Hear that? That’s the dead echo of all the New Year’s resolutions I’ve fulfilled.
Indeed, aside from taking a multi-vitamin, my plans for non-stop, full-throttle self-improvement don’t seem to always follow through, and what starts in January as, “I’m going to plant a window garden and read Plato’s The Republic and stop a forest fire with my mind!” translates in May to, “Maybe I’ll take out the trash. But it’s raining. So I’ll do it later. Maybe.” What is it that gets my bedraggled mind so trampled in this mellifluous maelstrom of mediocrity?
After decades of research, I have uncovered that its motion begins right here at the breakfast table. Yes, America, it is at this temple of Early Risers and Eager Minds, where caffeine, cholesterol, and morning cohesion come together to form a somewhat put-together portion of myself, and yet I’ve recently cast the breakfast table aside, trading it in for those five extra minutes of sleep before I hop out the door trying to put on my left shoe, looking as coordinated as an intoxicated platypus. But 2014’s a new year and I’m going fuel my brain with more than Nutri-Grain. Just in the nick of time, General Mills is handing out one more Big G cereal for 2013: Chocolate Toast Crunch.
“Naturally flavored chocolate”? Hmmm… sounds shady. I can see we may be headed into precarious territory. We better put on our Danger Pants.
Danger Pants buckled and spoon in-hand, I burst open the bag and am met with a familiar scent. A scent of cocoa power and sugar and cereal-saturated chocolate milks of yore, whispering secrets of Cocoa Puffs into my nostalgia-seeking nose. While I’m a little freaked out that a cereal can whisper, I reach down shovel in the first spoonful.
Starting off on a solid foundation, I’m pleased to find that the texture of these 1/2-inch bites holds the same half-crispy, half-crunchy experience as its Crunch Toast counterparts. The surface of each 4-sided geometric shape is crosshatched with small ridges, allowing for an excellent play on texture while also making your bowl look like its filled with dollhouse-sized textured wallpaper samples.
Fortunately, these taste nothing of wallpaper. Living up to the old slogan, each shrunken bit of toast holds a thick, brown-tinged, sugary crust of “the taste you can see.” The pleasant grit from this cinnamon-cocoa sugar is like an edible hug: full of a cocoa burst and a slightly warm cinnamon end, it harkens back to memories of a cinnamon sugar doughnut, only thinner, crispier, and generously dunked in cocoa. The cocoa is of a lighter, alkali-processed sort. The bitterness from a darker, Dutch cocoa might have added a nice bitter, coffee-ish contrast to the sugar, but to nitpick over what could’ve been is about as useful as making a workout video for Santa Claus. (He has a “bowl full of jelly.” That’s just how it is. Says so in a poem.)
Not only do these crunchy wheat-and-rice bits prove themselves of high quality in their dry form, but they also hold up admirably when saturated with leche, the sugared cocoa generously dispersing itself as it colors the milk with its chocolatey, cerealy-ness while still leaving enough of the coating clinging to the cereal itself. The resulting milk brew has a cocoa level on par with Cocoa Puffs/Pebbles, yet the cereal’s shape is notably sturdier, allowing you to choose whether you want to slurp or spoon the last of your bowl. Either way, you’ll have cocoa to the final gulp.
And that reminds me: since the cocoa isn’t shy here, it has the power to play well with other flavors. Maybe try it with some almond milk, or, if you’re feeling zesty, reach for the strawberry milk or Espresso Gelato. It’s okay. Go wild. You have your Danger Pants on, remember?
On my list of things to improve in the world: diesel fuel, laptop speakers, standard-issue toilet paper. I never imagined cocoa cereal would or could be on this list, let alone that it may stand up against my all-time-favorite, discontinued-in-America Oreo O’s, and yet General Mills, being the daring lunatics they are, gave it their best heave-ho. While not surpassing the O’s, the risk paid off. It may not be the first time I’ve have cocoa for breakfast, but somehow the crunch of the wee little rectangles combined with the cinnamon-cocoa sugar reminds me of a churro and made this one of the more successful pairing of grains and chocolate I’ve had the fortune to scarf down. Some may call the General crazy for bringing out such a fantastic new Toast Crunch on the cusp of the New Year, but what is “crazy”?
Well, if these toasty squares have anything to do with it, it’s a different way to see ourselves, be ourselves, to go out and live in a new and exciting way, and these cocoa-cinnamon squares? They inspire me to do just that.
So, who’s crazy now?
(Nutrition Facts – 3/4 cup (31 g) – 130 calories, 35 calories from fat, 4 grams of fat, 0.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 130 milligrams of sodium, 85 milligrams of potassium, 24 grams of carbohydrates, 2 grams of dietary fiber, 13 grams of sugars, and 2 grams of protein.)
Item: General Mills Chocolate Toast Crunch Cereal
Purchased Price: $2.50
Size: 12.7 oz. box
Purchased at: Walmart
Rating: 8 out of 10
Pros: Crispy-crunchy. Nifty ridges. Crusty cocoa-cinnamon coating. Taste you can see. Churro in cereal form. Makes good chocolatey cereal milk. Encourages breakfast-related resolutions. Reason to eat more gelato. Brave lunatics. Danger Pants.
Cons: Reminds me how I miss Oreo O’s. Laptop speakers. Standard-issue toilet paper. Delusions of whispering cereal.