banana bread

banana bread

Banana Bread, ripe bananas, history of banana bread

Banana Bread is a liar. It is not bread - you guys! It’s cake! You knew it was cake. We all knew it was cake. Carrot Cake has a vegetable in it, but it is cake and it is totally being honest about being cake. Then again, Carrot Cake has frosting on it, so it was never going to fool anyone.

The internet cannot agree (surprise!) on what exactly the difference between bread and cake is, but there’s a vague consensus around the ratio of flour to fat to sugar and whether yeast or baking powder (and/or soda) is used as a leavening agent. Which? would seem to place Banana Bread squarely in the cake category. The End.

Just kidding. I have more questions now than when I started. What about Angel Food Cake? What about Cheesecake? What about Soda Bread? Was there any attempt to classify these things properly? at all? Some days you go about your business, and some days you go down a taxonomical rabbit hole.

Banana Bread was invented in the 1853, by a mysterious Kellogg-style pseudo-nutritional guru. Nope - I just made that up. Banana Bread lore cites inspiring tales of depression-era housewives, loathe to waste expensive over-ripened tropical fruit, inventing a wholesome treat. That is a powerful blend of culinary boldness and thrift, right there. Might even be true, but isn’t an endorsement either way in the bread/cake dispute.

The 1950 edition of the Chiquita Banana’s Recipe Book titles their recipe “Banana Tea Cake.” While the CBRB is widely acknowledged to be the propaganda arm of the almighty Banana/Chemical Leavening Consortium - which sought to promote not only the sale of bananas, but of the newly available mass-produced baking powder and baking soda - it’s development and use of Banana Bread in it’s nefarious marketing plan is a compelling bit of evidence.  

Which? definitively makes Banana Bread: cake. Maybe.

There are a billion Banana Bread (cake) recipes out there. Vegan? Paleo? Gluten-free? Double-chocolate? Whatever you want. We’ve been experimenting here and when I say WE, I mean that I do all the baking and Fin tells me what he thinks. Seamus gave up on us when we stopped putting two cups of chocolate chips in the batter. WE think we have a winner. Light, not dry. Rich, not greasy. Not fancy. Banana is the star, with hints of Mexican Hot Chocolate and Crunchy Peanut Butter.

sliced banana bread, chocolate chips and chopped peanuts, it's not a farm

This is essentially Mark Bittman’s Banana Bread recipe. With a couple of tweaks.

1 stick of unsalted butter (8 tbsp.) at room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
2 eggs
3 over-ripe, thoroughly mashed bananas
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1-1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 tsp. salt
1-1/2 tsp. baking powder
1-1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1 handful chocolate chips
1 handful unsalted chopped peanuts

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and grease a 9x5 loaf pan.
Cream together the butter and sugar, and beat in the eggs, bananas, and vanilla.

Here’s where it gets weird: sift the dry ingredients together. I know - you don’t usually sift Banana Bread ingredients, because Banana Bread is dense and lumpy. BUT - what I’m saying is: What if it didn’t have to be? What if we just treat it like the cake that it is? ahem.

Stir wet and dry ingredients together just until combined, don’t over-do it. Pour batter into loaf pan, and sprinkle chocolate chips and chopped peanuts on top. Bake 45 to 60 minutes. 55 minutes in my oven - for a toasty, perfectly domed/split top and no raw bit in the center, yuck.

National Banana Bread Day is February 23. Please make a note of it.
More about sifting v. not sifting v. whisking.
My new favorite reference/internet time waster: the Food Timeline



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