A bright and happy citrus loaf, bursting with zest and made all the sweeter with a lemon simple syrup soak. If you can stand the wait, let that soak work its magic overnight to further saturate the already tender crumb inside.
Grab your zester and your whisk—let’s bake, friends!
Making Citrus Sugar AKA Zested Gold
This tip is about to change your life—slightly dramatic, but also true! First, place your sugar into a mixing bowl. Then, zest your citrus (I use this grater) and add it to the same bowl. Then, all you have to do is massage the sugar and zest together between your fingers for about a minute—that’s it! Two become one and your kitchen smells like bliss, aromatherapy at it’s finest. The sugar will start to take on the color of your citrus too! For this recipe, using both lemon and orange, you’ll end up with a lovely yellow orange mixture.
Why Am I Rubbing My Zest into My Sugar?
Great question—I’m so glad you asked! Let’s talk about it in terms of lemons. The liquid gold of any lemon lies within its peel; aromatic oils just waiting to be released (zested) and take your bakes to another level. By massaging your zest into the sugar, you’re helping to coax those oils out of hiding (they’re shy) and allow the sugar to absorb them. While lemon juice brings forth a tartness some may find aggressive, the oils from your zest hold back that harshness, all the while maintaining the same complexity and welcome fragrance.
You’ll generally want to keep your ratio of zest to sugar at 1:1 (1 tablespoon to 1 cup), to avoid changing the texture too much or having your citrus overpower the sugar. You’ll see I slightly ignore that for this citrus loaf (do as I say, not as I do), but not enough to alter the texture. It’ll feel like wet sand when you’re done massaging them together. Do your best not to get lost in thought on this step (easily done)—you’ve got a loaf to make!
How to Make a Simple Syrup Soak
Better yet—how to make a lemon simple syrup soak! I promise this is about one of the easiest things you can make and comes together quick. Simple syrups are equal parts water and sugar, so for this citrus loaf, a 1/4 cup each. The only difference here is the addition of lemon juice, which gives your syrup a bit of tartness that’ll seep down and soak into your hot loaf (not a euphemism).
It comes together in 4 easy steps:
- Combine your sugar, water, & lemon juice in a small sauce pan set over medium-high heat.
- Gently stir with a spatula until your sugar is dissolved and the mixture is boiling.
- Turn your heat down to medium-low and let the mixture simmer undisturbed (no more stirring) for 3 minutes.
- After those 3 minutes, pour the hot mixture into a heat-safe bowl to cool down (it’ll thicken) until ready to use.
What Does a Simple Syrup Soak Do for the Loaf?
Well, a few things actually! First and foremost, it adds some of the moisture back that was lost during the bake. The best part is the consistency of simple syrup, in that it’s thin enough to seep through all the little nooks and crannies, and also not too thick, leaving you with an overly-soggy loaf. This is why you poke a few holes around the loaf before adding the soak, to help it find its way and evenly distribute.
It also adds a welcome sweetness (and tartness here with the lemon juice). You can have a lot of fun with added flavors when it comes to simple syrup! Here, citrus is the star of the show. You could easily do this with orange juice instead for a similar end result.
So when it comes down to it: simple syrup adds moisture and sweetness. Count me in!
Materials You’ll Need:
- Large mixing bowl
- Measuring cups & spoons (love see these adjustable spoons)
- Zester/Grater (this one is my absolute favorite)
- 9×5 Loaf pan (this non-stick 1 lb. one from USA PAN is magic)
- Cooking spray (or something to grease the loaf pan if it’s not non-stick)
- Brush (to apply the soak, you can use a spoon)
- Cooling rack
This is happy citrus loaf, friends! Perfectly tart and sweet, without any fuss. Even better the next day when you give that crumb some time to settle in—trust me. Make it in the evening, let it cool, wrap in plastic, and enjoy for breakfast the next morning with your coffee or tea. A quiet, happy little breakfast moment that you DESERVE.
Share your loafs with me over on Instagram (tag @joshisbaking), drop a review below, and happy baking!Print
A bright and happy citrus loaf, bursting with zest and made all the sweeter with a lemon syrup soak. If you can stand the wait, let that soak work its magic overnight to further saturate the already tender crumb inside.
- 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar (310g)
- 1 large lemon for 1 tablespoon lemon zest (6g) — use this same lemon to juice for your soak
- 1–2 medium navel oranges (or 1 large) for 2 tablespoons orange zest (14g)
- 3 large eggs (152g)
- 1/2 cup vegetable oil (100g, 125 ml)
- 3/4 cup heavy whipping cream (198g, 200ml)
- 2 cups all-purpose flour (282g)
- 1 teaspoon baking powder (3g)
Lemon Simple Syrup Soak
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar (60g)
- 1/4 cup water (52g)
- 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice (approx. juice from 1 large lemon)
- Preheat the oven to 350°F and position your oven rack in the middle. Prep a 9×5 non-stick loaf pan by greasing the bottom and sides just a bit. Feel free to line with parchment as well if you’re worried about sticking or want help pulling the loaf out of the pan.
- In a large mixing bowl, add your granulated sugar, lemon zest, and orange zest. Using your fingers, massage/rub the zests and sugar together for about a minute, until the mixture turns a yellow orange and feels like wet sand (this will smell UH-mazing).
- Then add in your 3 eggs, whisking until fully combined. Next, add your vegetable oil & heavy whipping cream and whisk until fully incorporated.
- Sift in your all-purpose flour, sprinkle in your baking powder, and fold the mixture together with a spatula until just combined and no streaks of flour remain.
- Pour the mixture into your prepared loaf pan (will be quite full, but won’t spill over I promise). Bake at 350°F for 75-85 minutes or until a knife comes out clean when inserted into a few areas in the middle (sweet spot for my oven was always 85 minutes). You can lightly tent the top with foil if it starts to get too brown, but I never did—your soak will help soften things back up.
- WHILE IT BAKES: Make your lemon simple syrup soak! Add your sugar, water, and lemon juice to a small or medium sauce pan. Heat over medium-high heat until it boils, gently stirring to help the sugar dissolve. Once it starts to boil, turn the heat down to medium-low and let it simmer undisturbed for 3 minutes. Remove from heat and pour into a heat-safe bowl to cool down. Set aside until the loaf is done baking.
- As soon as your citrus loaf is done, take it out of the oven, skewer holes around the top using a knife (about 6-8 will do), and while still in the loaf pan, brush/spoon your soak all over the top and sides.
- If any of your soak collects around the sides of the pan, just run a knife around the edges to separate the loaf from the pan a bit and it’ll find it’s way down to soak in.
- Let that soak work it’s magic for about 2 hours (you want it to seep all the way through and settle in) before cutting and enjoying. If you can handle the wait, let it sit overnight wrapped tightly in plastic to enjoy for breakfast the next morning. That next-day crumb is worth the wait—I promise! The loaf will keep for up to 5 days wrapped tightly in plastic at room temperature.
- Make sure to apply your simple syrup soak right after you pull the loaf out of the oven and it’s super warm. Poke those holes and get to brushing! This allows the soak to seep deep into those crevices and fully saturate the loaf. See my notes in the blog above for why the soak is necessary!
- Like I mention in the recipe, if you don’t want your loaf to get too brown on top (I like the crust it provides), you can lightly tent the top with foil in the last 15 minutes or so. With that said, once you add your soak, it’ll add moisture back to the top and soften things up again. It all works out in the end!
- This loaf is best stored at room temperature! I found that storing it in the fridge made it dry out a lot quicker. So just keep it wrapped tightly in plastic on the counter.
Keywords: loaf, citrus, citrus loaf, lemon-soaked citrus loaf, lemon, orange, loaf recipe, bread, zest, simple syrup