I’ve written before at no brief length about my love of breakfast cereals.
Stand-up comedians seem to articulate my feelings about cereal well — Jerry Seinfeld opining that he loves being able to eat and drink simultaneously with one hand while reading the paper, and Mike Birbiglia admitting that if he buys a box of Cinnamon Toast Crunch at four in the afternoon, that box ain’t making it to eight o’clock the next morning.
Both of those observations apply to me, and ever since I became an adult (no, it’s true, I pay taxes and work and everything), I’ve struggled with limiting cereal to just breakfast time. Honestly, why would you? I guess if you’re on a diet or pinching pennies, maybe, but otherwise it’s the perfect snack.
Apparently General Mills is thinking along the same lines, because they recently released a line of cereal-based muffin mixes through the Betty Crocker brand. No word yet on whether that’s due to an impeding global milk shortage (we have top people looking into it. Top. People.), but the goal is for you and I to be able to enjoy all the benefits of a nice bowl of dry cereal in a far more portable manner. There are three kinds so far: Cinnamon Toast Crunch, Reese’s Puffs, and Cocoa Puffs, of which we’ll be taking a look at the first two.
On a sidenote, I’m a little surprised to find two classic cereals sharing space with a relative newcomer like Reese’s Puffs, but I guess they probably wanted some variety and there aren’t that many peanut butter-based cereals to choose from. (Although there WOULD be if everyone had kept eating E.T. cereal like we all agreed. No, I haven’t gotten over it.)
But let’s start with the aromatic wonder itself. Right, I didn’t mention that yet… yeah, they smell. The Reese’s Puffs batter has an extremely noticeable scent that’s vaguely peanut-ish but mostly chemical-y, not to overload on hyphens. It’s not acrid or reminiscent of a filled diaper or anything, but describing it as “pleasant” would be something more than a stretch. My wife was helping me make them because, even though they’re extremely easy to prepare, I’m not skilled in the culinary arts and we didn’t want them to end up with refrigerator magnets or loose change in them; and in her opinion, the smell was really distracting. To be fair, I’ll offer that the aroma is far less prevalent when they come out of the oven…
…but that’s somewhat cold comfort, because the bad news is that while the scent lessens, the muffin itself is sporting a very artificial taste. There’s a sliiiiiight peanut butter flavor, but it’s pretty mild, which may or may not be true to the actual cereal itself. The muffin was fairly moist, though really that’s ultimately up to you and your stove. Most of the taste you’re going to be getting is a fairly standard chocolate, albeit tinged with that same artificial flavor and aftertaste. It’s okay, but certainly not comparable to some of the better, or even average, chocolate and/or peanut butter muffins you’ve had in your life.
And not that we at TIB advocate judging a book by its cover (despite all being jaw-droppingly attractive people ourselves), but you’ll notice from the picture that the “peanut butter” crumbs sort of melt into each other and congeal, whereas on the box they’re all perfectly separated and look crunchy rather than gooey. Yeah, yeah, no one expects truth in advertising, but they do look a bit less palatable in reality.
Okay, but Cinnamon Toast Crunch will be our savior, right? Wendell and those two other bakers who got blacklisted after admitting their relationship have never let us down. Well, don’t be so hasty — the counterpoint to CTC’s awesomeness is that any kind of spinoff has a lot to live up to. Which was a bigger disappointment, The Godfather Part III or Police Academy 3? Exactly. But it does get off to a better start than the Reese’s Puffs mix just by virtue of the batter not smelling as odd.
Actually making the muffins is just as simple, the work of maybe 10 minutes, tops. Basically all you need is vegetable oil, two eggs, and water. You don’t even need paper baking cups, though my wife used Spider-Man ones anyway because that’s how we roll.
I like the look of them better than the Reese’s Puffs muffins, because the cinnamon sprinkled on the top looks more natural and less, well, blobbish. As for taste? Sigh… well, they’re better, you can say that. But that’s faint praise, because they still aren’t anything to write home about, unless you like disappointing your mother. More than usual, I mean. (She just wants what’s best for you, dear.)
You can taste the cinnamon more so than you could the peanut butter on the other kind, but it still carries that distinctly artificial flavor, somewhat moist but with a lingering aftertaste that isn’t found in nature. It smells better, so there’s that. And like the Reese’s Puffs kind, they’re pretty filling, so you shouldn’t need to eat more than one or two to fill you up for breakfast. But I still can’t recommend them any higher than a general “Eh… I’ve had worse.”
Damning with faint praise, I know, but what are you going to do? Maybe trying to capture the magic of cereal sans milk was always doomed to failure. Or maybe it could have worked with different ingredients. My gut tells me that this is just sort of what you get with instant muffins, but who knows. Either way, it doesn’t change the fact that these particular muffins are subpar. Unless you’re just inadvisably curious, don’t waste your time.
(Nutrition Facts – 1 muffin – Reese’s Puffs – 170 calories, 70 calories from fat, 3 grams of total fat, 1 gram of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 190 milligrams of sodium, 85 milligrams of potassium, 22 grams of total carbohydrates, 1 gram of dietary fiber, 11 grams of sugars, 2 grams of protein. Cinnamon Toast Crunch – 170 calories, 70 calories from fat, 2.5 grams of total fat, 1 gram of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 190 milligrams of sodium, 40 milligrams of potassium, 24 grams of total carbohydrates, 1 gram of dietary fiber, 11 grams of sugar, 1 gram of protein.)
Other Betty Crocker Cereal Muffin Mix reviews:
Baking Bites (Cinnamon Toast Crunch)
Foodette Reviews (Reese’s Puffs)
The Smart Cookie Cook (Cocoa Puffs & Reese’s Puffs)
Item: Betty Crocker Reese’s Puffs Muffin Mix and Cinnamon Toast Crunch Muffin Mix
Purchased Price: $2.59 each
Purchased at: Giant
Rating: 3 out of 10 (Reese’s Puffs)
Rating: 5 out of 10 (Cinnamon Toast Crunch)
Pros: Super easy to make. Spider-Man baking cups. Cereal, the perfect food. Cinnamon tastes artificial, but not terrible. Police Academy 3, kinda. Not that bad for you, all things considered. More portable than real cereal.
Cons: Not as good as real cereal. Reese’s Puff batter has a weird smell. No more E.T. cereal. Taste is uninspired and artificial. Reese’s Puffs muffins don’t look too appealing. The Godfather Part III. Maybe trying the Cocoa Puffs kind would’ve been better?