That’s what J.R.R. Tolkien would call the recipe if he was writing this article – “The One Recipe to bind them all“! While it’s not the oldest recipe in the file, it’s certainly the most used – and for me the most revered. All hail the iconic banana loaf.
I think you’d be hard pressed to find a household, anywhere, that doesn’t have a version of banana loaf or banana bread in it’s canon. It makes sense when you think about it. Bananas are one of the best selling and most available fruit in countries all over the world. They’re tasty, accessible year round, and full of potassium. And famous, or infamous, for one other feature – they’ll go bad long before you get through the bunch! It’s a guarantee.
By all accounts, banana loaves, or breads, or cakes have been made in their present format since the late 1800s. They became especially popular during the Depression years of the 1930s when “quick breads” (those that don’t require yeast) were in vogue. The advent of baking powder and soda provided new leavening options, and homemakers not wanting to waste food were more than happy to incorporate too ripe bananas into a recipe.
Our recipe is well-loved and originally from my great grandmother Cooper’s collection. Of all the cards in the file it’s had the most wear and tear – I’m fairly certain there’s even petrified banana adhered to the card. Truth be told, Mom made this loaf so often I don’t remember her ever referring to the recipe. Bananas past their prime were treasured commodities in our home and destined for a new life in a loaf.
An added bonus to this recipe card is it’s partner – the recipe adjusted to meet my Grandad’s diabetic needs, swapping out the sugar with an artificial sweetener. At least a few times a month, Mom would make a “Grandad version” that we could wrap up in tinfoil and deliver to him as a special treat.
As the card is in rough shape, I’ve re-wrtiten the recipe below. It’s a time honoured recipe that produces terrific results.
1/2 cup shortening *
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs – added one at a time
1 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 large very ripe bananas – mashed
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup nuts (optional) **
Mix thoroughly and bake in a greased loaf pan at 350F for one hour or until a tester comes out cleanly.
* I believe the original recipe refers to solid vegetable shortening, however, Mom always used a vegetable oil with great success.
** Walnuts were Mom’s choice for many years. One of my early kitchen jobs was to chop the nuts in a wonderful little contraption like the one pictured here: