February 23rd annually recognizes a well-known food holiday, National Banana Bread Day.
A moist, sweet, cake-like quick bread, banana bread is made with fully ripe, mashed bananas. Some recipes call for yeast, and then the finished banana bread is sliced, toasted and spread with butter.
With the popularization of baking soda and baking powder in the 1930s banana bread first became a standard feature of American cookbooks. It appeared in Pillsbury’s 1933 Balanced Recipes cookbook, too. Banana bread later gained further acceptance with the release of the original Chiquita Banana’s Recipe Book in 1950.
Despite the banana’s arrival in the United States in the 1870s, it took a while before they appeared as an ingredient in desserts.
Early Banana Bread
One early recipe came from The Vienna Model Bakery. It advertised banana bread as something new in the April 21, 1893, edition of St. Louis Post-Dispatch. A new restaurant/bakery chain owned by Gaff, Fleischmann & Company, The Viena Model Bakery was known for its baked goods and was likely one of the first to produce banana bread in the United States. The recipe was made with banana flour, which is made by drying strips of the fruit, then grinding it to a powder. This process had long been used in the West Indies.
In Hawaii during World War I, a surplus of bananas resulted from very few ships available to export the fruit. To prevent waste, alternative uses for bananas were developed. For example, bakeries started incorporating the fruit into their bread.
This recipe was printed in The Maui News on April 12, 1918, for banana bread:
Yeast, coconut milk or water
There was also rationing of staple food items such as flour. Banana flour was a suggested substitute. It was touted as a health food and recommended for a vegetarian diet.
This, of course, is not the quick bread we know today. A recipe submitted by Mrs. Dean in the February 18, 1918, issue of The Garden Island paper for a banana muffin might more closely resemble the quick bread we think of today.
1 cup cornmeal
3-1/2 teaspoons of baking powder
2 tablespoons of sugar
1 sifted banana
3/4 cup rye flour
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup milk
1 tablespoon Crisco
Mix dry ingredients, add banana, milk and egg and Crisco.
Quick Bread and Muffin
The difference between a quick bread and a muffin in baking has a lot to do with the type of fat and how it is mixed creating a different crumb or texture to the bread.
In 1927, Unifruit (a wholesale produce company) offered a free cookbook called From the Tropics to Your Table. The book offered recipes full of bananas as ingredients including banana muffins and breads. This little cookbook would have been handy during the Great Depression which was just around the corner. At the time, families utilized every scrap of food, including overripe bananas. They cooked overripe bananas, as well as other fruits and vegetables, into breads, stews and other dishes when flavor and texture were not as appealing raw.
HOW TO OBSERVE #NationalBananaBreadDay
Bake your favorite version of banana bread to celebrate. With so many varieties to try – banana nut, chocolate banana and more – you can make more than one! Invite someone to join you or give a loaf or two away. The celebration is just too good not to share! We like ours warm from the oven with butter!
Use #NationalBananaBreadDay to post on social media.