Welcome to #NotAnAd, where we post enthusiastically and without reservation about things we’re obsessed with from the world of food.
My life is a constant barrage of reminders that I’m getting older and less cool by the second—for example, when I recently thought to myself, “sure, I’m getting older and less cool by the second but I’m not out of touch; I know what Snapchat is.”
Now the Brands and the Teens have conspired to make me feel ‘not quite obsolete but certainly waning’ in a way I never saw coming. According to a new study, “Chick-fil-A has officially displaced Starbucks as teens’ preferred restaurant across income groups,” knocking the coffee shop out of the top spot for the first time since 2010. (I thought the teens were supposed to be so much more woke than their older counterparts?) And what I want to know is, have the teens even tried the cultish, pumpkin spice-flavored indulgence available only at Starbucks? By which, of course, I mean their pumpkin bread.
In this, the pumpkin spiciest season, I implore you to forgo English muffins, Buffalo Wild Wings, and even lattes—because there's a better way to consume cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and cloves under the guise of the orange gourd. It is sweet and dense and unlike pumpkin spice soap, it actually makes use of the nominal ingredient.
But the best part of the Starbucks pumpkin bread is not the pumpkin or spice or even the bread. It’s the oil, the glorious monounsaturated fats that makes the whole thing literally wet to the touch. When you order it, they’ll ask if you if you want it warmed, toasted really, but to do so would cause it to dry out ever so slightly. No, the real move is to take it at room temperature, which will require you to set aside any artisanal illusions you were entertaining about the origins of this loaf. What they will hand you is a plastic-wrapped hunk of rust-colored, barely cooked-through dough that is far heavier than you expected it to be—like it’s waterlogged with canola oil. You can’t eat it and use a touchscreen phone at the same time. Which is another way of saying it’s got 15g of fat—more than the cheese Danish (not bad for something with vegetables in it.)
As you eat it, the bread collapses into something that has almost the same texture as peanut butter, which doesn't even make sense. It both melts in your mouth and sticks to your teeth, leaving your fingers greasy and your heart happy. There's barely any crust to speak of (and come to think of it, I've never seen an end piece in the wild—are they thrown out upon production or is every single slice carved off the same miles-long loaf of never-ending Starbucks pumpkin bread?) but a sprinkling of pepitas provides just enough of a textural contrast to keep the experience from devolving into something entirely too pudding-like.
With no sentiment to especially recommend it to me, and my own snooty distaste for mass-produced pastry, I extol the values of this dessert-masquerading-as-breakfast entirely and only because it tastes amazing. I have eaten in airports and Penn Station, for several weeks nearly nonstop when I first got to college, and again this morning. Every time it has tasted exactly the same—simultaneously just as I remember it and almost electrifyingly flavorful, with a heavy-handed dose of spice but not even a hint of heat to offset all the sugar.
And even though it is the preeminent manifestation of our collective association between autumn and warm baking spices, the pumpkin spice bread is available from Starbucks year-round. Long after the Cheerios and Oreos of the world have packed up their pumpkin spice for the season, the curiously homogenous loaf will still be available in individually-wrapped slices on practically every corner.