It seems like "pumpkin spice" has become its own flavor—a separate, fashionable entity that's distinct from good ole pumpkins. Maybe by 2050, we will even have gourds that come out of the ground tasting like cinnamon, nutmeg, and other ambiguous fall flavors.
In the meantime, we can watch as more products jump on the spiced pumpkin bandwagon. The most recent? Thomas' of English muffin fame. For a limited time, they're offering pumpkin spice bagels, bagel thins, and English muffins. I gave them all a try.
The English muffins have a nice flavor, managing to induce thoughts of "mmm...cinnamon...pumpkin...fall..." without tasting like seasonal potpurri. To their credit, they mean pumpkin spice and not just autumn spice, and the pumpkin flavor is recognizable as pumpkin. They're not very sweet, so I recommend a little melted butter to bring out the flavor.
When reviewing the pumpkin bagels, it's important to establish that these types of prepackaged bagels aren't really bagels as they have the wrong texture (boasting no discernible difference between crumb and crust), a complete lack of chew, and, when plain, hardly any flavor. So let's consider them large, roll-like bread products and move on.
Just like the English muffins, I wouldn't recommend eating these bagels plain because the flavor will be weaker and the texture will be all wrong. But toasted and buttered, the notes of spice (predominantly cinnamon, which is what you want in the morning anyway) and pumpkin are just assertive enough to satisfy and comfort without overwhelming your taste buds. Insiders tip: be careful when adding jam.
I wasn't a huge fan of the little bits of pureed pumpkin that are scattered throughout the bagel. Why are they there? If it's to convince me that I'm eating real pumpkin, it's a weak gesture, and if it's to add some kind of chew, forget it. Pumpkins threads, raisins ye are not.
Still, the flavor of these was good and I ate the whole package over the course of a week—which I can't say about the bagel thins. The bagel thins have a pretty appalling texture: thin and about as pliant as a rubber tile. In the toaster, they become a pretty whack cracker. Pumpkin spice doesn't feel right on a crispy surface; it belongs on a soft, maybe lightly toasted, bready surface. If you really want to cut calories, toast up a bagel and eat half.