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 “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
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.
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 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. 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.
In the past few weeks I have had a handful of people ask me about making a grain free dog treat. In fact it seems like I’m encountering more and more dogs who are on a completely grain free diet. The recipe that I’m sharing today is perfectly tasty to make as-is, but it also makes a great baseline to add your own flavoring ingredients and creativity. For example it would be simple to add minced herbs or small diced veggies or to replace all or part of the broth with canned tuna water or freshly squeezed veggie juice.
It may confuse some of you that the main ingredient in a grain free recipe is buckwheat flour. Contrary to popular belief, buckwheat is NOT a type of wheat. As a matter of fact, buckwheat is not a grain or cereal of any kind. (So, yes, it is gluten free!) Buckwheat is actually a seed that is harvested from a flowering plant closely related to rhubarb. The pyramid-shaped buckwheat seeds, or “groats”, may be toasted and sold whole or may be ground into a rich, gray flour labeled as buckwheat or kasha flour. Buckwheat flour is now widely available at most grocery and health food stores, so you shouldn’t have any trouble finding it in your local baking aisle.
Basic Grain Free Dog Treats
Makes 60 (2-inch) treats
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 egg, beaten
1/2 cup chicken or beef broth
2 cups buckwheat flour
1. Preheat the oven to 400F.
2. Combine the olive oil, egg, and broth.
3. Slowly pour the buckwheat flour into the egg mixture, stirring constantly to incorporate.
4. Knead the mixture until it forms a smooth, homogenous dough, about 2 minutes.
5. Roll the dough out into a sheet about 1/4-inch thick. Cut the dough into pieces using your desired cookie cutter.
6. Arrange the treats on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
7. Bake for 6 minutes. Flip each of the treats over, then return to the oven and continue baking until the treats are firm to the touch, about 6 minutes more.
These treats are best stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
Cornbread is a general term that is used for a fairly wide variety of quickbread recipes made with cornmeal and baking powder. As the name “quickbread” suggests, cornbread batter is quick to mix and just as quick to bake. I had these mini corn muffins made from start to finish in under fifteen minutes.
To produce cornmeal, fresh corn is dried and then ground into a meal. Cornmeal is available in two varieties: yellow and white, depending on the color of the corn that was used to make it. Yellow corn is naturally sweeter than white corn, which makes yellow cornmeal slightly sweeter than white cornmeal; however, the two types can be used interchangeably in most recipes.
There is some debate about cornmeal amongst pet owners. Dog food (not treats!) should make up about 90% of your pet’s diet, and I believe that there is a very valid argument against cornmeal being used as a main ingredient in these types of commercial dog foods. Yes, some dogs have a sensitivity to corn. Yes, dogs are naturally carnivores and digest meat protein easier than corn protein. But for me the real problem is that commercial dog food companies are using cornmeal as a cheap substitution for meat protein in a product that is being marketed as high quality, nutritious, and even “meaty.”
However, some dog owners are choosing to eliminate corn completely from their dog’s diet. Here are my two cents on that issue. Like most things, cornmeal is okay in moderation. As with all the recipes on this blog, these muffins are intended to be given only once in a while as a special treat. Cornmeal adds both flavor and texture to dog treat recipes, and unless your dog has a sensitivity or allergy, I personally don’t believe that there’s anything wrong with occasionally incorporating it into your dog’s diet.
If you do object to cornmeal, in many recipes you can substitute oat flour instead.
Mini Corn Muffins
Makes about 36 mini muffins
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 cup chicken broth (homemade or low fat and low sodium)
1 large egg
1 cup cornmeal
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1. Preheat the oven to 400°F.
2. Place the honey, oil, broth, and egg in a bowl and stir to combine.
3. In a separate bowl, sift together the cornmeal, flour, baking powder, and baking soda.
4. Stir the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients to just combine.
5. Lightly prepare a mini muffin pan with cooking spray. Fill each muffin cup about two-thirds full of batter.
6. Bake until the muffins are golden brown and spring back when touched, about 8 minutes.
These treats may be stored at room temperature or in the refrigerator.
I have yet to meet a dog that doesn’t love cheese. Cheddar cheese is packed with protein and flavor, but you do want to be careful not to overload your dog with too much. Most dogs will have no reaction at all to the occasional bit of cheese, but you should be aware that it is a common canine allergen. According to the ASPCA, “pets lack significant amounts of lactase, the enzyme needed to break down lactose in dairy products. As a result, some may have difficulty with digestion and end up with stomach upset. Cheese, however, has less lactose than milk and some other dairy products, so it’s less likely to cause problems.” Just be sure to use low fat cheddar cheese and feed these treats sparingly.
Makes 34 (2-inch) biscuits
2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
1/2 cup very finely shredded low fat cheddar cheese
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup homemade or fat free, low sodium chicken broth
1. Preheat the oven to 400°F.
2. Combine all of the ingredients in a large bowl.
3. Knead vigorously by hand until the mixture forms a smooth dough.
4. Generously dust the countertop with flour. Roll the dough out to about 1/2-inch thick, and cut into pieces using your desired cookie cutter.
5. Arrange the biscuits on a prepared baking sheet, and bake until firm to the touch, about 12 minutes.
6. When finished baking, turn the oven off, crack the oven door, and leave the biscuits to dry out for about 2 hours.
These treats must be stored in the refrigerator.