February 23rd annually recognizes a well-known food holiday, National Banana Bread Day.
Bakers know that to make sweet and delicious banana bread, they need to use fully ripe, mashed bananas. The resulting quick bread is moist and almost cake-like. And while some recipes call for yeast, most don’t. Either way, the finished product makes a tasty sliced snack. Toast it and add butter for an even more satisfying treat!
In the 1930s, baking soda and baking powder made banana bread and other quick breads standard features in American cookbooks. Pillsbury’s included banana bread recipes in its 1933 Balanced Recipes cookbook, too. The release of Chiquita Banana’s Recipe Book in 1950 further secured the banana bread’s acceptance.
Surprisingly, bananas first made their appearance in the United States in 1870. For a long time, Americans saw the tropical fruit as merely that – a fruit, not an ingredient. It would take a few decades before they started seeing the banana’s potential.
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, 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 and other fruits and vegetables into breads, stews, and other dishes when flavor and texture were not as appealing raw.
More to explore…
- Homemade Bread Day
- National Zucchini Bread Day
- National Crouton Day
- National Sourdough Bread Day
- National Raisin Bread Month
- National Banana Bread Day
- National Toast Day
- Mom’s Pioneer Bread
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!
Use #NationalBananaBreadDay to post on social media.