Today, 2 April, our younger golden retriever, Alix, celebrates her fourth birthday. Friends have observed that we have a softer spot for our second dog. I guess I can’t help it. Alix is smaller than her older sister and inevitably gets less than her half of the back seat in the car because Sascha has developed a slick manoeuvre that ensures that she spreads herself across two-thirds of the space before she lets Alix jump up behind her. Alix doesn’t bark or make alarm-raising noises, so when her favourite soft-toy is forced to endure a lobotomy under the expert paws of Dr Sascha (which has happened innumerable times), I tend to only notice the catastrophe when it’s far too late; when the soft, fluffy innards of her teddy have been scattered across our bedroom. (Inspired by the Simpsons, we’ve taken to naming them Ted1, Ted2, etcetera; we must be up to Ted20 by now.) I’d walk into a room and find Alix either anxiously but silently rushing back and forth around the room, unable to “rescue” her teddy herself, or quietly nursing her headless toy.
Don’t get me wrong, I adore Sascha too. But they’re both very different dogs. Alix unquestioningly follows Sascha’s lead. When we take walks, she automatically stops in order for Sascha to catch up. She prefers to walk alongside Sascha rather than the person who is walking her (yes, it’s bad training on our part). If Sascha were to break loose, she’d know how to find her way back. Alix wouldn’t.
Last year, when Alix broke loose from her handler while CH and I were away, she didn’t find her way home. We knew that it wasn’t something she was likely to be able to do, which really made the possibility of being reunited with her pretty slim. I continue to be grateful that a wonderful gentleman named Andy picked her up, took care of her, and made an effort to get in touch with us when he heard about our lost dog posters. We can’t thank you enough, Andy! We deeply appreciate your generous act of kindness. Without your help, we wouldn’t be able to celebrate the fact that Alix has given us so much joy for nearly four years. Thank you.
This year, as a birthday treat I tried out a couple of recipes from the only cookbook we have for doggy edibles: the Three Dog Bakery Cookbook. Ginger’s Fourth of July Snaps were reasonably easy to make. They smelt very much like gingerbread and I loved the wee bit of added height the addition of baking soda gave them. The Poochie Pleasin’ Pretzels, however, didn’t quite turn out as promised (you’ll notice that they look more like breakfast rolls). It’s not a recipe I am planning to revisit any time soon. However, one of the best things about baking for your dogs is that they’ll adore just about anything you give them. They won’t tell you what they think you could’ve done better, and they’ll gobble up every last bite of your labour of love.
Ginger’s Fourth of July Snaps
Adapted from the Three Dog Bakery Cookbook
Makes 30 three-inch dog bones
¼ cup vegetable oil
½ cup molasses (I prefer unsulfured molasses)
2 tablespoons honey
½ cup water
3 cups plain flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground cloves
2 tablespoons ground ginger
¼ cup raisins*
¼ cup chopped pecans**
*RAISINS ARE CALLED FOR IN THE ORIGINAL RECIPE, BUT SINCE THERE IS EVIDENCE LINKING THE INGESTION OF RAISINS WITH ACUTE RENAL FAILURE IN DOGS, YOU MIGHT WANT TO OMIT THEM.
** MOST NUTS ARE APPARENTLY NOT GOOD FOR YOUR DOGS. THEIR HIGH PHOSPHORUS CONTENT IS SAID TO LEAD TO BLADDER STONES. MACADAMIA NUTS ARE PARTICULARLY BAD FOR YOUR DOGS. THEY HAVE BEEN FOUND TO CAUSE LOCOMOTORY PROBLEMS. YOU MIGHT WANT TO OMIT THEM TOO.
Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius (350 degrees Fahrenheit). Combine the oil, molasses, honey and water in a bowl. By pouring the oil into the bowl first, you reduce the likelihood of the molasses and honey adhering to the bowl. Similarly, before you measure out the molasses and honey, coat your measuring cup or spoon with a thin layer of oil. This ensures that most of the molasses and honey will slide into the bowl rather than stick to your measuring tool. Stir to combine.
In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, raisins and pecans (if using, see notes above) . Whisk to blend evenly before pouring the wet ingredients into the dry mixture. Stir to combine.
On a lightly floured surface, knead the dough. It should come together easily. (A word of caution: this dough is meant to be pretty dry, as you can tell by the cracked surface of the finished product. Don’t be put off by it’s crumbliness. It will hold its shape.) Shape it into a ball. Cut a quarter of the dough and keep the rest of it under a damp kitchen towel. Roll out dough to ¼-inch thick then cut out shapes. The scraps can be gathered into a ball and rolled out again. If the dough feels a little too dry, spray a thin mist of water onto it before you knead it a little and roll it out. Repeat with the remaining dough.
I refrigerated the cut dough for 15 minutes before placing them on trays lined with Silpats. Bake for 15-20 minutes (don’t let them get too brown). Let them cool on a rack before storing them in an air-tight container.
Poochie Pleasin’ Pretzels
Adapted from the Three Dog Bakery Cookbook
Makes 14 to 16 large un-pretzel like rolls
1 package (2 ¼ teaspoons) active dry yeast
1 ½ cups warm water (45 degrees Celsius or 110-115 degrees Fahrenheit)
1 tablespoon honey
4 cups plain flour
1 egg, lightly beaten
Preheat oven to 190 degrees Celsius (375 degrees Fahrenheit). In a large bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water. The instructions are sketchy here. I added the honey after the yeast, stirred it and let the mixture stand until fine bubbles appeared on the surface of the liquid. Add enough flour to make a soft dough (I added all 4 cups). Knead for 6-8 minutes until smooth.
Here, the recipe proceeds directly into shaping the pretzels (which I did). But I suspect that allowing the dough to rise, punching it down and letting it rise again before I shaped them might’ve given me more pretzel-like results.
Pinch off about 2 tablespoons of dough for each pretzel. Using your palm, roll dough out into a 12-inch long, ½-inch thick rope. What they don’t tell you is that the dough is really sticky and having wet hands might make it a little easier to handle. Or perhaps additional flour might’ve helped? I’d just read in a Reinhart book that sticky dough won’t stick to wet hands, so I wet my hands. But I have to say that the dough was difficult to roll out. I rolled it between both palms (the book ambiguously states, “using the palm of your hand”, so I could’ve done it wrongly), letting gravity help it along.
Shape into pretzel twists and place on a baking tray lined with a Silpat. Brush with egg and bake for 20 minutes (I basically took them out when they turned golden brown). Allow to cool on a rack before storing in an air-tight container.