There are few loaves in America that are more well known and loved than banana bread. Many of us have enjoyed the delectable sweetness of this moist, cake-like bread but, few know its origins. Although, the exact birthplace is unknown, there is a consensus for time period and why banana bread may have come to fruition.
Three key events had to occur before banana bread could even be a possibility:
1) The arrival of bananas, and their rise to power
Bananas arrived in the United States in the 1870’s but didn’t become a household fruit until the 1890’s. Their popularity is attributed to a poor immigrant by the name of Samuel Zemmuray, who saw an opportunity and amassed a great fortune. However, his meteoric rise was not without controversy. To read a more detailed account of his story, visit NPR.
2) Allergies inspire baking powder
The year was 1843, and a British chemist by the name of Alfred Bird was hard at work in his lab to help with his wife Elizabeth’s allergies; she was allergic to yeast and eggs. After years of trial and error, Alfred was able to create a new leavening agent for baking called Baking Powder. Bread no longer required yeast, and his wife could now enjoy homemade bread. Alfred’s company, Bird and Sons, commercialized Baking Powder and sold it to the public.
3) The Great Depression
When The Great Depression arrived, bananas were still cheap and plentiful. Since they were sold in bunches, and freezers didn’t become affordable until the 1940’s, people needed to find a way to prevent food waste. Many historians agree that the housewives of The Great Depression came up with the idea to use bananas in bread to extend their shelf life.
With all the pieces of the puzzle in place, banana bread remains one of the most popular dessert breads today.
Banana Nut Bread Recipe
Recipe courtesy of AllRecipes.com
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup brown sugar
1 Tbsp vanilla extract
4 very ripe bananas, mashed
2 cups all-purpose flour
3 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Lightly grease a 9×5 inch loaf pan.
- In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Stir in the eggs one at a time, beating well with each addition. Stir in vanilla and banana. In a separate bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, and salt.
- Blend the banana mixture into the flour mixture; stir just to combine. Fold in walnuts. Pour batter into prepared pan.
- Bake in preheated oven for 1 hour, until a toothpick inserted into center of loaf comes out clean.