Monday, September 26, 2011

Delicate Grape and a Nutty Oolong - Lupicia's Tea of the Month

I'm not normally a fan of a grape as a flavor unto itself. Chalk it up to a childhood spent getting to know the sugary soda-pop chemical flavor that poured out of the can a brilliant pinkish purple and defied natural logic. And there is also that story of me nearly choking on a large grape as a toddler that gets repeated every birthday...but I digress.

As an adult, I've grown to appreciate the grape flavor of different champagnes and wines, though it's interesting that few of these are actually described as having "grape" notes by true connoisseurs. There's always a tendency to talk about the other things they remind the drinker of; the scent of wood, another type of stone fruit, Muenster Cheese, or that smoldering flat tire they passed on the way over to the gathering.

When I received this month's sampling of Lupicia's latest feature, I opened the information leaflet and was struck by how many different teas are described as having grape-like flavor notes. Certain Darjeelings are said to have a hint of 'muscatel,' for example, and though I've always known that pure teas have disctinct flavor profiles, I wouldn't have thought of deliberately blending grape with tea without it ending up tasting like the chemical-laden sugar boats of my childhood.

Lupicia's Mountain Grape Oolong is much more delicate and balanced than I was expecting when I opened the package. A very strong, pleasant grape and wood aroma greeted me as I cut open the tea sachet and emptied the tea leaves into my clear kyusu-style teapot. Lupicia describes the grape as a Japanese Mountain variety and the oolong tea as being Taiwanese. I would say from appearances that it's a light-to-medium oxidation.

A little research led me to find out more about Yama-budo - translated as Mountain Grape. Even though the West tends to think of the Roman countries as being the top purveyors of grape-infused products, it's become a bit of a cottage industry in modern Japan. There are writing inks made with it, vintners who have started cultivating different varieties Napa Valley-style, and there are of course the obligatory fizzy beverages with mountain grape flavoring. The Kyoho cultivar in particular seems to be one of the preferred standards, producing a larger grape than the Yama-budo. Yet it's interesting to note that the grape plant has been present in Japan since the 12th century.

So what about the tea? How do the grape and oolong dance together?

Being a medium Taiwanese oolong, there is a floral and a nutty component to the leaf. Fairly smooth, and just a tad astringent. The grape flavor is much more subtle and is a frontnote to the oolong. It melts quickly into an oolong profile and doesn't get in the way of being able to detect that this is trying to be tea, and not a grape drink. While I've had other, better oolongs, this particular sample is very drinkable.

And much to the Oolong's credit, I was able to steep 24 oz. of full-flavored tea with the contents of the one sachet. On an overcast late-September evening, it almost had me nostalgic for the different Fall seasons I've spent in France and those hot summer mornings in Tennessee when I accompanied my grandmother on her newspaper route in the car and was rewarded with a can of cold Nu-Grape.

You will like this tea if:

You enjoy the milder floral nuttiness of an oolong tea and don't enjoy chemical-tasting fruit blends. It has a crispness to it that makes it a lovely fall alternative tea.


Saturday, September 24, 2011

CSA : ITFA feature : Japanese Gyokuro - Old Style

For some, the thought of all things 'traditional' evokes a negative reaction and a scrunching-of-the-nose at things that never adapt; ideas, points-of-view, and practices that seem to be stuck in the era in which they were created. For others, tradition can be a comfort and a place to seek refuge when the world around them is pushing back.

When it comes to cuisines, and especially tea, there's good reason to trust the traditional. Simple, unfussy methods simply taste better! The 'Old Style Gyokuro' that arrived in the International Tea Farmer's Alliance Global Tea Taster's shipment for August is a prime example of trusting natural, time-tested processing to create a great cup of tea.

According to the ITFA information leaflet that accompanied the tea, Old-Style Gyokuro is also known as "dew drops." About a month prior to harvest, the tea leaves are shaded by natural materials such as bamboo, and the condensation that forms on the cover takes on the characteristics of these materials, imparting it to the tea leaf and ultimately the cup. The combination of this "dew drop" infusion and the limited sunlight reaching the roots of the tea plant gives Gyokuro its distinctive taste and a place of importance in the hierarchy of Japanese senchas.

Gyokuro is my preferred Japanese green, because the umami flavor tends to be balanced by the sweet in a way that's unmatched by the different grades of sencha. It is best enjoyed on its own or after a meal because it's a tea that you savor by sipping rather than drinking to quench a thirst.

The sample that I steeped is produced by Kurihara Seicha, a tea farm in the Fukuoka region, Yabe Village, Japan and has been family-run for three generations. While they have been recognized as an eco-friendly farm, it's important to note that this Gyokuro is not described as certified organic. You can find more information about their products and view some lovely pictures of their farm by visiting the ITFA site here. It is labeled as a first-flush May 2011 harvest.

I prepared the Gyokuro two different ways. The first steep was the standard one minute with water cooled from just-under-boiling. The aroma was sweet, vegetal, but not overpoweringly so. It had an almost buttery-smooth secondary note, but the sweet continued throughout. Just a simple and fantastic cup of tea.

In a deperature from my own routine, I decided to steep a second pot and try it iced. I have never made a fresh-steeped glass of iced green, but the hot tea preparation was so sweet, I had no choice but to give it a try. It certainly stood up well to being iced. Even though we've begun wearing sweaters and raking leaves in my neck of the woods, it was one last welcome reprise of Summer goodness.

But the larger questions loom: does it really taste like dew drops? Can you tell if this tea was covered with bamboo and other Gyokuros were covered with plastic netting?

I did notice a difference in quality between the Kurihara Seicha offering and the Gyokuro that I enjoy on a regular basis at my local tea shoppe. Though I don't know the origins of my tea shoppe's version, and I trust their sourcing prowess implicitly, it goes without saying that the Kurihara tea had a brighter, sweeter appeal because I was the first to open the leaves upon shipment, therefore it was as fresh as a North American tea drinker can get.

So I've discovered an excellent, traditionally-cultivated Gyokuro. How do I purchase it if I'd like more or am not a member of the ITFA Global Tea Taster's Club?

The farm maintains a web site, but it's understandably in Japanese. You can access it here, though my suggestion would be to first inquire via the ITFA website if you're not fluent in Japanese. Their English-speaking staff are helpful and can direct you to further information.


Sunday, September 18, 2011

Weekend Darjeeling and Thoughts on Sunday's Quake

I enjoyed another Saturday afternoon this past weekend discussing literature and writing with a good friend at my local tea shop. It's an ordinary thing, (the tea ritual, not the fantastic conversation!) and not usually something most people would care to read about, but this time I veered from my usual order of Gyokuro and opted for the house Darjeeling blend.

This particular shop offers the usual Margaret's Hope 1st flush as well as 1st and 2nd flush single-estate Darjeelings, Assams, and Nilgiris. Their blend is touted as a medium-bodied, smooth TGFOP (Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe). Orange Pekoe is traditionally used in Lipton brand teas that many tea newbies are familiar with, but it is essential to experience it in loose-leaf. A classic, drink-it-down type of tea that paired well with the Triple Berry Mousse Cake.

In a strange co-incidence, I learned of today's earthquake that hit the Darjeeling region, and my heart sank. Nearly six months have passed since the Japan quake, and now another precious tea-growing region is affected by nature's fickleness, but there are details that as of yet remain unreported.

I thought I'd compile some internet resources, found via a simple Google search - these links have no relation to my own content, I simply put them here in one spot for those of you who'd like to know more, including an article that, ironically, discusses the impact of the Japan quake on the consumption of Darjeeling tea in Japan. I join my fellow tea bloggers on the internet and via Twitter in sending thoughts of appreciation and concern to the region.

Thunderbolt Tea's Blog - first-hand experience of the earthquake from the region

The Financial - "Quake-hit Japan retains flavor for Darjeeling"

HindustanTimes - mainstream news report, 2 confirmed deaths in Darjeeling region

To learn more about tea production in Darjeeling and Sikkim/East India:

Wikipedia - a place to start

The Hindu - "Darjeeling Tea Production at Record Low" - discusses early 2011 being a tough yr

Previous reviews of Darjeeling-related teas from LatteTeaDah archives:

Shanti Tea's Darjeeling Green - Jewel of a Brew

Indigo's Darjeeling Blend was so smooth and satisfying that I asked for a refill of hot water for my teapot and steeped the leaves again - something I don't normally do unless I'm at home.

The Triple Berry Mousse Cake - it isn't always offered at this shoppe, but it was heavenly! Perfect for a brisk fall afternoon!

Darjeeling leaves post-steep

A beautiful scene, made possible by the men and women who work the fields in what seems to be a far-removed corner of the world from the tea shoppe. Here's hoping that everyone in the affected region stays safe and that the 2012 season brings better luck.


Friday, September 16, 2011

New CSA Offering : International Tea Farms Alliance

It felt like a divine hand reaching across the the midst of a busy and hectic week, a small, unassuming white envelope arrived in my mailbox and it was chock full of farm-fresh Japanese green tea in nearly all of it's most appreciated forms : Gen Mai Cha, Gyokuro, Superior grade Sencha, Houjicha, and a Yakubita Midori sencha.

I had already received my expected and appreciated Obubu Tea shipment several weeks earlier, so this was a true surprise. It was a complimentary inaugural shipment from the International Tea Farms Alliance Global Tea Tasters Club - a seperate organization of which Obubu Tea happens to be a strong founding member.

The ITFA have been working hard in recent months to organize and garner support between themselves and the world's tea consumers, particularly in the wake of the Tohoku region earthquake and tsunami in March of this year. It's more important than ever to seperate myth from reality and to increase awareness of biodiversity in what we human beings consume, and tea is no exception.

What can you, the humble North American tea drinker, learn from the ITFA?

1. First - take a peek at their web site to meet the individual farmers that dedicate their lives and careers to growing every tea leaf from the ground up and learn more about what actually goes into producing a simple cup of tea.

When was the last time you saw a photograph of the Iowa farmer who grew the corn you ate with dinner last night? Chances are good that you may not even know the name of the farm where your barbecued chicken was raised. Yet the ITFA are offering you the opportunity to meet the farmer halfway across the world who spends each day tending your tea leaves and ensuring that you're getting the best-tasting beverage they can offer.

How different would your tea mug and dinner plate look if you knew where and how everything you put in it was made and that your grocery budget was an investment in sustainability?

The ITFA web site has ambitious plans to offer you that kind of information, everything from articles and pictures, to video greetings from the farmers themselves. Most recently, they supported a panel discussion on the impact of radiation on the Japanese tea farming industry after the 3/11 earthquake. You can watch an archived webcast of that discussion here : (presentation begins at 25:00)

2. The ITFA Global Tea Tasters Club is a subscription service whereby you receive bi-monthly shipments of tea from participating ITFA farms. What's most exciting is that these farms are in different countries and growing regions, meaning you'll be discovering not only quality Japanese green teas, but teas from Taiwan, India...the list seems as though it will only continue to grow. Click here to learn more details about GTTC membership and their scheduled shipments for 2011.

Rather than parsing the internet to find these teas as sold and re-packaged through secondary markets, you're receiving these from the farms. There can't be enough said about what an advantage that is for the tea consumer. And there's the assurance that your subscription funds are helping to educate others about tea and supporting the efforts of these farms to continue to cultivate the tea that grows best in their soil.

3. What does an ITFA shipment look like?

Check out August's shipment above. Along with the tea samples, there are color pages featuring introductions and biographies of the farms and farmers who produced the tea. I will be featuring tasting note reviews and information on these ITFA teas individually here on the blog as well as continuing my journal about the Obubu CSA Club. Check out my page dedicated to tea CSA's for an overview of both as time goes on.

With special thanks to Ian Chun, PR liaison for Obubu and ITFA, for answering several questions and for the information he supplies on the different web sites for both organizations.


Friday, September 9, 2011

My First Australian Teaware Set - Ashdene Lavender

My favorite local tea shop carries a nice variety of teaware, and this past year or so, they've added Ashdene 3-piece mugs and infusers to their regular offerings. I decided this past weekend that I couldn't walk past this lavender and bee design once more without taking it home with me. Imagine my surprise to learn that it's designed by an Australian teaware/chinaware company. Like most things these days, it's actually fabricated in China, but it's rare in my neck of the woods to find teaware that isn't also sourced or designed in England, Japan, China, or Taiwan.

Not only was there information to be found at, but the box included a small career bio of the artist who designed the lovely little bees speeding through the lavender. More to the point, there's an entire line of teaware and bakeware in the I Love Lavender design! The artist is Jenny Phillips, and she's world-famous for her stunningly-detailed botanical artwork. She apparently runs her own atelier in Melbourne, which you can click here to explore.

The small-guage mesh infuser takes up about 3/4 of the mug when placed inside. It will handle any loose-leaf steeping concern I throw at it, including blooming tea if I were of that bent of mind. I steeped some Lapsang Souchong for my inaugural sip, and it held up well.

Even the handle of this lovely piece is decorated in minute detail.

The lid - can you smell the fragrant blue stems?

Bee careful with guests - they may not bee expecting a friend on the inside of their mug!

My family has another Ashdene design, again found at my favorite local tea shop, that is from the Carl Larson scandinavian-themed range from 2010, Flower Window. The tea shop owners have said in passing that they find these mug sets difficult to keep in stock because they're so popular. In browsing the Ashdene online catalog, I've also noticed that my shop carries the teapot in the Annie Rose range. I would venture to say they know their audience!

If you happen to notice these mugs at your next tea shop stop, take a closer look. They're not your average mass factory-reproduced offerings. I plan on going back next weekend to get the last of the lavender mug sets that were on the shelf - IF it's still there waiting for me!


Thursday, September 8, 2011

Sure Sign of Fall - Piping Hot Rooibos

All you have to do is open a tin of Vanilla Rooibos and you'll be transported. A super-rich caramel-honey fragrance greets your nose. You might be reminded of butterscotch or bourbon. It isn't what you'd call light or springy fare, which is one reason why it makes a terrific iced tea.

As for me, I think of the rich sweetness of fall as the air chills and the leaves start turning. The sunlight starts to turn to an antique gold and retreats much sooner than we'd like, but summer's not so far gone that you still can't enjoy the daisies and mums in the neighborhood. Breathe in some of the earthiness, some of the dew, some of the nectar.

The combination of vanilla and South African Rooibos (redbush) is so popular that nearly all of the major tea vendors will carry at least one variety of it in their inventory. I recently tried Shanti Tea's organic version and it did not disappoint.

Rooibos (pronounced [roy boss] or [roy bosh] by natives) is a tisane, not a tea in the technical sense. It is a bush that is cultivated in South Africa's Cedarburg region (West), and it's been touted by some as having anti-allergy benefits. The leaves are small and needle-like, and you'll need a fine mesh strainer in most cases to get the cleanest steep. Steeped by itself, Rooibos has a sweet and rich honey front note and a caramel aftertaste.

You may not find you need to add any sweetener, but many people enjoy Vanilla Rooibos with milk as a latte or with boba for bubble tea.

It also makes an interesting marinade for chicken or poultry if you're looking to try something new at your dinner table. Dice some dried or fresh peaches and apricots into a double-strength steeping cup of Vanilla Rooibos, let it cool in a casserole dish, add your poultry and let it soak in the goodness for several hours in the refrigerator.

Being a tisane, you don't have to get the water to a high boil in order to steep Rooibos, but you do want to let it steep for a longer period of time than you would a black tea. The bourbon-like liqueur comes through best after about five minutes.

On this particular fall evening, I enjoyed a pot of Shanti's Vanilla Rooibos with two freshly-prepared peanut butter sandwiches, roughly cut with my Sando de Panda bento tool.

What makes Shanti's version different from others I've tried:

The blend is more even-handed. The vanilla or bourbon flavor doesn't smell as though it's chemically-induced. The vanilla isn't so strong as to be candy-like in the cup, leaving the Rooibos free to impart its own character. You feel like you're drinking "tea" as opposed to a "drink mix."

This is a tisane you definitely have to try at least once! And preferably while wrapped in a warm blanket in your backyard while listening to the geese honk overhead as they fly south.


Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Stumpy Gets a Fall Wardrobe

I've never had much concern with tea getting overly cold at home. I use a two-cup For Life 'Stump' teapot that I've nicknamed Stumpy who brews just 'enough.' Though when the weather starts to cool down in the northern hemisphere, and especially at the day job where freshly brewed tea might sit for an hour before I can pour the second cup, the idea of using a tea cozy gets, well... cozier.

I own a nice middle-of-the-line Singer Confidence sewing machine and had some nice leaf fabric left over from a weekend quilting project, so I did a little research and came across this very reliable guide to sewing your own tea cozies as found on RustedBobbin. She goes step-by-step, and the instructions are her original ideas, but I've improvised a bit - as I always do - and added a few things to Stumpy's model.

I measured Stumpy's circumference and height, divided the two measurements in half, added 2 inches to the width and 3 inches to the height to account for wiggle room and seam allowances. His final pattern requirements were 8.5" x 10".

I cut a master pattern in white felt, first cutting an 8.5" x 10" square then rounding off the corners with scissors to make the dome shape. From there I made two more felt 'faces', and then cut 2 faces each of the main yellow pattern, a white muslin backing fabric, and a green plaid fabric for the lining. I also cut one face of quilt batting for each side.

Wanting to do a little piecework, I cut the main yellow faces down to about 5" tall to allow for squares of other fabric to be sewn together and added, using one of the felt faces as a template. I cut 2 squares each of 5 different pieces of fall fabric, measuring 2.5" x 3.5" (including seam allowance).

My custom lining formula: pieced fabric, craft felt, ultra-loft batting, muslin backing fabric

Using my machine, I pieced together the squares with the 3.5" side used as the vertical end, pressing the seams. With the row completed, I then attached them to the main yellow dome, right sides facing, to get a complete "face." This was repeated for the opposite face.

Once the piecework was done, it was time to layer and sew. As seen above, I added a layer of felt behind the facing fabric, then a layer of quilt batting, then a backing fabric.

Before pinning the two sandwiched faces together, I made a leaf-shaped handle by folding a 3" square into a triangle, then folding the ends in again to make a square. I pinned it to the "right" side of the bottom piece, then turned the other piece with the "right" side matching the "right" side of the bottom piece, and then stitched along the side of the dome to connect.

With both felt and quilt batting layered twice, you may need to adjust your presser foot on your machine to accomodate movement, but I managed to get this big seam done without having to change. I was lucky, but I'm not much of a stickler for following directions either, so go with what makes you comfortable.

The tea cozy is then more-or-less completed. You could bind the edges if you wished, or you could do as I did and add a seperate lining by stitching the dome edge of the lining pieces together. Leave a 4-5" hole at the top of the dome, slip the lining over the completed cozy, pin the edges to the right side of the cozy, and stitch about 1/4"-1/2" all the way around. You then pull the cozy through the unstitched top of the lining and it will look like this:

At that point, you just slip-stitch the lining so it's closed and then punch the lining back in and press. Voila! You have a new tea-cozy that is sturdy, stylish, and custom-fit (if you're Stumpy).

Materials that were necessary:

Measuring tape if you have a non-standard type of teapot

Minimum of 6 pieces of fabric of your choice that measure 8.5" 10"

One 3" square of coordinating fabric for a handle

2 pieces of craft felt also minimum of 8.5" x 10"

2 pieces of quilt batting or fiber-fill pulled to measure 8.5" x 10"

Sewing machine capable of stitching through layers of felt, batting, and fabric

Glass-head pins

Thread and needle for closing lining fabric

Buttons, beads, rik-rak or whatever kind of embellishment your imagination can bring

The other weekend quilting project, nearly completed, that inspired Stumpy's new chic threads.

Don't let your tea go naked this fall!


Sunday, September 4, 2011

Scones - not just for British Tea Snobs

They take different forms: round, lumpy, or wedge-shaped, and they can be filled with sweet or savory goodness. They're scones, and though the name may sound far-away and dainty for the more practical among us, they're only one or two ingredients away from what Americans call biscuits.

Best of all, they're nearly fool-proof to bake, the batter and the scones themselves freeze well to make-ahead for bento box treats or upcoming rainy days, and you can flavor them to suit even the pickiest of eaters in your entourage.

There are three different ways to approach scones.

1. You can go the traditional route and make your batter from scratch. I recommend the recipe from America's Test Kitchens that was shown during an episode several years ago on PBS, and from which I gathered a "Eureka!" fruit-blending tip that must be shared.

Scone batter isn't meant to be fluid, it will be flaky and sticky and less moist than a cake batter. This is because it's more about blending the flour with butter than with making sure the batter is smooth, and this is also why scones are so delectable.

If you're adding fresh fruit like blueberries or raspberries, don't mix them in directly to the batter as you're blending the flour ingredients. You'll get a very tasty bowl of blue or red mess. Instead, keep the batter cold and your fruit cold or just-about-frozen and fold it in as a last step. Your batter will stay a nice color and your fruit and other ingredients will maintain their color integrity as well.

2. You can buy a pre-mixed batter such as the one I've featured and prepared for this post. Every major grocery will have a selection, and the one shown here I purchased from my local tea shop. They carry the Sticky Fingers brand, based in Spokane, and they have just about every variety you could want in a tea or coffee accompaniement : black currant, cranberry, pumpkin, and the one I chose - Raspberry White Chocolate, among others.

As you can see in the photograph, you simply add water to the flour and ingredient mixture and it reaches a sticky, pliable consistency. There are no egg ingredients listed, and you'll notice traditional scone recipes won't call for eggs either unless you're coating the top with a special icing glaze. The Sticky Fingers instructions call for 3/4 cup of water, but I needed to add another 1/4 cup to get all of my flour wet.

I got 10 very large scones from this prepared mix, and the ingredients estimated about 12 spoon-size scones could be yielded, so I'd say I got my money's worth. The Sticky Fingers directions also include preparing the mix for wedge-shaped scones, which simply means putting the batter in a round cake pan and pre-cutting 8 wedges so they're formed in baking.

I used a heaping tablespoon to place my scone batter on the baking tray, oven heated to 325F. No special need to form the glops into a special shape, as scones are supposed to be lumpy circles or wedges.

3. You can also prepare your scone batter in a similar pre-mix way with Bisquik (yes, this is the second or third time I've recommended Bisquik). Follow the instructions for making biscuit dough and simply add sugar and cold (yes - important that it's cold and not soft) butter along with your other flavor choices. They offer several different kinds of Bisquik batter - low fat, and so forth - so if you're looking to cut back on calories or other things, this may be the way to do it. For an idea on how Bisquik works for scones and tea-infused pastries, take a look back at my previous post featuring Boston Tea Co's Peach Passion Oolong in a sweet biscuit recipe.

Baking the scones is a breeze. A medium temp, 325F for 15 minutes is what Sticky Fingers recommends. They shouldn't rise much, if at all, and their color should remain fairly uniform. You will know they're ready to take out of the oven to cool when there are spots of golden brown on the lumpier bits, as seen below:

There's just a hint of browning on the outer edges, and though the color on the outside hasn't changed much, the outer scone is "crusty" to touch. The bottom of the scone will be lightly brown.

Here's the finished product : it resembles a crumbly, flaky, soft biscuit in the center, and has a crustier outer shell. Let them cool for 15-20 minutes and store them in a tupperware container or in plastic wrap if you're not going to serve them immediately so they maintain their inner softness.

Freezing tips:

Make up several batches of the batter ahead of time to freeze and remove for quick snacks or as something to help fill a gap in your loved one's bento box for those weeks when you just haven't the time to get to the grocery.

1. Roll the dough into a log shape and wrap with saran wrap, place in a large freezer bag.

2. Pre-portion individual scones to wrap and store in the freeer bag, to take out as needed if you only want to make several at a time.

3. You want to limit their freezing time to a maximum of 2 weeks to 1 month, for best results. Take the freezer bag out in advance of your baking and allow to thaw at room temperature, or place in the refrigerator overnight for preparation the next day.

Budget-stretching ideas:

1. Make up several batches of non-flavored dough to freeze. When there's a small amount of fruit needing to be used up before it goes bad, or if you have jellied preserves that are lingering in the bottom of a jar, add those bits to the batter along with some sugar to flavor them.

2. Scones can be savory too! If you're making a batch from scratch, eliminate the sugar and fruit and instead add olive oil and rosemary - herbs and aromatics you may already have in permanent collection in your cupboard. No need to buy new ingredients, and you might discover a combination that goes perfectly with your favorite chai or strong black tea.

Try cardamom, anise, terragon, or basil with fresh lemon juice. Channel your inner gourmet!


The sky's the limit, but the traditional British scone is nearly always served with Clotted Cream (which for us Yanks is like a sweetened sour cream or whipped cream). Butter, jam, and preserves are next in line. Olive oil with mixed herbs would be interesting if you were going the savory route. Peppered jellies may also be interesting add-ons if you're looking to spice things up.

I'm more of a purist. I prefer to let the scone accompany the tea. My kitchen helpers agree - the scones are pretty fabulous on their own if you're selecting your ingredients carefully.

Diesel - my sister's 6-month-old Lab/Australian Shepherd mix helped supervise the baking of this post.