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Salt to Taste - canine edition

By Jenna Cho

Publication: theday.com

Published December 26. 2013 9:00PM   Updated December 26. 2013 10:01PM

He eats, in no particular order: goose poop, deer poop, horse poop, tubs of coconut oil, unopened packages of spoiled ground beef, kimchi, SLR cameras, the contents of a garbage can, boxes of plastic bags, and most recently, a book.

So why am I toiling away in the kitchen, rolling up cheddar dog cookie dough and cutting them out into Christmas cookie shapes? My dog would probably as happily eat the dough, unbaked, unrolled, uncut into adorable shapes. He would probably prefer if I left the ingredients out separately on the kitchen table so that he could counter-surf while I'm at work and examine the packages individually.

And yet.

When you love something, you do stupid things. And so I baked dog cookies.

I'm still searching for the ultimate homemade dog treats. My requirements are that they contain pantry staples - I'm not about to go hunting for special ingredients - that they be simple and easy to make, and that they be crunchy. (Oh, and that my dog like them, though that's not much of a challenge. He turns his nose up at leafy greens but not much else.)

I've knocked off the first two requirements, easy, but the third is proving more difficult. I can't seem to make perfectly crunchy cookies, whether for dogs or humans.* Which is kind of tragic, because I tend to prefer crunchy snacks. I've made dog "biscotti," and while twice baked, they still end up soft in the center. I've tried leaving dog biscuits in the oven after baking for a slow cooldown period that should have left them crunchy and hard. Not much luck there, either.

But my dog doesn't care. He'll take it, whatever it is. And so when I made these, and left the baking sheet out to let the cookies cool, he lingered in the kitchen long after I'd retreated. When I gave him one cookie, he asked for two.

In fact, I just opened up his treat jar to reacquaint myself with the cookies as I write about them. I'd closed the jar and walked away when he appeared from the other room, sniffing the air in search of the treats.

I did streamline Paula Deen's recipe a little. I used wheat flour in place of white, simply because I rarely use wheat flour for myself but had a whole bag of it lying around. Your cookies will probably be a prettier color if you use white, but I don't think your dog will care.

I also used all cheddar cheese instead of half cheddar, half Parmesan. Listen, my dog is cool and all but I'm not about to shred two different kinds of cheeses for him.

Lastly, I omitted the garlic salt the original recipe called for. I'm not worried about it being toxic in such small quantities, I just don't have any garlic salt in my pantry. He didn't miss it. Why add something he doesn't need?

Cheddar dog biscuits

adapted from pauladeen.com

1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

3 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 1/2 cup wheat flour or all-purpose flour

1/4 cup nonfat dry milk

1/2 cup water

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, mix cheese with oil. Add flour, dry milk and salt and stir by hand until well combined. Add water and knead until dough comes together.

Roll dough out on a lightly floured surface to about a 1/4 inch thickness (mine were more like 1/2 inch thick). The dough isn't very sticky, so you shouldn't need to flour your counter much, if at all. Cut into desired shapes with a cookie cutter.

Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until treats are golden brown. Let cool.

Makes about 16 treats roughly the size of a credit card.

* But wait! After I wrote this blog entry, I gave a different recipe a try, and I'm happy to report they're much crunchier than the cheesy treats above. So this week, an extra recipe. Whoa.

MORE

Banana-peanut butter dog cookies

Adapted slightly from wholefoodsmarket.com

Note: the Whole Foods recipe called for ½ cup of dried parsley, which is supposed to be good for keeping your dog's breath fresh. I didn't have any on hand, so I omitted it.

1 banana, mashed

1 cup wheat flour

2/3 cup rolled oats

3 tablespoons peanut butter

1 egg, beaten

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, mix all the ingredients until well incorporated. (I used my hands.)

Roll the dough into small balls, a little smaller than a Ping-Pong ball, and place on baking sheet. Using a fork, smash the cookie balls down to form round discs. Repeat to create a crosshatch pattern on each cookie (like what you find on peanut butter cookies for humans).

Bake for 45 minutes. (The original recipe calls for using oat flour and to bake until “deep golden brown,” but because I made my cookies with wheat flour, they were golden brown going in.) Let cool completely.

Makes about two dozen cookies.

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