American Banana Bread Recipe – 3 Historic Events Leading to the Origin of Banana Bread
The first American cookbook, ‘American Cookery’, was published by Amelia Simmons in 1796 and included recipes for leavening. By using the precursor to modern baking powder, pearlash, which caused the dough to rise chemically, cooks were able to create new baking recipes that were quicker and easier. These were labeled “Quick bread”. Eben Norton Horsford, an American scientist, reformulated baking powder which was then mass-produced as from 1857 with significant success becoming a kitchen staple.
Banana plants, originally from South East Asia, had conquered Madagascar by 1000 B.C., which probably laid the foundation for banana plantations in Africa. Alexander the Great, whose empire extended up until the very doors of India, is said to have brought back bananas to Europe in the 4th century B.C. The Arabs introduced the fruit to North Africa and the Iberian Peninsula around 1200 A.D. By 1516, the banana had found its way to the Caribbean through Thomas de Berlanga who sailed to Santo Domingo from where it expanded into Central and South America. These plants provided a convenient and cheap staple diet for the slave populations of the region. The advent of refrigeration ships in the 20th century allowed the world-wide transportation of bananas and ensured their enduring popularity.
The Great Depression
On October 24th, 1929, Wall Street crashed launching the country into the Great Depression which lasted until the Second World War and greatly increased the levels of poverty and hunger. In their desperation, people threw nothing away – not even an old, mushy banana.
Even though the exact date of the first “banana bread” is unknown (does this remind you of the unknown origins of the Galician “Tarta de Santago” in one of my previous blogs?), some speculate it originated during The Great Depression as housewives experimented with baking powder and avoided wasting food. The revival of home baking in the 1960s and the simplicity of its recipe led to the explosion in banana bread’s popularity.
- 200 g of all-purpose flour
- 150 g of sugar
- 2 teaspoons of baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda
- 1/4 teaspoon of salt
- 2 to 3 ripe medium-sized bananas
- 80 g of either shortening or margarine or butter
- 30 milliliters of milk
- 2 eggs
- 40 g of chopped nuts
In a large mixing bowl combine 120 g of flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and the salt. Once well combined, add the mashed bananas, the shortening or the margarine or butter and finally the milk. With an electric mixer beat the dough at a low speed ca. 1 minute and then on a higher speed for a couple of minutes more. Add the eggs and the remaining flour and beat until fully combined. Lastly, stir in the chopped nuts.
Pour the batter into a pre-greased 25 cm x 10 cm x 6 cm baking dish and bake at 175° C for 55 to 60 minutes. Before wrapping and storing it overnight, let it cool for 10 minutes by removing it from the baking dish.