How to Suck at Baking for Dogs

As some of you know, I recently became a dog mom.  This has involved a great many life changes, but given that my particular dog has an eating disorder that would, if she were human, land her on one of those reality shows about obese people that can’t leave the house without the assistance of the fire department and the removal of a large window, the biggest challenge has been trying to find a way to feed her constantly without harming her health.  (Because no one wants a 500-pound dachshund.  Trust me on this.)

Now, I am blessed to have a sweet elderly gentleman as a neighbour who keeps his pockets full of treats in case Sweet Pea decides to visit (which she does, every day, multiple times, obsessively, and maybe just a little aggressively and vocally if he doesn’t happen to be in the yard).  It has been explained to him that Pea does tend to have pancreatitis attacks when she eats too much junk food, so he always respectfully asks permission to give her “Just one?”  I am onto him, however.  “Just one” means two that he knows I can see, and about 15 slipped to her surreptitiously from his sleeve, behind his back.

I’m not an ogre.  I’m really not.  But what “just one” means is:  a) fat dog; b) puke-y dog; c) obsessively grass-eating dog; and at the very, very least, d) FARTY DOG.  Because these treats are Pea’s favourites, which means a lot of synthetic, greasy bacon and other questionable ingredients.

My solution started out with seeking healthy treats at the store.  Yes, they do exist.  They are made with real poultry, veggies, whole grains.  They are also ridiculously expensive and last about 3.5 seconds (only because Pea has not yet figured out that dehydrated sweet potatoes are not actually beef jerky).

I work at home, for myself.  No reason I shouldn’t be able to step this up and MAKE dog treats, right?  I mean, I’m not much of a baker, but I have access to Pinterest and the wisdom of others.  Easy-peasy.

So, last night, I sent out a plea on Facebook, requesting recipes for DIY dog treats.  I got some great responses.  A trusted aunt gave a recipe that was guaranteed to be easy and foolproof.  I decided to go for it.  The wise choice.

But this recipe involved mashed sweet potato, so I had to wait for the sweet potato to cook.  Did I sit down, relax, have a glass of wine, maybe do a little gardening, like a sane human being?  No, I did not.  Did I decide to do the worst thing possible, like hit up Google for another easy (untested, unrecommended) recipe I could throw together quickly while I waited for the sweet potato to cook?  Of course I did.  I would just toss these together, then make the sweet potato ones, and there would be dog biscuits for miles and I would be the best dog mom in the world and flowers would spring up where I tread and the rivers would run with nectar and global warming would reverse itself and – but I digress.

The recipe was simple.  Flour, bran, eggs, honey, broth, and cheese.

Started out pretty good.  (I managed to measure the flour and bran into the bowl with only some minor spillage.)  But then –

“Mix dry ingredients and wet ingredients separately.”  Couldn’t be simpler.  Flour – dry.  Bran – dry.  Eggs – wet.  (I was on fire.  I should start a side business making dog biscuits.  No, gourmet dog biscuits!) Broth – wet (duh).  Cheese – wait.  Cheese.

I touched the cheddar that I had shredded successfully (with only superficial grater bloodshed).  It was kind of moist.  Wet.  There – that was it.  Buuuuuut…. it was solid, not liquid.  Okay – it goes with the dry.  But wait – what if the moisture in the cheese got absorbed into the flour and somehow created a chemical imbalance that was crucial to the baking process?  Okay, wet.  No, wait – what if, because oil and water don’t mix, and cheese is full of oil, the cheese doesn’t mix adequately with the wet ingredients, thereby guaranteeing my doom?  Okay, dry it is.  NO, WAIT (it has occurred to me that I may overthink things).  EGGS have oil!  And I KNOW those are considered a wet ingredient (I watch that show with the food and the, you know, the stuff).

At this point, my heart rate was slightly elevated.  The sweet potatoes were bubbling away on the stove.  I should have been nearly done these cookies by now.  I threw caution to the wind and chucked the cheese into the wet ingredients.  No turning back now.

Then things went smoothly for the next few minutes.  I mixed the wet into dry and the shit in the bowl was starting to look like dough.  I started mentally planning the logo for my dog biscuit company.

“Roll out between parchment paper.”  Well, I use reusable parchment, and I only have two sheets of it, which were already on the baking sheets, waiting for the cookies.  Pfft – I’ll just flour the counter and rolling pin.  It’ll be fine.

It was not fine.

The stuff was like horror movie goo.  It wasn’t long before the viscous glob had entrapped everything within its reach – my hands, the rolling pin, the cookie cutters.  A lot of people think the Tar-Baby stories were about race and politics, but I’m pretty sure they were really referring to this fucking dough.  I was this close to sticking my feet in, too.  The harder I tried to escape, the more goopy I got.  Handful after handful of flour, taken directly from the bag in desperation, were thrown, well, everywhere.  (This also means that now-useless bag of flour is contaminated with this dough, which I suspect is now incubating in my compost bin, just waiting to expand during the night and glide out, consuming everything in its path.)

By now, I’m craving a cigarette, whiskey, the National Guard (do we have that in Canada?), the sweet potatoes were done hours ago, and I’m alternating between tears, laughter, and flat-out fury, which in turn was alternating between anger at the bitch who published this stinking recipe and anger at myself for not just…using…the…effing…parchment…paper.

A multitude of deep breaths and promises to never, ever attempt such lunacy again, along with a snowstorm of extra flour, and I finally managed to get the shit sort of rolled out, ish.  The end was in sight.  All I had to do was cut out the cute little shapes and get ’em on the trays.  I made little bones, little teddy bears, little flowers.  Or as I now like to call them: blobs, tortured souls of the unborn, and blobs, because the dough refused to lift off the counter after being cut out.  Even with a spatula.  And more flour.  And a bit of cursing and foot-stamping.

That was it.  I was done.  Screw the dog, screw the massive chunk of cheese I wasted energy shredding, screw baking FOREVER.  I started rubbing my hands together in an attempt to remove the layers of Effing Dough (it deserved caps, I had decided).

But the universe is a mysterious and wondrous place and I am a culinary genius, because as I rubbed the dough off my hands, something like a breadstick began to form.  Cheese breadsticks – those are a thing, right?  With a skip of glee, I started grabbing blobs and rolling them out with my hands.  I even got fancy, flipping some of them into pretzel shapes.  I only shouted “HaHA!” smugly a few times at the recipe on the computer screen, because I don’t like to push my luck with the Universe.

As it turns out, the dog doesn’t really give a fuck about cute shapes (or my mental well-being, but that’s another story for another day), and she gives every fuck about the smell of baking cheese.

In hindsight, it was a lot of work for someone who enjoys eating dirt.

 

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