The annual FidoUniverse Dog Biscuit Bake-Off this year added an extra challenge: creating recipes that use healthy herbs and are gluten-free.
More dogs — just like their owners — are developing food allergies and an intolerance for gluten. Gluten is a general name for the proteins in wheat, rye, barley and triticale (a cross between wheat and rye). When certain flours and water are mixed, they form long, stretchy strands of gluten. These trap the gas from the years and make baked goods light and airy.
Fortunately, dog biscuits are crunchy so flours without gluten work well, including those made from buckwheat, sorghum, oats, teff, brown rice or spelt. There is no gluten in seeds such as amaranth or flax that are ground into flour. Legumes like soybeans, lentils or garbanzo beans can also be ground into flours that have no gluten..
Adding herbs to homemade dog biscuits increases important vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. The two recipes below feature basil and parsley. Basil is an antioxidant, antiviral and antimicrobial. Be sure to chop it finely, especially if you’re shaping the dog biscuits with cookie cutters. The parsley used so often to garnish meals is a great breath freshener and tummy soother for dogs. It has flavonoids, antioxidants and vitamins.
This year, our recipe-tasting panel included Zach and Zoey, the Jindo-terriers; Redman Houdini Brando, another Jindo mix; Denny Covina, the terrier abandoned at a Denny’s restaurant in Covina, Calif.; Joey, another terrier mix; and the Tennessee tasters, Daisy, Cinnamon and Roxy, all Corgis.
While the Corgis were enthusiastic about both types of biscuits, the Los Angeles tasters considered the parsley zucchini biscuits to be an acquired taste — one they acquired quickly, I might add.
Please remember as you try these in your own kitchen that not all ovens heat accurately and using silicone baking mats can affect the cooking time needed. It’s not a big deal, just wise to check up on things before the end of the cooking time.
Sardine, Tomato and Basil Dog Biscuits
Makes about 135
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.
Open a can of sardines in tomato sauce and pour it into a bowl. Mash up well. Be sure to chop the basil well, so there aren’t long strips to stick out of the shaped biscuits. Mix well with the sardines. Add portions of flour alternating with portions of tomato sauce, mixing well between. The dough, which will be smooth and slightly pinkish, will start to pull away from the sides of the bowl and cling to the beaters.
Sprinkle rice flour over the surface where you will be rolling out the dough. Gather the dough into a ball. Knead it a bit on the floured surface, then flatten it. Using a rolling pin, roll it out evenly (about a quarter of an inch thick). Roll from the center outward to the edges to keep it even.
Using a cookie cutter, cut the dough into shapes. (Or squares or diamonds using a knife.) Using a rigid spatula, lift the dough from the work surface and pull the edges away from the edges away from the cut shape. Put the shaped biscuits on the parchment covered cookie sheet. Space the biscuits evenly.
Bake for 20 minutes, then turn the oven down to 175 degree F and bake 40 minutes more. Turn the oven off and allow the biscuits to cool completely before removing.
Store in an airtight container or ZipLock bag.
Zucchini Parsley Puffs
Makes about 85 puffs
These light golden puffs are filled with good things for dogs. They work best as dropped rather than rolled and cut biscuits. They aren’t as crisp as regular biscuits and should be kept in the freezer or refrigerator.2 zucchinis, sliced and cooked 1/2 bunch parsley, finely chopped 1 egg 2 cups soy flour 1/4 teaspoon baking soda 1/4 teaspoon baking powder 1/8 cup flax meal
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Mix the zucchini, parsley and egg in a bowl. Mix the soy flour, baking soda, baking powder and flax meal together. Add the dry ingredients in small amounts with the vegetables and egg, mixing in between.
Drop small spoonfuls of dough on a greased cookie sheet. If you flatten the dropped cookies using the bottom of a juice glass, they will cook more evenly. Dipping the bottom of the glass in water keeps the dough from sticking. The puffs don’t expand much during baking so they can be placed close together. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes.
The only downside of these dog biscuits is that it has turned our taste testers into spoiled gourmands who turn up their noses at commercial biscuits.
But isn’t spoiling a dog with a healthy treat one of life’s great pleasures?