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I am very new to recipe development and I am trying to replicate a dog treat. The store bought treat is hard and crunchy. Using just the ingredient list, when I try to bake the same thing, it comes out looking similar yet when I go to pick it up it immediately crumbles.

I have done some research and I think the issue is around the fat to flour ratio. Basically, no gluten is forming. I have adjusted ratios 4 different times but still no luck. I am wondering if anyone has any ideas on how I can use the below ingredients to make a crunchy treat.

Ingredients to work with: Wheat Flour, Wheat Bran, Peanut Butter, Peanuts, Ground Brown Rice, Oil

I’ve adjusted the amount of peanut butter and oil to various ratios but every time it comes out crumbling to the touch.

The last thing I tried was:

1 c wheat flour
2/3 c wheat bran
1/3 c ground brown rice
14 tbsp peanut butter
2 tbsp corn oil
1/4 c ground peanuts

baked for 20 minutes @ 350

I can pick it up and turn it into sand in my fingers...

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    Gluten won't for without water. I don't know if it's left out of the ingredients list as it would evaporate when you bake it.
    – Joe
    Jul 22, 2020 at 1:41
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    @Joe I think you've got a good point about the water. Ryvita brand crisp bread lists its ingredients as only rye flour and salt for that reason.
    – bdsl
    Jul 22, 2020 at 11:32
  • Blah ... typo. that should've been 'Gluten won't form without water' (which probably should've been worded 'You can't develop gluten without water')
    – Joe
    Jul 22, 2020 at 16:41
  • I’m voting to close this question because it is about pet food, which is off topic (see cooking.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/1108)
    – rumtscho
    Jul 25, 2020 at 10:49

1 Answer 1

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Right, I'm not a hands-on baking expert, but some of the reasons your gluten may be having trouble are that

  1. the gluten-containing flour makes up a quite small proportion of the overall mixture,

  2. you have other ingredients (namely: the oil, the fat in the peanut butter, and the wheat bran) that act to minimise your gluten development and

  3. there's very little moisture in your mixture

Not much flour

This one's pretty straightforward; the less of your dry mass of ingredients is wheat flour, the less glutenin and gliadin (the precursors to gluten) you have in the mix, so the less gluten can be formed. It's possible that the amount of flour you have now is sufficient though, if its gluten development is not further sabotaged by the other factors. If you want, you might replace some of the ground rice, wheat bran, and ground peanuts with more regular flour, though I'd probably try that after I tried some of my other suggestions.

Anti-gluten ingredients

Fat has the effect of both lubricating the components of gluten against one another, making them more likely to slip and not form the tough, elastic mesh we know and love from our breads, and also of isolating the gluten from water, which it needs to form properly; there's a reason gluten doesn't form in a bag of flour sitting in your pantry and that reason is there's no water to activate it. The fat can coat your glutenous proteins and make it harder for the water to get in there and do its thing. Wheat bran, separately, has a bit of fat in it, but also has a lot of 'sharp edges' on a small scale, which can slice through gluten strands as they form and inhibit, again, the protein mesh from forming. Cutting back on these ingredients might help the gluten develop somewhat, though I'd still try that after my third suggestion, namely:

Add some water

As I said, gluten needs water to develop; bread doughs regularly have flour-to-water mass ratios of 2:1 or even 3:2, which would correspond to baker's hydration percentages of 50% or roughly 70% respectively. I don't think this recipe needs that much water, but right now the only ingredient in your list that I can see is adding any free water at all is the peanut butter, and even that isn't much. I imagine your dough for your past experiments has been very 'tender' and crumbly, barely held together by the fat content, more than the water and gluten. Try adding water, maybe a half cup at first, and probably more, until you have something you can vaguely knead. It won't be anywhere close to as stretchy as normal bread dough, due to all the non-flour ingredients, but there should be some amount of stretch to it.

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  • Flour-to-water mass ratios of 1:1 to 1:2 (baker's percentages of 100% and 200%, respectively) will probably yield something more like a batter than a dough. The indicated baker's hydration percentages of 50% to 70 % (flour-to-water mass ratios of 2:1 to 3:2) sound more right for a dough. @Blargant, are you sure those are the ratios you meant? Jul 22, 2020 at 13:52
  • This is a great answer from a baking perspective. Though, gluten intolerance/sensitivity is very common in dogs (far moreso than in humans). Low/No gluten in dog treats is usually a goal, rather than a problem.
    – AMtwo
    Jul 22, 2020 at 17:22
  • @Jacob, Yes, beg your pardon. I had the thought 'I should double-check the definition of that' but forged ahead regardless.
    – Blargant
    Jul 22, 2020 at 23:15
  • @AMtwo Huh, I hadn't heard that - I was largely reacting to the OP's mention that they weren't getting any gluten development..
    – Blargant
    Jul 22, 2020 at 23:18
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    Thanks, after I added the water it and increased the amount of flour it came out much better! I appreciate the help everyone! Jul 24, 2020 at 22:29

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