Give in to the urge to play with your food. Tempt your child into eating a wider variety of foods or create a fun centerpiece for your next party by turning fruits, vegetables, bread dough, mashed vegetables and other edibles into animals. Everything from potato-puff puppies to bread dough coyotes to pineapple sea turtles springs from a steady hand with a utility knife, a pastry press and something to fasten it all together.
Things You'll Need
- For Potato Rostie Puppy Puffs:
- Kitchen scrub brush
- 4 double-fist-sized Idaho potatoes
- 4 fist-sized turnips
- 2 large carrots
- 2 fist-sized beets
- Nonstick cookie sheet
- Microwave or conventional oven
- Large mixing bowl
- Potato masher
- Serving spoon
- 1 stick butter
- 1/2 cup whole milk or heavy cream
- 2 cups cooked, mashed zucchini squash
- 2 cups cooked, mashed eggplant
- Egg beater, hand mixer, stand mixer
- 4 eggs
- 1 cup self-rising flour
- 1 tbsp. oregano
- 1/2 cup chopped basil
- 1 tsp. red pepper flakes
- 1 tsp. black pepper
- Pastry or cookie press
- Regular (not nonstick) cookie sheet
- Coarse red sea salt
- Zipper-style freezer bags, quart size
- For Bread Dough Animals:
- 1 package active yeast
- 1 tsp. white granulated sugar
- 1/4 cup warm water
- 3 small mixing bowls
- 4 large eggs
- 1 cup warm buttermilk
- 1 tsp. coarse sea salt
- 3 tbsp. plus 1/2 tsp. cooking oil
- 6 1/2 cups self-rising flour
- Egg yolk separator
- Pastry brush
- For Fruit Turtle:
- 1 whole unpeeled pineapple, with top
- 1 large strawberry
- 2 lbs. brown sugar
- Serving tray
- Small, oval dish
- Muskmelon, watermelon and honeydew melon balls
Potato Rostie Puppy Puffs
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Scrub the root vegetables -- potatoes, beets, carrots and turnips -- with a kitchen scrub brush under cold running water. Lay all the root vegetables on a nonstick cookie sheet in a conventional oven to roast at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for 45 minutes or until tender.
Remove the root vegetables from the oven. Mash them in a large mixing bowl with one stick unsalted butter and 1/2 cup whole milk or heavy cream until smooth, using a potato masher. Fold in the cooked, mashed squash and eggplant with your favorite serving spoon.
Beat the eggs, flour and all the spices except the paprika together in a separate small bowl using your choice of an egg beater, hand mixer, stand mixer or spoon, depending on preference and availability. Pour the spiced egg mixture into the mashed root vegetable mixture and mix until well blended.
Fill the pastry or cookie press barrel with the root vegetable mixture and insert the dog disk according to the directions for your cookie press.
Set the cookie press upright on a regular, cool, ungreased cookie sheet and turn the handle a half-turn at a time or press the trigger until the potato mixture comes through just enough to make full contact. Lift the cookie press and check the shape of your little dog to ensure that you are turning or pressing enough mixture to keep the dog intact. Practice until you create dogs with consistent shapes and sizes before you bake the first sheet of rostie puppies.
Sprinkle the pups lightly with coarse red sea salt and paprika to your taste. Bake at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for 10 to 12 minutes or until the edges turn golden brown. Remove from oven and allow to cool to room temperature before packing your pups in plastic, zipper-style freezer bags if you are not going to eat them all right away.
Bread Dough Animals
Mix 1 package active yeast with 1 tsp. white granulated sugar and 1/4 cup warm -- not boiling -- water in a small mixing bowl. Stir until well blended and allow to stand until bubbles form and you can smell the yeast without having to be close to the mixing bowl.
Beat together 3 large eggs, 1 cup warm buttermilk, 1 tsp. coarse sea salt and 3 tbsp. cooking oil in a separate, small mixing bowl until well blended. Pour the egg mixture into the yeast mixture without stirring.
Pour 5 cups self-rising flour into a large mixing bowl. Pour the yeast and egg mixture into the flour and mix by hand until it forms stretchy dough. Add up to 1 cup more flour if needed, until the dough does not stick to your hands.
Sprinkle the counter with 1/2 cup of flour and knead the dough for three to five minutes. Pour 1/2 tsp. cooking oil in the palm of your hand and rub your palms together before rubbing the oil all over the outside of the dough.
Place the oiled dough in the mixing bowl and cover it with a towel. Place the bowl somewhere warm until the dough rises and doubles in size, about 20 minutes. Punch down the dough and allow it to rise in a warm place for another 20 minutes.
Break the dough into two equal-size pieces. Break one of those two pieces into one large piece at least as big as your fist and two smaller pieces the size of your palm.
Roll the largest piece between your hands or on the counter until it is roughly the right shape for your chosen animal body -- triangular for a cat or a sitting, howling coyote or wolf, cylindrical for a dog or horse, or tapered from a pointy nose to a wider tail for rabbits, mice or other rodents. Pinch the fist-sized piece until it resembles the head of the animal you wish to make. Use the remaining two small pieces to make legs for your chosen animal.
Lay all the pieces of your animal on a nonstick cookie sheet, in roughly the correct body positions. Crack an egg into an egg yolk separator or into your curled fingers, allowing the egg white to drip into a bowl until only the yolk remains in the separator or your hand. Put the yolk in a separate bowl and beat it until it is well blended.
Use a pastry brush to apply egg yolk between the head, body and legs and push them together, rubbing along the joints with a finger to smooth the dough together.
Allow the dough to rise for another 10 minutes in a warm place, without covering. Bake at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for 20 to 30 minutes or until golden brown.
Cut a pineapple in half lengthwise, using a chef's knife or your preferred knife. Use one half of the pineapple to make a body for your turtle.
Cut a large strawberry from the tip to within 1/4-inch of the large end and pull it open about 1/4 to 1/2-inch to make a head. Attach the head to one of the short ends of the body by pushing one end of the toothpick into the large end of the strawberry and the other end into the pineapple half.
Cut five leaves from the pineapple top. Trim one to 4 inches long to make the turtle's tail, and trim the others to 3 inches long to make the turtle's legs.
Cover a serving platter with a 1-inch layer of brown sugar to resemble sand. Push a small, shallow oval dish into the sand to serve as a hollow space. Fill the hollow space with muskmelon, watermelon and honeydew melon balls.
Lay the legs and tail on top of the pile of melon balls in the serving platter. Place the body and head on top of the legs and tail. Surround the turtle with additional melon balls to resemble eggs.
Fill a larger tray with ice and place the serving tray on it to keep the turtle cold.
Tips & Warnings
- Always use regular, cooled, ungreased cookie sheets -- not the nonstick kind -- when making pastry-press or cookie press items or the dough will not stick long enough to make the correct shapes. Use the camel and butterfly disks as well, if you have them in your set. Use a large star "cheese straw" disk and squeeze the mashed potato mixture onto the cookie sheets in dog shapes if you do not have the dog disk in your set. Practice making other animal shapes -- cats, birds, coyotes or fish -- until you like the results.
- Substitute rice milk or almond milk for the whole milk or heavy cream and use good-quality soy margarine instead of real butter for a dairy-free alternative. You can also substitute 1/4 cup mashed silky tofu and 1/2 tsp. dry mustard for the eggs. Substitute grated lemon or lime peel for the sea salt for anyone on a sodium-restricted diet.
- Brush the entire bread dough animal on the top and sides with the remaining beaten egg if you want a shiny finish.
- "New York Times"; Dr. Weil's Simple Roasted Root Vegetables; Tara Parker-Pope; Nov. 2010
- Brett Harris; cook; Perth, Western Australia
- What's Cooking America; Spritz Cookie Recipe -- Spritzgeback Cookies; Linda Stradley
- Photo Credit Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images Martin Poole/Digital Vision/Getty Images
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