For those who have not read my last book, I wrote about having some issues with my hands that compelled me to leave behind the heavy work of commercial baking.
From The (Faux) Pastry Chef: How I Found My Baking Fix (pages 168, 185)
I had been quite lonely so we got a dog, a sweet-natured German Shepherd. We named her Trouble.
Most of my days were the same: I would spend an entire day without seeing anyone. Alone with the puppy, I remained unwashed and in pajamas. I felt lost without having a job or a regular schedule. I needed projects and a structure to my time.
Because of Trouble, I got involved in a dog biscuit project. Real baking was difficult but I figured it didn’t matter how I messed up dog recipes, who would complain? Living with a pastry chef was paying off for the puppy.
I learned that baking for dogs gave me the same rush that I got from baking for people. My first attempt was oatmeal biscuits sweetened with a dab of blackstrap molasses and tenderized with peanut butter. One for puppy. One for me. I was surprised at how tasty they were.
I entered a new world. Several inherent problems with baking for people were no longer problems with canine cookies. Shelf life, who cares? Who would know? Rarely would someone complain for their dog about a doggie biscuit being stale. And what about a cookie that is too dark or too bland or too ugly or too anything? I didn’t want to sound cocky, but it was beginning to look like I could not possibly mess up dog treats.
“I’m now a pawstry chef,” I emailed my daughter, excited about this new project.
I made veggie/cheese mini mutt muffins and Trouble loved them. The muffins had a beautiful golden yellow color inside, with flecks of orange and green veggies. My ingredient list included organic whole wheat flour and wheat germ with no sweetener or salt. These would make any health zealot proud. I put them on the table and Dave loved them, too. I waited until he had eaten four. When he told me how good they were, I explained that we were eating the dog’s food.
I called our vet and made an appointment – this one was for me. I wanted to make sure I was using pooch-friendly ingredients. The vet said no grapes, no onions, no chocolate; everything else was fine in moderation.
I made banana mutt mini muffins one night for dinner. They were suspiciously like my fruit-sweetened baked goods recipes. I made a note to use a cross reference in my recipe file index. The texture was soft and tender with a flavor reminiscent of real banana muffins.
Then, I had half a can of pumpkin puree left from a no-sugar recipe, so I made dog biscuits. I used little boy and girl gingerbread cutters and called them Pumpkin People. Trouble came into the kitchen and sat watching patiently while I rolled out the dough with my new one-handed rolling pin. I had a terrible time with my hands that day and I kept messing up. The dough landed on the floor more than once. But no matter how much I tried, there was no way I could ruin a doggie recipe…
My next baking project? I momentarily thought about a little dog biscuit business for when my hand healed. I requested the official guidelines and licensing information from the Department of Agriculture and Markets.
The rules were overly cautious when compared to the rules for making people food. I could easily get a home processor permit to bake numerous people treats in my home kitchen but not for animals. For dog treats, I would need to use a fully inspected and licensed commercial kitchen. Each recipe had to be analyzed and approved before production. Animals were protected more than my neighbors!
Thank you, Trouble, for 11 great years.