Okay, I’m really glad Barbara’s didn’t try to incorporate cheeky wordplay into the name of their new Pumpkin Puffins cereal, because it’s the kind of pun that looks like it could work, but should probably be outlawed by the U.N.’s International Tribune on Wordplay Sanctions.
Or should I call them the P.U.N.?
But I digress. Sneaking in just ahead of the Autumn harvest is a new pumpkin-flavored cereal from Barbara’s. Like their other Puffins flavors, Barbara’s Pump-ffins take the form of wee little adorable pillows that look like rounded cubes with ridges and bowed-in edges. It’s the kind of complex shape that would make a geometrician sweat just thinking about calculating the surface area to volume ratio.
But luckily we don’t have to calculate any derivatives of pi to cram these hollowed-out cuboids into our hungry pi holes.
I’m a dedicated Puffin-atic; Barbara’s delightful Peanut Butter & Chocolate Puffins are easily in my Cereal Top 5, simply because, when mixed with milk, they taste like crunchy, corny, and lightly salted Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. But since I’m also pumpkinda a huge pumpkin fan, I’m eager to see if these can hijack-o-lantern the top spot from Peanut Butter & Chocolate.
After struggling into the bag, which was curiously secured with the strength of Fort Knox, I took a deep breath in. It smelled like a Fall day in the countryside, with a mild vegetable starchiness and earthy undertones. The cute shapes had a shiny coating and were tinted an orange-brown hue which was a lot like a…certain vegetable. I can’t seem to put my finger on the name of it.
Carrot? Sweet potato maybe? Oh well, it’ll come to me.
Barbara’s Puffins flavors seem to fall (no pun intended that time, I promise) into two categories: the standard, corn-based flavors (Peanut Butter, Cinnamon, etc.), and the gluten-free, pure oat ones (Honey Rice & Multigrain). The first varieties are typically denser and more heartily crunchy, with a sometimes overbearing corniness (I find it endearing, though. Perhaps that explains my love of corny jokes?).
However, as I munched on dry pieces of these gluten-free Pumpkin Puffins, I realized that it was among the more fragile and crisp oat varieties. The problem is, the oat tends to push out any other added flavors, leaving a cereal that is a bit more boring than its corn siblings. I tasted a little bit of lingering vegetable savoriness, but it mostly ended up like a gritty, mealy mush.
So I added milk (being careful not to add too much; with the easily soggifying oat pillows, balance is key) to try and remedy the situation. The creaminess of milk brings out the canned pumpkin flavor and light sweetness a bit more, but it’s still faint enough to leave me desperately sucking each piece like a vegetarian vampire to try and intensify the experience.
A generic oat flavor dominates with a mild, syrupy molasses sweetness. The pumpkin doesn’t ramp up until later in the bite. Keep in mind, too, that these Pumpkin Puffins are flavored with real pumpkin instead of mysterious, industrialized pumpkin liquid which may or may not be the harvested lifeblood of The Great Pumpkin himself.
This means the experience is much more earthy, starchy, and organic-tasting than the popping ginger and cinnamon bonanza of a Pumpkin Spice Latte. Even though the ingredients list here is more basic, it isn’t that kind of “basic.”
All in all, Pumpkin Puffins aren’t a bad Puffins flavor by any means, just one that would have done better with the maize base of other Puffins to complete the cornucopia taste experience. Instead, these just feel like a more oat-rich Kashi Sweet Potato Sunshine. They have a fun crunch and would make a great cereal mix-in with a cinnamon-based cereal.
And eating a bowl certainly feels like a more wholesome Fall experience than
using a syringe to intravenously inject drinking a Pumpkin Spice Latte.
Oh, now I know! The color of these Puffins is just like the color of a pumpkin! Who could have possibly imagined?
The Bowl: Barbara’s Limited Edition Pumpkin Puffins
The Breakdown: Imagine a lightly spiced pumpkin pie with an oatmeal crust and a dash of darkly sweet molasses.
The Bottom Line: 6 vegan vampires (they wouldn’t even put milk in this cereal!) out of 10