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