Monday, 5 February 2018

Valentine Dog Treat Tips for Pretty Pinks and Ravishing Reds


It's almost Valentine's Day, and this will be our final Valentine themed post of this year's collection as we switch our posting focus to the upcoming celebration of the Chinese New Year (Year of the DOG!) with a delicious diversion in honour of Pancake Day. Yummo! So for all of our Valenpups and their humans looking to make a few special last minute Valentine treats, here are our top tips for tinting pretty pinks and ravishing reds, including natural colours.


Most natural tints hold colour fairly well when used in no-bake, low-heat, or frozen treats (although some fruits do tend to brown).  Check out this comprehensive post on natural colourings for homemade treats for treat tinting ideas.  My personal favourite for pinks/reds is beetroot (roasted and pureed as a core ingredient, or in powder form as an add-in tint), but red berries work wonderfully as well, especially in no-bake recipes.


Most doughs will change colour when baked, some more than others. Colours often get lighter, fade, or brown. When baking treats, to avoid browning and maintain other properties, I often bake lightly (10-15 minutes) and then dehydrate thoroughly for crispy treats. This doesn't save you from baking fade though, which is why beetroot powder is one of my favourite tints for pink/red.  It holds colour rather well for a natural tint.  You can also add a small amount of food colouring to fortify a natural tint which can lessen the visual browning and fading during baking.  Check out this comprehensive post on natural colourings for homemade treats for tinting ideas, tips, and tricks. 


When you add red tint to a pale treat dough, it tends to mix pink - just like if you were adding red paint into white paint. You can try to overcome the pinkishness by using tons of tint, but that's not really something I like to do with my dog treats.  Using a highly concentrated tint, like paste, gel, or powder food colouring from a speciality baking store, will create a much more intense red tint. But, if you're keen to keep things natural, you can use a little sneaky colour theory to warm up the pink to become closer to a red.  Using a yellow/orange base or adding a little yellow/orange tint is my secret method for redder-reds in natural dog treats.  See the side-by-side example below of a split dough, tinted with beetroot, where turmeric powder (my favourite yellow add-in) has been used to create a red dough.  Both beetroot and turmeric hold colour well through baking, their flavours work in combination,  and they're healthy too.  Yass!  And my dogs seem to love them, especially turmeric.


When the dough is being tinted all the same colour, it's easiest to evenly combine/distribute colour when the mix is wet, but this does have the pitfall of leaving you guessing as to the strength of the final colour if you aren't familiar with the recipe or tinting strength of your ingredients. Wherever possible when making a single dough colour, I like to tint wet as it's way easier. As a sneaky compromise if colour strength is important to you, I will sometimes mix most of the way but not all and then tint the dough when it's still sticky/wet before topping up the last of the flour to final consistency. 

When the dough is being split and tinted different colours, it's often more convenient to mix the full batch, divide the dough, and then tint.  To add tint, I make a small divot in the dough ball, put my tint in the divot, squeeze the dough around the tint, and then knead it through to blend the colour.   If you are worried the tint staining your hands, you can wear food safe gloves, but I don't like the waste so I just accept the mess and wash up quickly.

When the dough is being split and tinted different colours with dry ingredients, you may also need to compensate.  Small volumes, like powdered colour and powerful natural tints like turmeric, beetroot powder, etc. can usually be kneaded in easily, but larger volumes like creating a "chocolate" brown with carob powder may require you to reduce flour or increase liquids for a workable dough. As with colour strength control as noted above, when you are tinting with different dry tints, it is sometimes easier if you mix most of the way but not all, split the still wet-ish dough for tinting, and then tint the dough when it's still sticky/wet before topping up the flour to final consistency.

When the dough is being split and tinted different colours with wet ingredients, you may need to compensate for the added liquid. Natural wet colourings (beetroot juice, molasses, etc.) and liquid food colourings can (depending on quantity) alter the consistency of your treat dough so you may need a touch more flour to restore a sticky dough for working. If you are using naturally coloured pureed fruits or veggies to create your tint then you will need to make adjustments to compensate.


The good news? Dogs see the world significant different from us, and that includes colour vision. From a dog's visual perspective (more on that in an upcoming post) there isn't a whole lot of difference between browns, reds, or pinks so whatever the results of your treat tinting endeavours it will be scent/taste that matter most, not looks! What are your favourite natural colourings? Tinting tips?  I'm always looking for new ideas! 

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