Too much sourdough starter? No problem! Expand your baking routine to include treats for the pups.
Like many of you, since mid-March, I’ve had the sourdough bug in a big way. I’d been wanting to delve into creating and nurturing a starter for ages, but never seemed to have time to devote to it. But then came Covid-19 and shelter in place and social distancing, which made it the perfect time to do just that. (It’s heartening to know that this baking craze has taken the world by storm. Do listen to this podcast from the Washington Post to see why this might be.)
Once I got my starter to a robust, bubbly stage, I discovered that just about everything involved in using it—from flour to proofing baskets, even wheat berries—is almost impossible to purchase. Even nifty home appliances for grinding your own flour, or the super-cool Brod & Taylor folding proofer and slow cooker are in such high demand that they have flown off the shelves, and are now on many waiting lists, including my own.
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As those of you who share this passion know, tending to your starter means feeding it on a regular basis. This involves plucking off a portion from your “mother” culture and (presumably) throwing it away. I can’t stand the idea of tossing that excess, so I’ve been looking for recipes that use starter discards. So far, I’ve made amazing sourdough English muffins using a recipe from King Arthur Flour, and pancakes, banana bread and waffles using three delicious recipes from ThePerfectLoaf. Both of these sites also have recipes for assorted types of breads, as do the really helpful people at Breadtopia.
As for my three dogs, they are loving this baking mania. Sometimes, I’ve made them super-easy starter-discard crumpets (apt name, isn’t it?). I’ve also made crunchy croutons from leftover bread, adding lots of olive oil for its antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acid, which makes the croutons a nutritious snack for them.
Then, the other day, since I hadn’t stumbled on any sourdough recipes specifically for dog treats, I decide to whip up my own, and made a batch of mini oat flour sourdough bread/biscuits just for them.
To make the oat flour, I followed directions from one of my favorite food bloggers, Kathryne Taylor of Cookie + Kate. (She once contributed a great doggie frittata recipe to the magazine.) Oats are a great source of phosphorus and magnesium, and also have high levels of Vitamin B1, B12 and folate. And, depending on what oat product you start with, these can also be gluten-free. In addition, I added canned organic pumpkin—which is exceptionally high in carotenoids, potassium, vitamin C and good-for-digestion fiber—to give the biscuits an extra-nutritious boost.
This is one of those recipes to which you can add or subtract ingredients, depending on what’s in your pantry. Making food or treats for dogs is extra-fun and super-easy. There’s really no such thing as a cooking flop—your dog will be perfectly satisfied with everything you make.
This recipe reflects ingredients I had on hand, and that I knew to be nutritious. Note that when baking, it’s best to weigh out both the liquid and dry ingredients using a kitchen scale.
Sourdough Oat/Pumpkin Dog Biscuits
Preheat oven to 350º and line a baking sheet with parchment or a silicone baking mat.
- 113 grams (4 oz.) oat flour
- 113 grams (4 oz.) whole wheat flour
- 1 tsp. baking soda
- 3 tbsp. pumpkin, pureed
- 1 tbsp. each pumpkin (or sunflower) seeds, ground 1 tbsp. flax seeds, ground chia seeds
- 1 cup low-fat milk. Or, substitute any plant-based milk, such as almond, hemp or oat, or whey (I always have whey on hand from making Greek style yogurt.)
- 1 egg
- 113 g (4 oz.) sourdough starter, mature or “discard.”
1. Mix the dry ingredients in a small bowl.
2. Mix the liquid (milk or whey) and egg in a medium sized-bowl, stir in the pumpkin puree and then the starter, breaking it up with a whisk or your fingers.
3. Add the dry ingredients to the bowl with the liquids and mix. Note: The dough should be dense but quite sticky. If needed, add more flour or liquid to make it easier to handle.
4. Similar to making cookies, drop a tablespoon of dough onto the baking sheet, leaving space between each biscuit. Note: They tend to rise more than spread.
5. Wet a fork and lightly press down each biscuit to about ¼ inch thick. [Optional: carefully sprinkle a little sesame seed on each biscuit].
6. Bake for about 45 min. to 1 hour, or until the biscuits are lightly brown.
You can make smaller-sized biscuits by using a teaspoon. The larger size, while quite crunchy, is easy to break into smaller pieces.
This recipe makes roughly 20 of the larger (1 tbsp) biscuits. Put a few in a tightly sealed container and store in the refrigerator, where they’ll last five to seven days. Freeze the rest in a plastic freezer bag.
If any of you sourdough-starter fans have your own treat recipes, I would love to hear about them!