is simple and fun, and I love the fact that as you cover your dog’s photo with decorative paper, the eyes and nose remain exposed so that the finished product still really looks like your dog.

This project is also very inexpensive. I didn’t need to buy any supplies at all, because I just dug into my stash of scrapbook paper. Depending on what you have around the house, you could also use wrapping paper, wallpaper, construction paper, newspaper, fabric, felt, stickers, buttons, beads, or pretty much anything else that you can easily glue down.

In addition to whatever collage materials that you choose to use, you’ll need a pair of scissors, glue or glue stick, and two print-outs (or copies) of a photo of your dog. I scanned a photo of my dog Pacey into my computer and adjusted it to my desired size using Photoshop. I then printed it out on basic, white printer paper. Alternatively, you could make copies and adjust the photo’s sizing using an office printer.

I used a photo of Pacey’s face with him looking fully toward the camera, which I think worked really well. But you could use your dog’s profile, their face and chest, or even a full body shot. Whatever sparks your creativity.

To get started you'll need two printed copies of a photo of your dog, a pair of scissors, and glue.

Once you’ve got the two printed photos, you’re ready to get to work. Use the scissors to cut your dog’s face out of each of the two papers. You will use one of the faces as a template, so glue it onto whatever piece of paper that you want to be the background of your collage. I used a piece of construction paper.

First, cut out one of the photos and glue it onto the decorative paper that is going to be the background of your collage.

Next you’re going to use the second face that you cut out to create a stencil that will make it easier to piece together the decorative materials that you’re going to use to make your collage. Use the scissors to cut the face into pieces; I recommend that you cut it into at least four or five pieces (to allow you to use a wide enough variety of patterns and colors), but the pieces can be any size and shape that you like. The most important thing is to make sure that you CUT THE EYES AND NOSE OUT of your stencil pieces so that your dog’s actual eyes and nose (from the photo that you glued to the background) will show through on your finished collage. This is a really nice touch that keeps your pet’s face recognizable in your finished work of art.StencilOnce your stencil is cut out, you’re ready to have some fun and let your creative juices flow. Choose a decorative paper, trace around your chosen stencil piece, and cut it out using scissors. Then glue the piece down in the correct position on your photo template. Repeat this process until you’ve covered the entire face template with materials in different patterns and colors. You can also use paper (or stickers, buttons, etc.) to add extra touches like a hat, necklace, collar, bow tie, or glasses.

Before and After

There are lots of things that you can do with your finished collages. I scanned my collages into my computer, printed them out on 6″ x 4″ photo paper, and put them in a store-bought frame. If you don’t want to go to the trouble of scanning and printing, you could simply frame each individual collage as-is. I’ve also considered having the scanned photos of my collages printed on note cards or onto a calendar. Whichever way that you choose to finish your project, these collages make a unique and meaningful gift for any dog owner.

Finished Pacey Collages

Grain Free Coconut Macaroons

Coconut flour behaves differently than any other grain-free flour, so baking with it can be somewhat daunting. Despite the unique challenges that it presents to baking, coconut flour makes an excellent addition to your pet’s diet. It contains a significant amount of fiber, protein, and lauric acid, a healthy fat that is great for the immune system as well as skin and coat health.

Coconut flour is actually a powder made by grinding defatted, dehydrated coconut meat. Since coconut is ultra absorbent, recipes using coconut flour require at least an equal amount of liquid. Due to this unusual texture and absorbency, coconut flour is typically not used for more than 20% of the total weight of flour in a recipe. However, the following recipe calls for 100% coconut flour. Even though this recipe contains plenty of water and an egg to help bind it, the dough has a loose, sandy texture and must be pressed firmly together in order to be able to scoop it into cookies. In spite of that, the baked cookies hold together quite well. And the super soft texture makes them ideal for older dogs or any dog with dental issues.

I got the #30 cookie scoop that I used to make this recipe at Sur La Table.

I got the #30 cookie scoop that I used to make this recipe at Sur La Table.

This recipe is best prepared with a cookie scoop, also known as a disher or spring-loaded ice cream scoop. These spring-loaded, stainless steel scoops can be found in a wide range of sizes at most kitchen stores. (I bought mine at Sur La Table. http://www.surlatable.com/product/PRO-698407/Stainless-Steel+Ice+Cream+Scoop) These scoops are numbered according to their size using an industry-wide system; a #100 is the smallest at 3/4 tablespoon or 3/8 fl oz, while a #4 is the largest (that I’ve seen) at 1 cup or 8 fl oz. To make these macaroons, I used a #30 scoop that holds about 2 1/2 tablespoons or 1.25 fl oz and has a diameter of about 2 inches. You can use any small-ish size scoop that you’d like to make this recipe, but the spring action is really necessary to get the soft dough to come out cleanly in the nice, round scoops that make these dog treats look like the people-food macaroons that we all know and love.

 Coconut Macaroons

Coconut Macaroons

Makes about 3 dozen (2-inch) dog treats

 

1 3/4 cups coconut flour

1/2 cup shredded unsweetened coconut

1/4 cup honey

1 egg

2 1/2 cups water

 

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.

2. Combine the flour and shredded coconut in a bowl.

3. Add the honey, egg, and water, and stir well to combine.

4. Use your hands or the back of your spoon to press the dough down and pack it tightly into the bowl. Using a small cookie scoop, scoop the dough onto a non-stick baking sheet. Pack the dough down into the bowl as often as needed to be able to continue scooping it easily.

5. Bake until dry and firm to the touch, about 20 minutes.

6. Turn the oven off, crack the oven door, and allow the treats to cool inside the oven for about 1 hour.

 

These treats should be stored in an airtight container inside the refrigerator.

Grain Free Chicken Dog Biscuits

Grain free baking is still new to me. I have worked with buckwheat and nut flours before, but this was the first time that I had tried using bean flour. Nowadays there are a variety of bean flours on grocery store shelves: black bean, garbanzo/chickpea, fava bean, green pea, soy, and white bean. For this recipe I used Bob’s Red Mill “Gluten Free Garbanzo and Fava Flour.” You may see this two bean mixture labeled by other brands as “garfava”. If you can’t easily find it pre-made, you can simply mix together equal parts garbanzo flour and fava bean flour. (Or try using either all garbanzo flour or all fava flour.)

I found this dough to be much stickier than that made with a wheat flour. Be warned that you’ll need plenty of extra flour for dusting the countertop, rolling pin, cookie cutter, and pretty much anything else that is going to come in contact with the dough. Otherwise, I found it very easy to work with. The dough came together quickly, rolled out easily, and baked up with a nice, soft texture.

Like many “alternative” flours, the garbanzo and fava flour has a distinct aroma and flavor. My taste-tester Pacey is picky about strong flavors, so he generally prefers treats made with rice or wheat flours (which taste blander); however, Pacey definitely seemed to like these biscuits better than any of the other grain free recipes that I’ve tried thus far.

Grain Free Chicken Biscuits

Grain Free Chicken Dog Biscuits

Makes about 20 (3-inch) biscuits

 

2 1/2 cups Bob’s Red Mill Garbanzo & Fava Flour (OR 1 1/4 cup garbanzo/chickpea flour and 1 1/4 cup fava bean flour), plus more for dusting

1/2 cup homemade or low fat, low sodium chicken broth

1 egg

 

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.

2. Place the flour in a bowl. Add the chicken broth and egg, and stir to combine.

3. Use your hands to press the mixture together until it forms a smooth, homogenous ball of dough.

4. Dust the countertop very generously with flour. Dust the dough with a little extra flour before rolling it out into a sheet about 1/4-inch thick.

5. Use your desired cookie cutter to cut the dough into pieces. (If needed, dip the cookie cutter in flour to help keep the dough from sticking to it.) Arrange the biscuits on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.

6. Bake for 8 minutes. Remove from the oven, flip each biscuit over, then return to the oven to continue baking until the treats are firm to the touch and baked through, about 8 minutes more.

 

These treats are best stored in an airtight container inside the refrigerator.

Cheddar Crackers

If your dogs are anything like mine, they just can’t get enough cheesy treats. Unlike a lot of cheese-flavored dog treat recipes, these crispy little biscuits are made using freeze dried cheddar cheese. Freeze drying is a process that naturally preserves food without the need to add any artificial preservatives, and recently freeze-dried foods have become somewhat trendy. There are now lots of brands of freeze dried cheese out there, so you can experiment to find the one that you (and your dog) like best. I choose to use PureBites brand “Freeze Dried Cheddar Cheese Dog Treats,” because it is produced specifically for dogs, made in the USA, and readily available at my neighborhood pet shop.

You will need to grind the freeze dried cheese pieces before making this recipe. To do this you simply place the cheese in a food processor or blender and process until it is the consistency of a fine powder. To yield the necessary 1/2 cup of powder, I used less than 1 ounce of freeze-dried cheese.

 

Cheese Crackers

Cheddar Crackers

Makes about 60 (1-inch square) treats

 

1 cup unbleached flour, plus as needed for dusting

1/2 cup finely ground freeze-dried cheddar cheese

1/2 cup plus 1 Tbsp water

 

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.

2. Combine the flour and cheese in a bowl.

3. Add the water, and stir until the mixture forms a homogenous dough.

4. Generously dust the countertop with flour. Use a rolling pin to roll the dough out into a sheet about 1/4-inch thick. Cut the dough into your desired shape using a cookie cutter, paring knife, or rotary cutter. (I used a rotary cutter to cut the dough into 1-inch by 1-inch squares.)

5. Arrange the pieces on an ungreased baking sheet. Place in the oven and bake until crisp, about 16 minutes. If desired, flip the treats over halfway through the baking time to help ensure even browning.

These treats should be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

Summer Berry Bars

Right now we have an abundance of fresh, local strawberries here in Gettysburg, so for the past several weeks I have been thoroughly enjoying multiple batches of strawberry shortcake. Today I very generously decided to share some of the strawberries leftover from my shortcake-a-palooza with my dog Pacey, and the result was this recipe for berry bar cookies. If you don’t have fresh strawberries, you can substitute an equal amount of blueberries, blackberries, or raspberries, or use a combination of berries.

The preparation is simple, and the treats can easily be made from start to finish in less than 30 minutes. I cut the baked treats into 1-inch by 1-inch squares to suit my little dog, but you can cut the treats into pieces of any size and/or shape using a paring knife or a small cookie cutter. To keep the finished treats from crumbling too much, it’s best to cut them into pieces immediately after removing them from the oven. Just be sure to use an oven mitt or pot-holder and be extremely careful during this step, because the pan and the treats will be very hot.

Summer Berry Bars

Summer Berry Bars

Makes about 30 (1-inch by 1-inch) bars

 

1 1/2 cups whole ripe strawberries, stems and leaves removed

1/4 cup water

1 egg

2 cups oat flour

1 cup white rice flour

 

1. Preheat the oven to 350F.

2. Place the strawberries and water in a bowl. Use a potato masher or the back of a fork to mash the berries into very small pieces (a.k.a. mush).

3. Stir the egg into the mashed berries.

4. In a separate bowl, combine the oat flour and rice flour.

5. Slowly stir the flours into the wet ingredients, and continue stirring until well-combined. (The finished dough will be slightly wet but should hold together well and press easily into the pan.)

6. Press the dough into an 8-inch by 8-inch pan lined with parchment paper, making sure that the sheet of dough is of an even thickness.

7. Bake until firm to the touch and baked through, 18 to 20 minutes.

8. Remove the pan from the oven, and use a sharp paring knife to cut the bars into pieces.

9. Allow the bars to cool completely before removing them from the pan and serving.

 

These treats should be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

Grain Free Peanut Butter Cookies

This week I continued my foray into the wonderful world of grain free baking. Like wheat, many beans (like soy beans or chickpeas) and seeds (such as buckwheat, amaranth, and quinoa) can be ground into flours that are great for baking dog treats. Most of these grain-free flours are widely available in grocery stores, but you can also very easily create your own by grinding the whole beans or seeds into a powder using a grain mill, food processor, blender, or coffee grinder.

Peanut butter is one of my dog Pacey’s favorite flavors, and my Peanut Butter Cookies are unquestionably See Spot Bake’s bestseller at the farmers’ market. To create a grain free version of this favorite, I replaced the brown rice flour in my original recipe with buckwheat flour and adjusted the moisture content. I found that the buckwheat flour baked up denser than rice flour or wheat flour, so I recommend rolling this dough out as thinly as possible to keep the finished treats from being too heavy.

I used a store-bought buckwheat flour in this recipe simply because I already had it in my pantry. To make your own buckwheat flour, you would buy “buckwheat groats” (they may also be labeled “raw” or “hulled”) and grind them into a powder using any of the appliances that I mentioned above.

 

Grain Free Peanut Butter Treats

Grain Free Peanut Butter Cookies

Makes about 26 (2-inch) treats

 

1/2 cup natural peanut butter

1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons water

1 egg

2 cups buckwheat flour

 

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.

2. Place the peanut butter, water, and egg a bowl, and stir to combine.

3. Add the flour in two additions, mixing well after each addition. Continue stirring until the mixture forms a smooth, homogenous dough. Use your hands to knead and press the dough together into a ball.

4. Roll the dough out into a sheet about 1/4-inch thick. (You do not need to dust the countertop with flour.) Use your desired cookie cutter to cut the dough into pieces.

5. Arrange the cookies on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.

6. Bake until the cookies are firm and golden brown, about 15 minutes. If desired, flip the treats over halfway through the baking time to ensure even browning.

 

These treats are best stored in an airtight container inside the refrigerator.

Frozen Peanut Butter Treats

As the dog days of summer start heating up, it’s important to remember that your pooch is probably feeling just as hot and uncomfortable as you are! As always, you want to be sure to keep your dog’s bowl filled with clean, cool water, but from time to time it’s also nice to pamper him/her with a frosty treat. This quick and easy recipe for frozen peanut-flavored treats is a great way to help cool your hot dog down at the beach, by the pool, or after a good romp in the backyard.

Most dogs will really appreciate the novelty of a frozen treat, but as the treat starts to melt it can get pretty messy. A lot of dogs will want to play with the slippery treat like a toy—flinging, pushing, and chasing it all over the place before actually eating it. Therefore, it is best to serve these treats outdoors (or on an indoor surface that you don’t mind having to clean up).

Frozen Peanut Butter Treats

Frozen Peanut Butter Treats

Makes about 10 small treats

 

1/4 cup natural peanut butter (creamy or crunchy)

1/4 cup natural, unsweetened applesauce

Carob chips, as desired

 

1. Use a rubber spatula to stir the peanut butter together with the applesauce until the ingredients are well combined into a smooth, homogenous mixture.

 

2. Pour the mixture into the cavities of an ice cube tray or mini muffin tin.

 

3. Gently press 2 or 3 carob chips into the top of each treat.

 

4. Place in the freezer until firm, at least 2 hours.

Southern Cheese Straws

Cheese straws (along with Brunswick stew, grits, and Carolina pulled pork barbecue) are a Southern delicacy that I’ve really missed since moving north of the Mason-Dixon Line. Even though Virginia may not be considered the Deep South, natives to historic Richmond and the surrounding areas certainly pride themselves on their Southern heritage, and cooking plays a significant role in that identity. Growing up there, I remember cheese straws being a culinary staple at most get-togethers, pot luck dinners, and receptions. This delicious, savory finger-food is highly addictive. It’s nearly impossible to eat only one . . . or even just a handful, or two handfuls . . . you get the idea.

The traditional recipe is basically tons of cheddar cheese, tons of butter, a few spices, and a little flour to hold it all together. In my dog-friendly version, the butter and spices are gone but there is still plenty of the cheddar cheese that pooches will love. Don’t have cheddar in the fridge? You can substitute an equal amount of whatever shred-able cheese you’ve got on hand.

I had a grand vision of creating fancy, scalloped cheese straws, so I piped my dough out using a piping bag fitted with a star-shaped piping tip. The lines of dough did look beautiful before going into the oven; however, they spread out so much during baking that I might as well have used a plain, round piping tip. While much flatter than I originally envisioned and less crunchy than the original human snack, the finished dog treats still came out looking and tasting good. In fact, they got an enthusiastic A+ from all four of my taste-testers!

 Cheese Straws

Cheese Straws

Makes about 40 treats

 

15 oz fat free shredded cheddar cheese

1/2 cup natural applesauce

1/4 cup cold water

1 cup oat flour, or as needed

 

1. Preheat the oven to 325ºF.

2. Place the cheese, applesauce, and water in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat on medium speed until the ingredients are very well combined and the cheese shreds appear slightly mushy.

3. Gradually add the oat flour to the cheese mixture, beating well after each addition. The dough should hold together but still be soft enough to push easily through a piping tip or cookie press. (You may need a little less or more flour than the 1 cup that is called for.)

4. Transfer a portion of the dough to a cookie press or piping bag fitted with a large round piping tip. Pipe the dough onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a Silpat® mat. It works best to pipe the dough into long, even lines that run the length of the baking sheet. The dough will spread out quite a bit as it bakes, so be sure to leave about 1 1/2 inches between the parallel lines of dough as you pipe.

5. Bake until the straws are crisp and browned on the bottom, about 20 minutes.

6. While still warm, cut the long strips into smaller pieces using a paring knife. (Pieces 2 to 3 inches in length work well for most dogs.) Transfer the pieces to a wire rack or (a piece of wax paper on a cool countertop) to allow the cheese straws to cool completely before serving. If needed, use a metal spatula to help release the cheese straws from the parchment paper.

Store in an airtight container inside the refrigerator.

NOTE:  It works better to shred your own cheese than to use the pre-shredded stuff; the slightly stickier consistency of the freshly shredded cheese helps hold the dough together.

Sweet Beet Treats

The red beet, or “beetroot” as it’s called in many parts of the world, has been touted as one of nature’s superfoods. The root vegetable is jam-packed with iron, potassium, magnesium, fiber, and antioxidants such as beta-carotene and vitamins A, B, and C. The beet is also a detoxifier, which simply means that it encourages the liver to cleanse the body of toxins, and it is also thought to improve blood flow and stamina. And on top of all of these health benefits, beets have a naturally sweet flavor that most dogs will love.

The beet’s intense red pigment gives these dog treats a beautiful pinkish color, but you should promptly rinse out your blender, bowl, utensils, etc. so that the natural dye doesn’t stain your equipment. Be aware that the color can also transfer to your hands while you’re peeling and cutting the beet. But don’t panic! It will go away with a few good hand-washings. (I also recently heard a tip that washing your hands with coarse salt, in addition to soap and water, will help pull the color out of your skin more quickly.)

At this point some of you are probably wondering, “how do I shop for the perfect beet?” When in the produce aisle, look for those that are uniform in shape and medium in size. (In this case, bigger is not better. Larger beets will taste less sweet and more earthy.) You also want to find beets that feel very firm to the touch; a beet that feels soft is old and will not be the best quality.

Sweet Beet Treats

Sweet Beet Treats

Makes 50 (3-inch long) dog treats

 

1 medium-sized red beet

Natural apple juice, as needed

1/4 cup olive oil

1 cup natural applesauce

3 cups whole wheat flour, plus as needed for dusting

1 teaspoon baking powder

 

1. Lightly peel the beet using a vegetable peeler and roughly chop it into pieces. Place the beet in a blender and blend until smooth. If needed, add apple juice by the tablespoonful to keep the blender moving easily. Place a fine-mesh strainer over a bowl. Strain the pureed beet through the fine-mesh strainer, using a spoon or rubber spatula to press down on the pulp and squeeze out the maximum amount of juice into the bowl. Reserve 1/3 cup of beet juice for this recipe. You can discard the pulp, and use the remainder of the beet juice for another purpose (or just drink it up—it’s naturally sweet and healthy for you!)

2. Preheat the oven to 350F.

3. Combine the 1/3 cup of beet juice, oil, and applesauce in a bowl.

4. In a separate bowl, combine the flour with the baking powder.

5. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients, mixing constantly. Continue mixing until a smooth, homogenous dough forms. (The dough is slightly sticky.)

6. Generously dust the countertop with flour, and roll the dough out in to a sheet about 1/4-inch thick. Use your desired cookie cutter to cut the treats out.

7. Arrange the treats on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.

8. Bake until the treats are firm to the touch, about 14 minutes. Allow to cool completely before serving.

 

NOTE:  These treats bake up very soft and cakey, so they make a great choice for older dogs or any dog with dental issues.

These treats are best stored in an airtight container inside the refrigerator.