Saturday, November 14, 2009

Grandma's Banana Bread

Okay, so you all knew this would be the very first recipe! Who doesn't have memories of moist, dense, dark banana bread at every family function growing up? Grandma always made banana bread, whether it was at Christmastime or the the 4th of July, and we all looked forward to eating it!
I had asked grandma one time where she had gotten the recipe and she said she couldn't remember exactly, but she knew it came out of the food section of the newspaper. Now, whether that newspaper was the now defunct Columbus Citizen Journal or The Columbus Dispatch is up for debate since she and grandpa always took both papers, and grandma herself couldn't remember which one she found it in, but this doesn't matter; what matters is that she found it, and it has become one of our most loved family food traditions. My kids could not imagine me not making this bread frequently or not having it for the holidays. It is always requested.
I began to make banana bread shortly after I turned fifteen years old, way back in November of 1974. I know I made it at least a few times prior to this, as early as age thirteen, but to actually keep a copy of the recipe and to make it fairly often, this happened after I turned fifteen. In fact, at the same time, this is when I really began to seriously teach myself baking skills in all areas from bread-making to cakes from scratch, candy-making, and everything in-between. I'd made cookies, banana bread, brownies, cobblers, cream pies, and fudge from age eleven up, but became more serious once I was married and out on my own.
But I am off topic, back to the banana bread! Grandma used to make it with nuts and without nuts. I prefer mine without nuts, but some people prefer it with nuts, such as I my husband. I often make three to four loaves at a time when I have a large amount of over-ripe bananas, and I will make at least one loaf with walnuts for Bob.
Daughters Carrie and Lisa sometimes make this banana bread, though Carrie swears she can't make it like I do, which I think is silly as it is the easiest thing in the world to make. I've made it so long that I have it memorized, and I can whip out those three to four loaves in about fifteen minutes or less! Lisa makes it occasionally as she loves this bread, too. I look for the other girls to bake it, too, as they start making their own homes. Gwen will be the exception as she doesn't like bananas. Son-in-law Ken loves this bread, as does his stepdad, Ed.
Even when I make this bread, I often think of grandma and all the good and happy times we had growing up. This bread conjures up more than taste and aroma, it conjures up memories of days gone by.

Grandma's Banana Bread

1 Tbls. butter (No Spreads!)
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
2 very ripe medium bananas, mashed with fork
1/2 cup milk (original said 8 Tbls.)
1 1/2 cups flour (*half whole wheat can be used)
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup chopped nuts (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Cream butter and sugar till well incorporated. Add eggs and beat well. Add bananas, beat; add milk, beat; sift together dry ingredients and add, beat; add nuts, beat. Pour into well-greased 9" x 5" loaf pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes, or until toothpick comes out clean. Allow to cool in pan for 10 minutes, turn out onto wire rack to cool completely. When cool, wrap well in plastic wrap and let sit 8-24 hours or overnight before serving. This freezes very well if wrapped tight in foil and placed in freezer for up to 6 months.
*This is not in the original. I have used half white and half wheat flour before with excellent results. The flavor is not affected.

Tips I have learned over the years:
1.I try to always buy unbleached flour so I am not getting flour that is more processed than I want.
2.I place the bananas in a small (but high sided) mixing bowl and use the electric mixer to mash them. This is much easier and less time consuming that mashing with a fork.
3.I eyeball the amount of butter used. You do not have to make this exact, though it can't be less.
4.Absolutely DO NOT use spreads of any kind to make this or you will end up with a dry loaf of bread. Butter has 80% fat. Real margarine (such as Land O'Lakes) has 80% fat and is okay to use (though I avoid margarine for health reasons), and spreads are just junk with anywhere from 35% to 70% fat, depending on the brand. This means they have a high water content to make up the difference. They are also absolutely bad for your heart and vascular health and should be avoided.
5.To freeze for several months, wrap the bread well in plastic wrap and in at least two layers of aluminum foul. Do not allow bread to touch freezer sides or it will most likely end up freezer burned where it touches. This is also true for any other bread product that you freeze, including store-bought bread.

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