I have to admit, unlike my past and future posts, this letter is not inspired by Alex. It’s inspired from my time when I was in high school working at Starbucks with some of my best friends. Though at the time I hated working evenings and weekends (who wouldn’t?), I can look back on that time fondly. This post is an homage to them and that time of my life.
Though not baked in-house, there is something so nostalgic to me about the various pastries that Starbucks sells. Almost a decade later and every time I walk into a café it reminds me of high school. The smell of the coffee, the roar of the blenders, and the rhythmic noise of the iced teas being shaken flood me with memories.
My tastes have matured as I’ve gotten older, so I don’t order the pastries or sweets from Starbucks anymore. However, I do enjoy baking the pastries I used to love so much at home. My favorites in particular were the loaves—lemon, banana walnut, and pumpkin. Anytime I make any of these breads I am reminded of that first job and sneaking a pastry to eat on my break.
These recipes fall into the “quick-bread” category. There’s no rising, the steps are simple, and the end result is relatively foolproof.
It’s very important for all your ingredients to be room temperature.
You can use a hand mixer, but the butter and sugar needs to be creamed together, so it is slightly tedious.
Most glazes are simply powdered sugar with some type of liquid or butter, or both. In this case, it’s with freshly squeezed lemon juice.
Like I’ve said in prior posts, always use freshly squeezed lemon juice. You already need the zest, don’t skimp and use the store-bought juice.
It’s very important to let the loaf cool almost completely before you add the glaze. You want the glaze to stick to the top, not slide completely down the sides.
Make sure your bananas are very ripe. Often times this means buying bananas and waiting for them to turn brown. If you go to the grocery store the day you are planning on making the bread, you may find yourself with non-ripe bananas.
Bananas both flavor the bread and sweeten it, and the walnuts add a satisfying crunch.
Pumpkin loaf is a favorite fall treat of mine. I like to make it in the summer to remind myself that autumn is not so far away.
I like to use purée real pumpkin when they are in season. When they are not, canned works just fine.
“Pumpkin spice” generally refers to a blend of nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, and all-spice.
The flavor is much better from freshly ground nutmeg than what you would find in the spice aisle.
There are some pastries that are just better bought at a bakery or pastry store. But these loaves are not one of them. They are simple, fresh, and taste better homemade. I love lemon loaf in the summer because of the bright, citrus notes. Pumpkin loaf in the fall because of those traditional flavors. And banana nut loaf in the winter, warmed with butter. I love seasonal dishes, but pastries especially. There’s something magical about seasonal pastries, making them yourself, and letting those you care about reminisce about old times while sharing a cup of coffee or glass of wine. I hope this inspires you to bake a nostalgic treat.
A slice of cold lemon loaf with a sweet glaze is the perfect summertime treat. Pair with strawberries, a glass of rosé, and eat it outside on a warm evening after dinner.
A slice of warm banana nut bread with a pat of butter and a black cup of coffee is a perfect way to start your weekend.
When it comes to baking, I like to use classic recipes. Why change what is already perfect? The spice ratio on the pumpkin loaf I did change slightly. I like a spicier bread, so I add more nutmeg and ginger, and a touch less brown sugar.