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.

 

 

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.

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.

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.

Fruity Frozen Dog Treats

After a very long, unexpected absence from blogging due to illness, I’M BACK! And without a moment to spare: I’m bouncing back just in time to enjoy the springtime weather and the opening of this year’s farmers’ market season! In celebration of the sunshine and warmer temperatures, this week I whipped up a fun frozen dog treat to share with you. I used a fancy, silicone, bone-shaped ice cube tray to make this batch, but you can use any ice cube tray (or even a mini muffin pan) to mold the treats. Just be sure to set aside at least a couple hours for them to firm up in the freezer.

The base of these treats is applesauce. If you have the time and inclination, feel free to make a homemade batch from scratch, but a natural, unsweetened, store-bought applesauce works as well. I included strawberries because my dog Pacey happens to love them; however, you can use whatever fruit is handy in your pantry. Fresh or frozen blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, or even dried cranberries would all work well.

Fruity Frozen Dog Treats

Fruity Frozen Dog Treats

Makes about 18 frozen treats

 

About 4 medium-sized strawberries

1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh parsley leaves

1 cup applesauce

 

1. Remove the stems and leaves from the strawberries and discard them. Dice the strawberries into very small pieces.

2. Stir the strawberries and parsley into the applesauce.

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

4. Place in the freezer until firm, 2 to 3 hours.

 

Note: Like any frozen delight on a hot day, these treats can get a little messy. It’s best to serve them to your dog outside (or on a floor that you don’t mind having to wipe clean).

Turkey Day Treats

This year, instead of caving in when your dog comes begging at your Thanksgiving table, be sure to have these tasty turkey-flavored dog treats handy. You don’t even need to cook the turkey ahead of time to make this super simple recipe. Just combine everything in a bowl, roll into meatballs, and bake.

Ground turkey is a very lean meat and a great source of protein for your pooch; however, you really should resist ever feeding your dog turkey from your table. The skin of a roasted (or fried) turkey is fatty, poses a choking hazard, and can even cause pancreatitis. The turkey meat isn’t safe either, because the cooked bones splinter very easily and are a major choking hazard–for people as well as pets. And, as tempting as it may be, you should also avoid giving your dog any bites of your salty, butter-laden side dishes (like veggie casseroles or gravy) or any candy, desserts, or alcohol that may be around the house during the holiday season.

Turkey Day Treats

Turkey Day Dog Treats

Makes about 50 treats

1 pound raw ground turkey

1/2 cup water

1 egg

3 1/2 cups whole wheat flour

1. Preheat the oven to 350F.

2. Combine the turkey, water, and egg in a bowl, and stir to combine.

3. Stir in the flour, and knead the mixture by hand until it forms a smooth dough.

4. Roll the dough into 1-inch balls, and arrange the balls on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.

5. Bake until golden brown and cooked through, about 23 minutes. Allow to cool completely before serving.

NOTE:  Dogs, just like people, are susceptible to bacteria, so as soon as these treats are cool enough to handle they should transferred to the refrigerator for storage.

Spiced Pear Dog Treats

“Spiced pear” may be a flavor that seems a tad bit sophisticated for dog treats at first glance. However, these treats were a big hit with my dog Pacey. Any dog that likes apples is sure to enjoy the fruity sweetness of pears, and the blend of three different spices gives this recipe a little more pizazz. In fact, the balance of sweetness and spice makes these the perfect treats for your dog to share with YOU! Although to people they’re more like a cracker than a cookie, the treats are actually pretty flavorful–they also fill the house with an amazing autumnal aroma as they bake.

I cut my batch of treats into really large pear-shaped pieces, about 3 1/2 inches long. If you use a smaller cutter, be sure to keep an eye on the treats as they bake, because you don’t want the treats to get overly browned and you probably won’t need the full 20 minutes of baking time that is listed in the recipe.

Spiced Pear Treats

Spiced Pear Dog Treats

Makes about 12 large treats

 

1 medium pear, peeled and grated

1/3 cup honey

1/3 cup water

2 1/4 cups whole wheat flour

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 pinch ground ginger

1 pinch ground allspice

 

1. Preheat the oven to 350F.

2. Place the pear, honey, and water in a bowl and stir to combine.

3. In a separate bowl, combine the flour with the cinnamon, ginger, and allspice.

4. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients, while stirring to combine. Use your hands to knead the mixture until it forms a smooth, homogenous dough.

5. On a floured countertop, roll the dough out into a sheet about 1/4-inch thick. Use your desired cutter to cut the dough into pieces. Arrange the treats on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.

6. Bake for 10 minutes. Flip each of the treats over and continue baking until firm to the touch and slightly browned, about 10 minutes more. Allow the treats to cool completely before serving.

 

Store these treats in the refrigerator.

Dog Walk Energy Bites

Yet another perk of Autumn is that it brings perfect weather for dog walking (at least here in the Mid-Atlantic states). When you’re out on a nice long walk or hike it’s always good to have a few small treats in your pocket, especially if you’re still training your dog to walk properly on a leash. These little no-bake treats are great for throwing into a zip-lock bag and taking with you on your outdoor adventures. The recipe is very simple. Just remember to allow yourself enough time for the treats to firm up in the refrigerator before you head out the door.

When my dog Pacey is on a walk, he is on a mission: he doesn’t want to stop to smell the roses, he doesn’t want to be petted, and he will not take a treat. Therefore, I wasn’t able to actually get these treats genuinely taste-tested on a long walk. But my slightly overweight chihuahua really enjoyed them while hanging out on the couch at home.

Energy Bites

Dog Walk Energy Bites

Makes about 16 treats

 

1/3 cup unsweetened shredded coconut

1/3 cup natural peanut butter chips

1/3 cup rolled oats

1/3 cup wheat germ

1/3 cup honey

1 tablespoon molasses

 

1. Place the coconut, peanut butter chips, oats, and wheat germ in a bowl, and stir to combine.

2. Add the honey and molasses to the dry ingredients, stirring well until all the the dry ingredients are well-coated with the honey.

3. Use a tablespoon to take a scoop of the mixture. Use your hands to squeeze and roll the mixture into a ball. (The mixture will be very wet and sticky, so this part can be a bit messy.)

4. Arrange the treats on a tray or large plate and put them in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes to firm up. The treats should then be stored in the refrigerator.

 

NOTE: A tablespoon is a good-sized scoop for most dogs. If you’ve got a little dog, you may want to make the balls slightly smaller. Try using a 1/2 tablespoon or (for really small pups) a teaspoon. This recipe makes about 48 teaspoon-sized treats.