Sunday, September 11, 2016

About the Recipe: Peanut Butter and Jelly Dog Treats

I know it’s been more than a week since I last posted; however, last weekend, I had to make my dad a birthday cake (he actually requested the Carrot Cake that’s kind of a bear to make—and inspired the CarrotCake Dog Treats); and then I had to go to his party. Then on top of all that fun, I’ve been sort of under the weather lately; so I didn’t exactly feel like doing too much. After a week of coughing and blowing my nose constantly (all while still smoking like a chimney), I feel a bit better now; and was excited to tackle these treats for my boys.

The inspiration for these treats came while I was randomly driving down the highway the other day. I got to thinking about what I’d name my Barkery if I ever decided to quit my job and devote myself to making dog treats, like, as a profession (I don’t think I’d ever actually do that because baking is my hobby and if I did it as a job I’d have to find a new pastime which I don’t want to do; and overall, it would probably make me hate baking—and I don’t ever want to hate baking because I love it too much)…but anyway, I was thinking of my boys’ names and their initials… Presley and Jesse… P & J….

PB&J… Peanut Butter and Jelly…wait, that sounds like a super great dog treat… True Story—and they are great dog treats and super easy to make.

Since my last treat recipe was kind of crazy to make—it had so many ingredients and steps and on top of that was gluten-free; so I kind of wanted to make something easy this time. The peanut butter treat itself is so simple and only contains a few ingredients—which are all staples in dog-treat baking; and then to add a bit of a wow factor to something which would have otherwise been plain, I made a “jelly” icing to go on top. It adds a pop of color and makes me feel like I’ve done yet another special treat for my boys.

Dog treat staples

The treat itself starts with the name-sake ingredient, peanut butter; and I’ve talked about this ingredient before several times. Peanut butter is used in a lot of dog treats because dogs love it; and it’s fairly healthy for them in moderation since it’s a good source of protein and natural fats. When making treats, I buy a natural peanut butter with no or very little added sugar and no added salt. Also, I scan the ingredients to make sure it doesn’t contain any hydrogenated oils or high fructose corn syrup as I want the treats I make for my boys to be as clean and natural as possible.

Applesauce is another ingredient I’ve used several times since apples are naturally sweet and are perfectly healthy for our four legged children; and just like with the peanut butter, I look for an all natural, unsweetened applesauce—again, just scan the ingredients and put the ones which have high fructose corn syrup back on the shelf. This recipe wasn’t originally going to contain applesauce; however, as I was formulating things, the dough just wasn’t “acting” the right way—I didn’t like the way it was mixing. So I added some and it corrected my dough to be just what I wanted.

Applesauce is another staple to keep on hand when making your own dog treats, which is actually why I had it to add even though it wasn’t part of my original plan. Now, if you’re vegan, you probably know that you can substitute applesauce for an egg or even butter in a sweet treat recipe (and I’ve talked about all that before—and it’s one of the reasons applesauce is such a staple ingredient to dog treats); and I think I needed an additional binder with the original configuration so it was a natural inclusion here as I didn’t want to add an additional egg—I really try to keep my treats as low fat as possible, too.

If you don’t have applesauce or don’t want to buy any, you can probably use an additional egg and a little bit of skim (or whatever) milk you have to make up the difference. Eggs are safe for dogs; but again, it does add additional fat and even cholesterol to the recipe. With the amounts we’re talking about, it probably wouldn’t make all that much difference—these treats will still be fairly healthy even if you use two eggs. Now to make up the difference for not using applesauce with the ½ cup measure, you’d use one additional egg and two tablespoons of milk.

Oats—old fashioned or quick cooking are also used in a lot of treat recipes; and I used them in these for the same reason I usually use them—I like the way they look in the treats. Other than looking wholesome, oats are also very heart healthy and an added whole grain—so it’s a win/win in the end. Plus, whole wheat flour tends to end up kind of gummy in treats making something slightly rubbery-ish; and I think the oats actually help absorb some of the moisture and improve the texture overall. 
And then the final ingredient is baking powder. I use an organic aluminum-free variety because I’m anti-aluminum when dog treat baking even though I think that health-myth has been debunked. If you scan the list of ingredients on your baking powder and find aluminum and don’t want to use it or go out to buy an alternative, baking soda will work in these treats if you use the applesauce (apples are slightly acidic and should react with the soda to achieve lift); or you can omit it altogether with the foreknowledge that your finished treats will be firmer and more crispy than the ones I made.

Truth be told, I wasn’t going to add a leavener at all because my original intention was to make these a bit crisper and thinner so I could sandwich the jelly between two treats and not end up with something that was too fat for an easy bite (I hope that makes sense—I mostly wanted to make sure that my boys could chew the treat without having the mess of them dropping a portion of it and pick it back up from the clean rug to eat it). In the end, I decided they were prettier not sandwiched…which led me to formulating an icing instead of a more jelly or jam-like topping.

As I just said, the jelly component is more of an icing as opposed to a true jelly. To ensure the treats were not messy when stored, I needed a topping which would dry hard and not be as messy as a true jelly—which is where I turned to the ever so wonderful tapioca starch; and if you’re intrigued by the sandwich treat idea (as I still am), you could skip the starch and just make the blueberry compote without it (decrease the water to only ¼ cup) and spread a little between the layers. But I’m getting ahead of myself a little…

All mixed up
Once everything was mixed up, it became really stiff dough which was perfect for rolling out; and I, again, used my cook top as my rolling surface. You will definitely not want to skimp dusting the surface with flour as this mix was kinda sticky. I kind of heavily dust the middle area, then turn my dough out there and dust the top of the dough a little more. Then I dusted my rolling pin and worked my way from the middle to the outside edges until it was a little less than ¼ inch thick. If you want fatter treats, feel free to not roll out your dough that much; but know it’ll affect your cooking time a little bit.

Flour your rolling surface well!
Another fun component to these treats is that you can cut them out using any cookie cutter you like; or you could get creative and free hand cut with a dull knife. I used a heart-shaped cookie cutter because I liked the size it was (and I think hart shaped treats are kinda cute); and it’s a little smaller than my bone-shaped cutter so I ended up with more treats. The size of your cutter and how thinly you’ve rolled your dough will ultimately determine how many treats which you’ll get.

With any rolled treat or cookie, try to cut as closely to the edge as possible and as close to each cut as possible to ensure you get the maximum amount of cuts per roll of your dough. The dough will become stiffer and less appetizing each time it’s rolled as you incorporate more flour into it each time and it also works the gluten in the dough making the final products tougher.

Close cuts
A tip I’ll give you to get true shapes from your cutter is to keep it well floured so the dough doesn’t stick; and when you cut, go straight down then back up—try not to twist or squeeze the cutter. Also I’d encourage you to use a small off-set spatula to help you remove the shapes once they’re cut. The off-set spatula will help release the dough from the surface and you can use it to cut away any excess dough that may not have gotten cut with the cookie cutter.

Usually when making cookies, you usually try to allow them space and not to crowd the pan too much; however, cut treats usually don’t spread (these don’t). They will puff up a bit (if you used the baking powder); but you don’t have to worry about them becoming one blog on the cookie sheet so long as you make sure they’re not touching on the pan. I only left maybe a few millimeters in between each treat; and mine baked for exactly 11 minutes on 350.

Ready to Bake
Thicker or bigger treats may take longer; but just check them along the way. I also rotated my pans halfway through the cooking time since I put both sheet pans in the oven at the same time. When they’re done, they’re lightly golden and will be firm but yielding to the touch—and your kitchen will smell wonderfully like peanut butter. If you don’t use the baking soda, your treats will be firm anyway; so try to gauge the doneness by the color—and it shouldn’t actually affect the cooking time anyway.

Lightly golden out of the oven

When I think of PB & J, I automatically think of the classic—grape jelly (despite the fact that it’s probably the only flavor of jam/jelly that I don’t currently have in my house right now); however, grapes are not dog friendly (there’s some enzyme which messes with their digestion or brain or something—Just know that I’ve read grapes are bad for dogs enough times to not even question it at this point). So I turned to blueberries as my 2nd choice since blueberries are a superfood and are just as good for our furbabies (in moderation, of course) as they are for us. Plus, I’ve made blueberry jam before and know it’s a fairly simple process; however, blueberries aren’t the only fruit that would be good in this situation.

Strawberries, apples (think apple-butter), raspberries, blackberries, peaches, plums, cherries or any combination thereof would also make intriguing ingredients for jam; and most of those fruits are perfectly safe in their whole forms so long as there aren’t any stems or leaves attached (strawberry leaves & stems are somewhat toxic); but when considering the stone fruits (peaches, plums, & cherries) and apples, be sure that the seeds or pits are totally removed before feeding them to your furbaby. Seed and pits contain toxins which will tax your dogs immune system as the seeds and pits are naturally designed to be rejected if ingested; and since these items would not be a part of your dogs diet in the wild (dogs would be most likely be carnivorous if left to their own devices), they have no way of dealing with these toxins like we can.

Mashing blueberries over medium-high heat
Now, after having said all that, they would be perfectly fine as a jam since we’d only be using the flesh of the fruit anyway; and all of those fruits are naturally sweet enough so there’s no need to add sugar (your dogs palate will think they’re really sweet even if yours doesn’t since processed sugars aren’t really a part of their everyday diet). With the exception of apples, you’d prep and cook them in a very similar way as I’ve outlined with the blueberries (cooking and mashing) but you’d probably want to go ahead and give them a slight chop to make them easier to cook. If you’re leaning toward apple butter, save yourself several steps and cook down applesauce (the same unsweetened variety you’d use for the treats and don’t add water) since that takes care of most of the hard part for you anyway (and feel free to add cinnamon or ginger to flavor it a bit more).

If jam making isn’t your thing (even in this bastardized form), you could use an unsweetened, all natural jelly or jam you pick up off the shelf in your supermarket (avoid marmalades and citrus fruit jellies/jams as citrus isn’t dog friendly—especially the rind; and curds since they’re usually made with butter and eggs added); however, use caution to avoid high fructose corn syrup and sugar-free varieties. Sugar-free isn’t the same as unsweetened; and sugar-free products usually contain synthetic sugar alternatives which probably aren’t good for your doggy to ingest. Also be sure to check over the nutrition label and pick the one with the least grams of sugars since almost any commercially produced jam or jelly will contain added sugar as adding sugar starts to soften fruits and makes them more appealing to human consumers; but your dog will react differently since they have no tolerance.

the whisk is useless, use a fork

With only needing a ½ cup to mix with the tapioca starch and to spread over 60+ treats, it won’t make that much of a difference; and big dogs like mine (they’re both in the 80+ lb range) can easily metabolize those small amounts of sugar. If you have smaller dogs, you may want to make my version or omit it altogether. 

This version of blueberry jam isn’t an actual jam—it’s more like blueberry compote; and it doesn’t gel like jelly—per say—as I watered it down to keep it from getting overly sticky due to storage issues (you don’t want to have them stick to one another or make a reach into a messy bag). Really, this recipe is as easy as mashing the blueberries and cooking them down a bit before mixing them with the tapioca starch. Don’t add in the starch while you’re cooking; instead, let the blueberries cool completely before adding it or the starch will thicken the mixture in a different way. Tapioca starch is similar to corn starch in its thickening capability; however, tapioca only needs very little heat to work.

Blueberry Gloop
By letting it cool, you’re making more of an icing which will harden than a sauce which will thicken; and if you’ve ever mixed cornstarch and water to make that gloop you can play with that gets hard when pressured and then soft when you release it, then you’ll be a bit ahead of the curve with this icing. It behaves similarly; however, with the ratios I’ve lined out, it’ll just be a little stiff when you stir it but spread on the treats just fine. If you want it a bit runnier to dunk your treats, then I’d suggest starting with ¼ cup less than I’ve outlined and increasing by the tablespoon until you get the desired consistency. But this recipe was kinda fun because it was fairly easy to spread, but stayed where it was put with very little running.

They started drying on the counter after they were iced; but I did move mine to the refrigerator for like 20 minutes to speed the process along. Then I counted them out and bagged them by the dozen and moved the majority to the freezer before putting the remaining short dozen in the fridge for immediate snacking…and this is why my dogs always appear when the fridge is opened.

My faithful baking companion
Presley (my black labradoodle) was waiting in the kitchen from the moment I pulled my mixing bowl from the cabinet; but Jesse (the yellow, husky-wolf mix) kept napping with his other dad until the smell probably became too much for him as he joined us probably like a minute before I pulled them from the oven. Needless to say, my peanut butter bowl and blueberry pan (after it cooled, of course) were thoroughly cleaned before I put them in the dishwasher; and both my boys took them without any further waiting once I’d let them cool before they were iced. After a quick sniff check, Jesse (my always cautious eater) took the iced versions with no further hesitation; and as per usual, Presley never paused at all.

As I’ve tried to point out with the alterations throughout, this recipe is also fairly versatile depending on what you want as your desired outcome. You can completely transform this treat to make different varieties with very little effort on your part—these could go from iced treats to sandwich treats with the omission of two simple ingredients; and your dogs will still go crazy for them. For more variety, switch out the fruits in the jam icing or try the yogurt-based icing used for the carrot cake treats…the possibilities are virtually limitless.

Overall, these were really fun and super easy to make. The peanut butter treats will make your house smell amazing; and I’m betting your dog will go crazy for them even without the icing. If you’re a novice baker or are too scared to try, give this one a go since I don’t think it can disappoint—plus, it uses simple, easy to find ingredients.

As always, feel free to use the contact links and/or the social media links to ask any questions or show me your treats after you’ve made them; and be sure to follow Jesse on Twitter @jdawg_yellow

 Check out the full recipe here, or keep scrolling down…

No comments :