Sunday, August 21, 2016

About the recipe: Carrot Cake Bones

I love carrot cake; and for a while, I was obsessed with making one from scratch. Several years ago after my grandma passed away, we went through her kitchen and found her famed Angel Food Cake recipe; and it was wonderful because it was written out in her own handwriting. But while everyone was going on and on about how good it is (and it is…and I make it per her instructions every time), my mom more fondly remembered her carrot cake. However, try as we might, we could not recover grandma’s carrot cake recipe for which she would hand shred the carrots since she didn’t have nor want a food processor.

Essentially, carrot cake not only has carrots but also a fruit component (and don’t forget the cinnamon); and while most will call for raisins, the recipe I eventually settled on called for pineapple. The recipe which I found most satisfactory was in Southern Lady Magazine; and it’s heavenly… but then again, anything that has a pound of butter and cream cheese is bound to be alright, right? Well, it’s heavenly (and yes, that’s the only word that really fits); but it also kind of a bear to make—and I usually end up using two mixers and every mixing bowl in my house—and it’s still really worth it.

Matchstick carrots
At the end of the day, I had the idea for carrot cake treats because I needed to finally use those carrots which I forgot to add to Presley’s Pupcakes then subsequently forgot to include in my Green Treats; however, I’m kind of glad I didn’t use them before because these treats were fun and definitely worth it. Also, my mom brought me my bone-shaped cookie cutter; so I knew I wanted to make them a roll out treat to cut out the shape. Don’t worry though, this recipe is actually really simple to make and include a healthy dose of carrots and pineapple which I think your dogs will like as much as mine.

Finely chopped carrots
If you’ve ever lived with someone who has my dad’s curiosity over baked goods, a bone-shaped cookie cutter is a good investment and will save you the trouble of having to tell this person or people that what you’re making is intended for a dog. You’ll get a look which says, “Really?”, or it’ll save yourself from having to hear how bland your cookies were and how you should put a sign on your dog treats so unsuspecting passersby don’t grab them and eat them…Yes, in short, my dad thought it was basically a travesty that I’d make treats for my dogs and not for him.

Like all carrot cake recipes, it calls for carrots—which I had on hand because of my poor memory and are a healthy treat for dogs. I picked up matchstick carrots because I didn’t want the mess of shredding my own carrots; and as they’re kind of too big for these treats, I did chop them up a bit so they’d mix in a bit better. If you use fresh carrots, you’ll still probably want to give them a chop or two; however, fresh carrots are a lot “softer”—as they’re fresh, they have more of their natural moisture.

2 cups carrots
Also, if you’re using fresh carrots and shredding them yourself, you’ll want to wring out the carrots before you throw them in your mix as they’ll be too wet to use otherwise. This is the same step you’d do if you were making an actual carrot cake. You put the carrots on a clean kitchen towel (preferably one you’re not worried about turning a little orange), and then you roll the towel up enclosing the carrots. Then you take the ends and twist until there’s no more orange water coming out—I’d suggest you do this part over your kitchen sink. 

This isn’t actually as big of a mess as it may sound; and it is very essential.
And yes, I used two whole cups of chopped carrots in these treats because, well, carrot is in the title; and again, they’re a healthy treat.

Now onto the pineapple which is very pouch friendly. In fact, while checking several sources, I found that some people even let their dogs chew on the fibrous cores as a healthy treat. In moderation, pineapple can aid in digestion and is packed in essential nutrients—especially fresh pineapple. Fresh pineapple cores are high in the enzyme bromelain which not only helps reduce swelling in joints but can also help prevent cancer. Additionally, enzymes in pineapple can prevent kidney or bladder stones. Since pineapple is high in sugar, it can throw off their diet and cause diarrhea and vomiting if eaten too frequently. 

tip: use crushed pineapple and skip this step
Now, I didn’t use fresh pineapple because I was trying to make it as easy as possible; and I bought pineapple tidbits as I had it in my head that tidbits were crushed. They’re not; and that’s why I ended up mashing them up a bit with a potato masher when mixing them with the applesauce. 

Applesauce is great in dog treats; and I use it often in my treat recipes. Apples are healthy and add a bit more natural sweetness; and I use it a lot because it not only helps bind the ingredients but also aids in keeping everything moist and tender.

I mixed my applesauce with my pineapple as I needed to crush the pineapple prior to mixing in the carrots; but if went with crushed pineapple, you can just mix it all in at the same time with the egg (another binder—which is packed with protein) and the coconut oil and vanilla. Basically, all the wet ingredients go in together and mix until that egg is spread throughout.

Now with cakes, you generally mix the wet then mix all the dry in another bowl before adding it into the wet ingredients; but that’s not necessary in this case. If anything, I mixed the cinnamon in with the wet ingredients as it tends to blend better that way before I added the flour, baking soda and powder, oats, wheat-flour and ground flax seeds. Yes, I used both—and while I bought the organic aluminum-free baking powder specifically for dog treats, I hadn’t gotten around to doing the same with the baking soda; however, upon inspection of the ingredients list, there’s no aluminum in mine anyway.

Baking powder works when it gets wet and/or hot (Single acting works when wet--Double acting when it gets wet and then again when it gets hot). There’s a chemical reaction which causes carbon dioxide and makes bubbles in your mixture causing lift. Baking soda does the same thing but requires acid. My carrot cake recipe calls for both because it also calls for buttermilk; and this recipe calls for both because of the acidic pineapple and applesauce.

In the end, these ingredients are what leave these treats kind of soft and not quite as hard as commercial treats; and while you can bake them for a bit longer to get a harder treat, they’ll never be as hard as the cardboard box treats unless you burn them to a crisp. However, if you’re aiming for a firmer treat—feel free to omit both ingredients as they’re stay flat and bake harder. My boys like the softer treats, I think; or at least, it provides them a new texture and treat experience that they seem to enjoy.

All mixed up, it kind of looks like a meat loaf, doesn't it?
Now, oats and flaxseeds are not a part of any carrot cake recipe I’ve ever seen; and while ground flax seeds bring a nutty flavor (most carrot cakes have nuts, but nuts can disrupt your dog’s digestion and could actually be poisonous) and have other health benefits, the oats were actually included because I think they make the treats look more appealing. Plus, they add a bit of healthy fiber and interesting texture to the mix. I mostly included both because I have both on hand—and I tend to use both in a lot of my treats. But if you don’t have them on hand, just increase the amount of wheat-flour you use to make up the difference.

This dough should be stiff; and in fact, it was so stiff that it ended up bending my spatula—so watch out when mixing. In the end, I finished mixing this recipe with my hands. 

be sure to flour your rolling surface
With all the fruit—applesauce and pineapple, this dough is kinda sticky; and you’ll need to dust your rolling surface fairly well prior to turning out your dough. As my kitchen lacks counter space, I actually roll out dough on my cook top stove since it’s the largest flat surface in my kitchen; and as having the oven preheating tends to warm the surface a bit, I don’t start the oven until after I’m done rolling and cutting my treats. FYI: the glass cook top is a lot easier to clean up than my counter top ever was; and if anything ever sticks, it’s easy to use an off-set spatula to pull up the treats.

flour your cutter and space your cuts close!
When rolling out cookies or these dog treats, you’ll want to cut out your shapes as closely as possible to get the most out of the fewest rollouts. The more you rollout your dough, the more gluten will develop in the flours…plus, it’s fewer steps that way. You will have to re-roll once or twice at any rate; but less is better. And when you get down to a small scrap of dough, I always just free form it into a ball and those are the treats my boys get first after they’re done.

About to go into the oven
Once you’ve got your treats cut out and on the pans, put them directly in the 350 degree oven and bake for 18-20 minutes. I rotated my pans about halfway through because I put both in at the same time; and I exchanged top for bottom when I rotated. My treats were firm to the touch with a slight spring after 18 minutes; but weren’t brown, per say—the whole-wheat flour and flax seeds make the dough dark to begin with, so it’s hard to tell if they’re brown or not. Again, if you want a harder treat, feel free to leave them in the oven for up to 25 minutes—just be sure to check on them to make sure they’re not getting burned. 

Right out of the oven
After they were baked to my liking, I took them out of the oven and let them cool for about two minutes before I transferred them onto a wire rack to finish cooling. If you opt to make the icing, you’ll want to let them cool completely—which means that they no longer feel warm at all. Warm treats will melt icing; and you’ll end up with a big ole mess.

The icing was fairly simple to complete; and while traditional carrot cake would call for cream cheese icing, I didn’t have cream cheese on hand nor did I want to try to think about how to make it not messy on the finished bones. I wanted an icing that sort of dried hard, so I did a simple Google search and wound up finding the one I used. It calls for yogurt—which has a sort of tanginess like cream cheese; and couldn’t have been easier to make and spread.

I only modified it slightly, so I can’t take full credit. The original recipe called for Greek yogurt, tapioca starch/flour (which I had on hand due to my Asian market adventures and my quest for the perfect coconut cream pie—FYI: Tapioca starch is the same thing as Tapioca flour), and milk. However, I’d purchased a rather large container of non-fat plain regular yogurt, so I skipped adding the milk (which essentially makes it more runny; and since regular yogurt is more runny than Greek yogurt, it works out), and added cinnamon which my dogs love and would kind of mimic the flavor in the treat (plus, my favorite carrot cake recipe does).

Whisk smooth
All in all, the icing is super simple—just whisk together all ingredients until smooth, and then spread on the treats with a butter knife or offset spatula; and it elevates them just a bit. Out of the oven, the treats look pretty good with the oats and flecks of pineapple on their surface; but when they’re iced, they look extra special.

My boys got them both ways—plain and iced; and I think they like the iced versions a little bit more than their slightly more boring counter parts. Once it’s dry, you can stack the treats and they don’t make a mess at all.

Both my boys seem to like these treats a lot; and even though they will eat about anything that comes out of my hand, I think they do really enjoy them. Also, I gave some of the un-iced version to a friend with two dogs. One of her dogs seemed to enjoy them a lot, also; and the other doesn’t really like carrots—and clearly doesn’t have good taste in treats anyway (that dog is far too skinny of a dog anyway). My neighbor girl also received some; and her girl Clementine seemed to like them as well.

All iced and ready to eat
For me, this treat recipe was a lot of fun to make; and I found it super simple. Plus, I like to make different treats to mix it up for the boys—I don’t like the same kinds of cookies over and over, and I have an inclination that Presley and Jesse don’t either. It keeps them guessing at least.

As always, feel free to email me or contact me on the social media links to the right; and follow Jesse (whose birthday is at the end of August and whose tastes I’ll be catering to in my next treat recipe) on Twitter @Jdawg_yellow.  Get the recipe below, or by clicking here.

The boys in the yard--yes, the photo is moving

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