Pumpkin Pupcakes

I don’t bake doggie cupcakes very often (mostly because a couple of my taste-testers are very messy eaters), but they are the perfect treat for special occasions. It takes surprisingly little effort to make beautiful dog-safe cupcakes that look and smell yummy enough for humans to eat. The Pumpkin Pupcakes recipe that I’m sharing today smells particularly delicious when it’s baking on a crisp Autumn day. The pumpkin flavor pairs really well with natural peanut butter frosting, and the frosted pupcakes would make an excellent addition to any Halloween, Thanksgiving, or birthday celebration.

 Pumpkin Pupcakes

Pumpkin Pupcakes

Makes about 24 mini cupcakes

2/3 cup oat flour

2/3 cup brown rice flour

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 1/2 cups canned 100% pure pumpkin puree

2 large eggs

2 1/2 tablespoons honey

2 1/2 tablespoons canola oil

Natural, unsalted peanut butter, as desired for frosting (optional)

 

1. Preheat oven to 350°F.

2. Line each cavity of a mini muffin tin with paper liners or very lightly coat each cavity with canola oil.

3. Combine the oat flour, rice flour, baking powder, and cinnamon, and stir to combine.

4. In a separate bowl, combine the pumpkin, eggs, honey, and oil.

5. Stir the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients until well combined.

6. Spoon the batter into each of the prepared cavities of the mini muffin tin. Be careful not to overfill; each cup should be about 3/4 full of batter.

7. Bake for about 15 minutes, or until the tops of the pupcakes are firm to the touch.

8. Allow the pupcakes to cool completely before removing them from the mini muffin tin.

9. If desired, frost the top of each pupcake with a thin layer of natural peanut butter.

NOTE: Paper cupcake liners are a pretty touch that make for a very nice presentation; however, you should always REMOVE THE PAPER LINERS BEFORE FEEDING THE TREAT TO YOUR DOG.

 

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

 

Baked Sweet Potato Fries

There is a strange fact about myself that I typically keep hidden for fear of seeming unAmerican . . . I hate fries. French fries, steak fries, curly fries, potato skins. I hate them all, and I honestly can’t figure out the source of my aversion. I love potatoes and I love fried foods, but I can not stand fried potatoes. However, of all the various French fries, my arch nemesis is the sweet potato fry. I hate the flavor, texture, and pretty much everything else about sweet potato fries. HOWEVER, I know that I’m in a very small minority. Most people (and dogs too) seem to love the flavor of sweet potatoes, and their natural sweetness makes them a perfect flavoring for a dog treat.

You can simplify the prep work for this recipe by using a canned sweet potato puree. (It could also be labeled “mashed sweet potato”). If you decide to take this route, you don’t want to buy candied sweet potatoes, any sort of syrupy concoction, or pie filling. Be sure to look for 100% sweet potatoes on the can’s label.

It’s not that much more work to bake and mash the sweet potatoes yourself. Check out my Sweet Potato Treats post for step-by-step instructions.

Sweet Potato Fries

Sweet Potato Fries

Makes about 40 (2-inch) treats

 

1 cup mashed sweet potato or canned sweet potato puree

1 large egg

1/4 cup water

1 cup white rice flour

1 cup oat flour

 

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.

  2. Combine the mashed sweet potato, egg, and water in a bowl.

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

  4. Pour the flours into the wet ingredients, stirring with a rubber spatula to combine. Press the mixture together with your hands until it holds together in a ball of homogenous dough.

  5. Cut a piece of parchment paper to fit your baking sheet.

  6. Place the piece of parchment paper on the countertop, and use a rolling pin to roll the dough out into a sheet about 1/2 inch thick on top of the piece of parchment.

  7. Carefully transfer the parchment paper (with the sheet of dough on top) to your baking sheet.

  8. Bake for 12 minutes.

  9. Remove the baking sheet from the oven.

  10. Immediately (before the treats cool), use a fluted pastry cutter or a pizza cutter to make parallel cuts about 3/4 inch apart all the way across the sheet of dough. Next, working perpendicular to the cuts that you just made, make parallel cuts about 2 inches apart across the sheet of dough. These cuts should now form rectangular pieces measuring 3/4 inch by 2 inches that mimic the shape of French fries.

  11. Gently separate the pieces so that there is about 1/4 inch of space between them on the baking sheet and flip each of the treats over.

  12. Return the baking sheet to the oven for 6 to 7 minutes. The finished treats should be lightly brown and firm to the touch.

 

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

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.

 

 

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.

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.

Doggie Birthday Cake

Here's the carob cake with carob-cream cheese frosting that I made to celebrate Pacey's birthday.

Here’s the carob cake with carob-cream cheese frosting that I made to celebrate Pacey’s 4th birthday–or 28th birthday if we’re counting in dog years.

Pacey turned four on Saturday (in human years), and that occasion certainly called for a very special treat. I pulled out all the stops and made him a carob-flavored birthday cake with carob-cream cheese frosting. This is one of the most extravagant dog treats I’ve made to date, and the birthday boy and his buddies absolutely LOVED it!

Honestly, the trickiest part of preparing this cake is making the frosting look neat and even, but don’t stress if it doesn’t look perfect. Remember, you are serving it to dogs after all. They’ll still love you and will still chow down on this delicious cake no matter how it looks.

If you’re ambitious (and have a really big dog), you can double the recipes below and then stack the two cakes with a layer of frosting in between. A 2-layer cake would have been way too much cake for a little dog like Pacey, so I just did one layer and only frosted the top of the cake, not the sides.

 

Doggie Birthday Cake

Makes one 8-inch round cake

 

1/4 cup vegetable oil

3/4 cup honey

1 cup non-fat plain yogurt

2 cups oat flour

1/2 cup carob powder

1 tsp baking powder

 

Frosting:

8 oz low-fat cream cheese, softened

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1/4 cup carob powder

 

1. Preheat the oven to 350F.

2. Combine the eggs, oil, honey, and yogurt in a bowl.

3. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, carob powder, and baking powder.

4. Add the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients, and stir thoroughly to combine.

5. Pour the batter into a prepared 8-inch round cake pan.

6. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean, about 32 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool.

7. To make the frosting, combine the cream cheese and oil in a bowl and use a mixer to beat until combined. Add the carob powder and continue mixing until smooth.

8. When the cake is completely cool, use an offset metal spatula to frost the cake with the frosting.

 

NOTE: To make the decorative icing that I used to pipe the writing onto my cake, I took out 1/4 to 1/2 cup of the frosting just before adding the carob powder. You can leave it white, as I did, or stir in a gel food coloring to dye it whatever color you’d like. Place the icing into a piping bag fitted with a round piping tip, and pipe your desired décor onto the cake.

This cake should be stored in the refrigerator.

Peanut Butter Jar Cookies

Finished JarYou’ve probably all seen this cute jar cookie idea used to make people cookies, but it also works nicely for these dog biscuits. It’s very simple to execute, and (if you’ve got the time and inclination) you can use your crafty-ness and creativity to make the packaging really special. This is a great homemade gift for dog-lovers. I’m planning to use it as a “thank you” gift when someone dog-sits for Pacey.

Since you aren’t always aware of the special dietary needs of your friends’ dogs, I made this recipe wheat-free and gluten-free, just in case. Most dogs love peanuts/peanut butter and can digest it well, so it is generally not a problem ingredient.

If you’re not in need of a gift for someone else at the moment, you could obviously forget the jar cookie idea all together and just make these cookies for your dog following the same recipe below.

Here are the craft supplies you’ll need:

1 large mason jar

1 scrap of pretty fabric

Ribbon (1/2-inch wide or thinner)

1 piece of paper to handwrite or print the recipe on

Hole-punch

Scissors (to use on both fabric and paper)

Here are the ingredients that you’ll need:

1 1/2 cups (gluten-free) oat flour

1/4 cup chopped peanuts

1 1/2 cups brown rice flour

1/2 cup all natural peanut butter chips

Here’s how you put it all together:

-Carefully pour each of the ingredients into the mason jar in the order they’re listed above. (The oat flour goes in first and so on.) Gently jiggle the jar after each addition to level off each ingredient and keep the presentation neat.

-Place the metal cap onto the top of the jar to seal it.

-Cut your desired fabric into a circle large enough to cover the top of the jar. Depending on the look that you want, you could use regular scissors or the pinking shears kind.

-Place your fabric circle on top of the metal cap on the jar. Place the metal ring (that is made to secure the lid on the jar) on top of the fabric circle. Twist the metal ring to close the jar as you normally would, trapping the fabric tightly between the two metal pieces of the lid.

-Print the recipe onto your desired paper. This is where you can get really creative if you want. You can simply print the recipe out onto white printer paper using your computer (like I did), or you could use colorful printer paper or pretty scrapbook paper. If you’re feeling really fancy, you can handwrite the recipe or even use calligraphy.

-Once you’ve got the recipe printed on the paper, use the hole-punch to put a round hole at the top of the recipe. Then use scissors (again, plain edge or decorative ones) to cut the recipe out. I just did a plain-Jane rectangle, but you could do a circle or whatever shape you like. As long as the recipe card fits neatly against the jar, it doesn’t really matter.

-Cut a length of ribbon long enough to tie in a bow around the lid of the jar.

-Thread the ribbon through the hole that you punched in the recipe card, and tie it into a bow around the metal rim of the jar’s lid. And . . . VOILÀ! You’ve got a personalized gift for your favorite dog-lover!

Below is the recipe as I printed it out for my recipe card. This one is formatted a little differently from the way I typically post my recipes–simply because I wanted it to fit neatly onto a small recipe card.

PB Jar Cookies

PEANUT BUTTER DOG COOKIES

MAKES ABOUT 50

 

Transfer the ingredients inside the jar to a mixing bowl, and stir to combine. Add 1 egg and 3/4 cup of water, and stir to combine. Use your hands to knead the mixture into a dough that will hold together.

 

Roll the dough into small balls about 1-inch in diameter, and arrange on an ungreased baking sheet. Use your hand to flatten each ball into a cookie shape.

 

Bake in a 350°F oven until the cookies are firm to the touch, about 20 minutes. Cool completely before serving to your four-legged friends.

 

Store in an airtight container at room temperature.

Wheat-Free Pretzel Treats

There are quite a few dogs who have an allergy or intolerance to wheat, so I’ve been meaning to post a wheat-free recipe for a while. I’d like to give special thanks to Otis the Labradoodle (who is on a wheat-free diet) for giving me a friendly reminder this week.

Many of the most commonly used flours are made from ground wheat:  bleached, bread, cake, pastry, self-rising, and all-purpose, to name just a few. However, there is an increasingly wide variety of flours available that are made using other grains, nuts, legumes, or seeds. When used in baked goods, these “alternative flours” are able to provide structure in much the same way that wheat flour does.

This recipe calls for a combination of rice flour and oat flour. I used white rice flour because it tends to bake up a little lighter than brown rice flour, making the finished product less dense, but you could use the brown if you’d like. You also have a choice when it comes to the oat flour. You can buy premade oat flour (I know Bob’s Red Mill brand offers one), or you can just process rolled oats into a coarse powder at home using a food processor.

I think it’s important to take a moment here to distinguish between “wheat” and “gluten,” because I’ve heard a lot of people (erroneously) use the terms interchangeably. Wheat is a grain. Gluten is a protein. Gluten is a natural component of wheat and other grains. This recipe is wheat-free, but it is technically not considered gluten-free since oats, which are a grain that is often grown in rotation with wheat crops, may contain a very small amount of gluten via cross-contamination. If your dog has a true gluten allergy, you’ll need to buy organic oats that are specifically designated as “gluten-free” on the package.

Making this recipe with rice and oat flours, I found that I needed to work the dough quite a bit to get it to hold together enough to be twisted into the pretzel shape. Don’t worry if the dough isn’t the right texture right away—just keep kneading and squeezing it until it’s flexible enough to shape. As I picked up each individual handful of dough to roll into a log, I took another few seconds to squeeze it together before I started shaping it. With a little elbow grease eventually all the dough shaped up quite nicely. The texture of the finished pretzels is dry and crumbly, as you can see in the photo. They break rather easily, so handle these treats with care if you’re packaging them as a gift or want a really nice presentation.

This is a base recipe that you could really get creative with. I made the pretzels plain, but you could garnish them with sesame seeds, dried parsley flakes, finely grated parmesan cheese, or another dog-friendly topping. Just lightly sprinkle the topping onto each pretzel after you eggwash it for the second time. Have fun with it!

Wheat-Free Pretzel Treats

Makes about 25 pretzels

 

2 1/2 cup white rice flour

1 cup oat flour

1 egg

1 cup beef broth (be sure to buy “low sodium” if you don’t make it yourself)

 

Optional eggwash:

1 egg

1 tablespoon beef broth

 

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.

2. Combine the rice and oat flours in a large bowl.

3. Add the egg and beef broth to the flours, and stir to combine. Knead the dough by hand until it holds together enough to be rolled out, about 2 minutes.

4. Take a small handful of dough and roll it into a log against the countertop. (Do not dust the surface with flour.) Ideally you want the log to be about 1/2-inch thick and 8 to 10 inches long. Twist both ends of the long inward and criss-cross to create the traditional pretzel shape. Repeat with the remainder of the dough.

5. Arrange the pretzels on a lightly greased baking sheet.

6. If using the eggwash, combine the egg and broth and whisk until just slightly foamy. Using a pastry brush, lightly brush the top of each pretzel with the eggwash. Take care not to use too much eggwash or it will coagulate in the oven and your pretzels will look like an eggy mess.

7. Bake for 20 minutes. Remove the pretzels from the oven and lightly eggwash each one again. Return to the oven and bake for an additional 10 minutes, until the pretzels are dry and firm to the touch.

8. Turn the oven off, crack the oven door, and allow the pretzels to dry for about 8 hours.

 

NOTE: The eggwash may add a touch of flavor, but it is primarily used to give an attractive shine to the finished pretzels. If you prefer, it can be omitted. If you choose to omit it, simply bake the pretzels until dry and firm to the touch, about 30 minutes.

 

These treats are best stored in the refrigerator.