We can't always count on feeling fall in the air, but we can always count on feeling it in the grocery stores. The shelves are lined with new products designed to lure us into holiday eating. We sampled four that caught the attention of our panelists. A couple were worth the calories and will have us stalking the stores for the same treats next fall.
Product: Carnation Cinnamon Coffee Cake & Bread Kit
Judges' comments: Great cinnamon swirls and a nice crumbly texture left judges wanting more of this cake. "It would be perfect for a Sunday morning," said one panelist. "It tastes better than it looks," said another, pointing to tiny holes in the cake. "But the flavor is nice with assertive cinnamon, butter and moist texture." A couple said they would doctor this up with a little more spice and some walnuts or pecans.
Would they buy? Three of the four judges said yes.
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Shopping information: about $3.50 for a 19-ounce kit
Serving size: One of 12 slices
Fat/fiber: 1g / 1g
Sugars/sodium: 20g / 170mg
Carbs/protein: 30g / 2g
Product: Pillsbury Pumpkin Quick Bread
Judges' comments: This bread baked into a beautiful, golden color. The cake was light and not overly spicy, leading judges to say it would be especially appealing to children. "This is great, very autumnal," said one judge. "It's got nice fall hints of cinnamon and nutmeg and it's not too sweet. I would sprinkle it with walnuts for an extra homemade taste." Another said she liked the "crumb," describing it as nice and moist. "To me, this reads like a homemade baked good," she said. One panelist said the cake would be great served "with butter and hard cider."
Would they buy? All four judges said yes.
Shopping information: about $2.50 for a 14-ounce box
Serving size: One of 12 slices
Fat/fiber: 1.5g / 1g
Sugars/sodium: 15g / 190mg
Carbs/protein: 27g / 2g
Product: Pepperidge Farm Pumpkin Cheesecake Cookies
Judges' comments: These cookies had plenty of pumpkin color, looking similar to winter squash. The touch of cheesy sweetness was there, but a little hard to discern. Overall, judges were disappointed in the too-soft texture of these cookies and the lack of pumpkin taste. Large chunks of white chocolate gave the cookies an extra dose of sweetness, but not enough to satisfy the cookie taste our judges were craving. "I think there's a slightly bitter aftertaste," said one panelist.
Would they buy? One of the four judges said yes.
Shopping information: about $2.90 for an 8.6-ounce bag
Serving size: One cookie
Fat/fiber: 4.5g / 1g
Sugars/sodium: 12g / 75mg
Carbs/protein: 21g / 1g
Product: Pillsbury Caramel Apple Premium Cake Mix
Judges' comments: We baked this mix into cupcakes that looked like something you would find in a cupcake boutique. "They look absolutely luscious," said one judge. "They are moist with sweet icing that I would certainly buy for a special occasion." Another described the cupcakes as "very seasonal looking." She liked the subtle apple flavor but would have preferred "a burnt edge to the caramel" for a bolder, more grownup taste.
Would they buy? Two of the four judges said yes.
Shopping information: About $1.90 for a 15.25-ounce box
Serving size: One of 10 slices or cupcakes
Fat/fiber: 2.5g / 1g
Sugars/sodium: 17g / 400mg
Carbs/protein: 34g / 2g
Panelists: Nan Jensen, registered dietitian; Bob Devin Jones, artistic director of Studio@620; Wayne Conery, manager of the R-Bar on Treasure Island; and Laura Reiley, Times food critic.
Send suggestions for product testing to: Taste section, Tampa Bay Times, P.O. Box 1121, St. Petersburg, FL 33731 or email them to email@example.com. Please put TEST SUGGESTION in the subject line. To read past Taster's Choice columns, go to tampabay.com/things-to-do/food/tastetest.