Banana bread has become a staple baked good in many households, and a great way to use up those uneaten overripe bananas. It is a type of quick bread, and may have been first created in the early 1900’s, when American housewives discovered pearlash (a form of potash that produces carbon dioxide in dough) as a chemical leavening agent.
By this time, the banana was a beloved fruit of many households thanks to the United Fruit Company, that dominated Latin American agriculture and supplied Americans with imported bananas. The company deeply influenced the economic and political development of the “banana republics.” The multinational corporation was accused of exploitation, pollution and meddling in the internal politics of many Latin countries. In 1970, the company merged to become United Brands Company, and was later transformed into the present-day Chiquita Brands International. I must add that in the 1990s, Chiquita set out to take responsibility for its company's past actions and reportedly strives to reverse its negative impact on worker conditions and the environment. (Personally, I still look for other sources of bananas. There are so many great varieties that most of us have never tried!)
At any rate, the popularization of baking soda and baking powder in the 1930s, lead to the publication of Pillsbury’s 1933 Balanced Recipes cookbooks, where the first banana bread recipe was published. Banana bread really reached its peak in the 1960s, when a home-baking revival took place. At this time, cooks began to experiment with variations that contained nuts, dried fruit, coconut and chocolate chips. What is your favorite combination?
I know that everyone’s banana bread preferences may be different, but I am please to say that after much trial-and-error, I have come up with what I call an excellent banana bread recipe. Not-to-sweet but sweet enough, with a moist center and a crispy crust. The buttermilk gives the banana bread some richness without the need for much fat (just a few tablespoons!).
Lesley’s Banana Bread
2 cups cups white whole-wheat flour or unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup natural cane sugar
3 very ripe bananas, mashed
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 1/2 tablespoons butter, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup walnuts, pecans or macadamia nuts, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup shredded unsweetened coconut (optional)
- Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease a 9x5-inch loaf pan and dust with flour.
- In a medium bowl, combine flour, salt, baking power, baking soda and cinnamon. Set aside.
- In a separate bowl, with an electric mixture beat together sugar and eggs for 2 minutes. Stir in bananas, buttermilk, canola oil, melted butter and vanilla.
- Combine banana mixture with dry ingredients and stir just enough to combine. Gently fold in nuts and coconut.
- Transfer batter to prepared pan. Bake about 1 hour (or up to 1 1/2 hours), until nicely browned and a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Let cool for at least 15 minutes before removing from pan.