If there’s one thing I’ve learned from five years of obsessive food blog consumption, it’s that the world hardly needs another banana bread recipe.
Sure, you can jack it up with chocolate, or millet, or peanut butter, or bourbon, or cream cheese and buttermilk and icing spiked with coconut and pecans in what’s supposedly a healthy, guilt-free recipe (yeah, okay, Southern Living). But at its core, it’ll always be the same humble loaf — a cake designed to seem healthy enough for breakfast consumption, and to use up the spotty brown chiquitas on your countertop before they turn into their own thriving, fruit-fly-based, self-contained ecosystem.
All of which is my long-winded way of saying that Nonnie’s own banana bread hardly reinvents the wheel. Hell, for all I know, it is the wheel; almost none of her recipes carry citations, which means that the following could very well be the world’s very first banana bread recipe, the urtext that forms the base of all the Internet’s various bell-and-whistle-enhanced versions. Maybe Betty Crocker wrote it. Maybe Irma S. Rombauer did. Maybe it spilled forth from the pen of God Himself.
In any case, it certainly gets the job done — particularly if you like baked goods that can be assembled almost entirely via food processor. (That’s how Nonnie made it, so I made it that way too. Results were… mixed.)
Banana Bread; main text Nonnie’s, italicized asides my own
2/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon lemon juice
3 oz. butter or margarine (cut into 6 pieces) [I used butter, figuring there’ll be plenty of margarine in my future]
2 bananas, peeled [The peeling is a crucial step. Good thing Nonnie thought to include it]
1 cup chopped walnuts
1 1/3 cups flour
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
Mix flour, salt, baking powder, and baking soda together, and set aside. Process butter, sugar, and eggs with steel blade about 20 seconds, or until well mixed.
[Or: Realize that your crappy processor can’t possibly handle this load in that amount of time; resolve to double or triple the recipe’s time recommendations as needed, even though it also counts as cheating.]
Scrape down; add bananas and lemon juice. [Add the latter to the same teaspoon measurement you used for the baking soda for a fun fizzy effect. Science!] Process 5 seconds. [Realize only after bread is baked that the recipe never mentioned when to add the vanilla. Now would’ve probably been a good time for that.]
Scrape down. Add nuts, and turn machine on and off immediately. Remove cover and add flour mixture. Replace cover and add flour mixture. [Pray that with some strategic patting, the lid will close and mix together batter without spraying bits of old banana all over your knife block. Spoiler: It will, but just barely.]
Replace cover, and turn machine on and off 4 or 5 times or until flour just disappears. Do not overbeat. [As Joey Tribbiani once said: “Couldn’t if I wanted to!”]
Bake in well-greased loaf pan that holds 5 cups, for one hour at 350, or until toothpick tester comes out dry.
The verdict: Another winner, for the most part, although I’m not sure whether the food processor was really the time-saver Nonnie seems to have thought it’d be. Using it also meant pulverizing the walnuts into itty pieces, which tasted fine but meant any textural contrast between them and the bread was mostly lost.
Maybe I’d feel differently if my processor weren’t so dinky — but next time, I’ll probably mash the bananas by hand, then mix everything in a regular bowl.
I also wish I hadn’t listened to Nonnie’s recommended cook time. My loaf was beautifully browned, but that came at a cost — the interior wasn’t dry, exactly, but it also wasn’t quite as moist as I would’ve liked it to be. I’d recommend checking instead at 50 minutes, and continuing to bake for the full hour only if a tester doesn’t come out clean. At least the one I made looked purdy.