Busting Out All Over
Welcome to another The Pumpkin Spice Must Flow, where I irregularly post about that most extraordinary combination of flavors, pumpkin pie spice (or just “pumpkin spice”). Despite having started writing about it between pumpkin spice seasons, it’s now fall and the pumpkin spice bomb has gone off, this is not a drill!
This column is something of a jaunt into an alternate dimension for me 1 as I have ventured into a Trader Joe’s for pumpkin spice items for the first time, based upon the ancient myths and legends I have heard tell of in previous comment sections. “Surely these wild tales,” I told myself, “are just the ravings of an addled, pumpkin spice-deprived mind which can’t be true! Why, the streets of this fabled El Dorado would have to be paved with pumpkin spice gold!” And yet, now I come before you one of those same crackpots, wild-eyed and ranting about there being pumpkin spice gold in them thar Trader Joe’s hills, because the legends are true.
Trader Joe’s is off the usual grocery store path for my girlfriend and I, so I was heretofore unfamiliar with how they sell a hell of a lot of stuff made just for them; it’s a grocery store that barely dabbles in outside brands, where house-brand is king rather than ignoble cut-rate choice, and one that makes room for unique seasonal fripperies like these, for whatever reason. I don’t know, I don’t question, I just light my seven candles to my Lucky Pagan Pumpkin Spirit.
💥 🎃 💥 🎃 💥
Trader Joe’s Spiced Pumpkin Madeleine Cookies
The webpage TJ’s has set-up for these says they’re “made for us by a Northern California bakery that has specialized in baking madeleines for over 40 years, using classic, simple ingredients, like flour, sugar, butter, and eggs” and then goes on to list 31 ingredients, which is pretty funny, plus I’m not sure I can consider MONOCALCIUM PHOSPHATE 2 or THIAMIN MONONITRATE 3 “simple ingredients”, but who are we to complain when they do actually contain the pentarchy of pumpkin spices and actual pumpkin?
These moist, cakey little scalloped-shell cookies, if one can call a cakey thing a cookie, are exactly sort of pony I keep sifting through the mounds of pumpkin spice horseshit every year hoping to find. There’s six to a package and I could eat all six with a glass of milk-substitute4 for breakfast and feel as if I’ve reached pumpkin spice nirvana. These delightful madeleines knock it out of the park, score a home run touchdown and game set and match with a perfect pumpkin spice checkmate. Last year during the fall season 7-11 carried eerily similar madeleines that were just as good under their unfortunately-named GO!Yum house brand, so they may have the same Northern California bakery roots, and those little things were just about the highlight of my season, pumpkin spice-wise. Look, what I’m saying here is that the next trip I make to Trader Joe’s, I’m going to buy like six packages of these and you should do if you’re a true Scotsman who gives a damn about what I’m writing about here.
Trader Joe’s Organic Pumpkin Toaster Pastries
Oh my god, these Trader Joe’s folk are my people. Just read the first bit of writing on their web page for this product: “Like all good things in life, Trader Joe’s Organic Pumpkin Toaster Pastries were born of a dream – one of our many dreams to deliver pumpkin goodness to every shelf, section, and square inch of our stores. That dream continues to imbue every action (and reaction) we take to get us to Pumpkin Season each autumn. Yet when Pumpkin Season suddenly ends each year – and end it must, we’re afraid – pumpkin partisans are often left in sorrow. We get it. So we advise trips to Trader Joe’s early and often during this magical time of year. Only then can TJ’s make your dreams come true – and if you stock up on your favorites, you can keep the sadness at bay.” I want to go to there. I want to go to there, live in the ceiling during open hours, and prowl the aisles after closing in search of more pumpkin spice items. They get me.
That absurd ad copy aside, these are probably the best “toaster pastries” 5 I’ve ever had as they were not made by a certain other company who, by the way, royally flubbed their own pumpkin spice variant which tastes like dust and disappointment. Unlike those, Trader Joe’s6 actually have a pretty decent crust flavor, thanks to whole wheat flour – which is good because there’s no more filling inside these than you’d find in those Kellogg’s shingles. They’re just as candy-like a breakfast food as that larger brand’s, with the usual weirdly half-assed sloppy smear of sugar icing 7across the top of each one, like you might be accustomed to from over there.
You could do much worse for toaster pastries in other words, but as pumpkin spice they’re merely ‘decent’, the “spices… natural flavor, flavor…” not properly adding up, leaving me to doubt if any of the real stuff is in here, or if it’s just in such small amounts that they don’t really help; but the box does assure there’s no artificial flavors, which means these are at least derived from once-living sources, so hooray… question mark? The honey and molasses seem to pitch in some to help boost everything regardless, and there is some real pumpkin too. Their other downside is they also contain palm oil, which as previously discussed here, is a trans fat; opening one of the three separate foil packages in the box and eating both of the pastries inside puts you at 20% of your recommended limit of trans fat for the day, but I’ll be damned if Trader Joe’s doesn’t know how to compose an entertaining website, “NOTE: Since posting, the details of this item may have changed due to fluctuating market prices, federal regulations, currency rates, seasonality, limited availability, drought, pestilence, bandits, rush hour traffic, filibusters, clowns, zombie apocalypse, punctilious product developers…;Contact our Crew for current price and availability.”
Trader Joe’s Pumpkin Ginger Hold the Cone! Mini Ice Cream Cones
Stop the presses! Sign that document! Hold the cone! Wait, isn’t that the express purpose of an ice cream cone, no matter its size, to hold? But they’re really excited about these little itty-bitty ice cream cones, and with good reason. Firstly, they stopped making them in Germany back in 2017, which seems like an odd thing to note on your web page, but hey, it’s their web page. Secondly, they are made with real spices from all four of the pumpkin spice food groups, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and cloves. Thirdly, these are little complete ice cream cones about four inches long, ready to eat right out of the package, no assembly required.
They’re basically a little ball of (real) pumpkin ice cream about the size of a peach pit sitting atop a pretty flavorful ginger-tinged sugar cone, sealed into place with a shell of “white coating” that’s got a strong vanilla flavor, and a little extra dollop inside at the bottom of the cone to prevent leaking I presume, as if these little guys would last long enough to start melting. Like the madeleines above however, you’ll need some impressive self control to avoid eating like three of these in one go because they’re so small.
Now if only the ingredients list didn’t include the usual triumvirate of thickeners, guar gum, locust bean gum, and carrageenan. That first one is helpful in preventing ice crystal growth, so maybe that has a place at this table; the second is sweet, tastes a bit like chocolate,8 so whatever; that third one is made from seaweed, and while there’s no known health issues with eating any of them, unlike the coconut oil in that “white coating” which is high in saturated fat9, I do really wonder why they’re needed at all, except perhaps to stretch out the real ingredients and keep things cheaper. Maybe the Germans just like thickeners and the recipe just stuck?
Columbina Tiger Pops Pumpkin Spice
Although I did buy more pumpkin spice stuff at Trader Joe’s (my cart was full I tell you!), I’m not going to get to all of them this time, and this item was not one of those. Yes, that brand name is Columbina, with an extra N inserted into the country of origin, Columbia. There’s not much information about these suckers online and they’re also not that great at pumpkin spice he said, having again found another pumpkin spice product that’s far too strong on the nutmeg angle to the detriment of all the other flavors. I seem to recall my girlfriend and I bought a pound bag of these last year for cheap Halloween handouts, and they seem to be the sort of thing you’d find at a dollar store, so that should give you an idea of their quality.
I also found it odd their stick is plastic not paper, I mean, far be it from me to tell Columbina what’s cheaper to manufacture, but I do sort of wonder about plunging plastic into hot candy as that might release some of the appetizing plasticizers (BPA and all that) from the stick. But as the manufacturers of BON BON BUM CHERRY COOL and TIGER POPS TONGUE PAINT (I’ve no idea what either of those might even be like), don’t write them off as not taking themselves seriously, because “following its internationalization strategy, Colombina acquired FIESTA’s assets, one of Spain’s leading candy enterprise” and even went to the 44th ISM in 2014 and 2016, which is “considered the biggest and most important show in the confectionery and biscuits sectors,” so they’re not some fly-by-night organization. Just one that doesn’t have much of an understanding of pumpkin spice.
Each 60 calories sucker is apparently 100% artificial in both pale orange color and flavor, so these seem like the kind of candy you’d buy in bulk from the Oriental Trading Co (I checked their webpage for them, but no), just your classic lump of hard candy on a stick, although they’ve added something to make them sort of creamy, which is itself not a bad call as pumpkin spice does well when it has some fat as a canvas for the flavors to bleed into and be carried by. That ultimately still doesn’t really pull these out of that third-tier Halloween candy range of Brach’s taffy, Necco wafers and Bit-O-Honeys at the bottom of the trick-or-treat bag.
💥 🎃 💥 🎃 💥
Megara Justice Machine doesn’t accept any gratuity or consideration of any kind for writing these columns, although he’s more than open to the possibility of such, and can be reached in the comment section below by any benevolent food manufacturers interested in buying his allegiance, which would probably come quite cheaply. Should any such serious prospective fealty-purchasers wish to peruse other pumpkin spice-related writings to judge his suitability for bribery, they need merely click the following links.