When the aroma filled up the house, I realized how much I had missed this bread. A staple growing up, Mom’s banana bread epitomized home. When we left home, we would look forward to the loaves she would bring when she came to visit, or if you were really lucky, the loaf that would arrive by mail just in time for exams. Moist, delicious, and with the magical ability to develop this gooey crust after a day or two, this banana bread was heavenly.
Which is why I’ve spent the last 5 years trying out every banana bread recipe that I’ve come across. You see several years ago I spent some time at home and copied down a bunch of my mother’s classic recipes for my own collection. The banana bread recipe was at the top of that list and I distinctly remember the first time I made it. I was breaking in the kitchen in the first apartment that I would live in by myself. I followed the recipe closely, although I ignored the instruction to put it in an 8″ by 8″ pan (my mother always baked hers in a loaf pan). I put the bread in the oven and started counting down the minutes until it would be done.
After it finished baking, I sliced a piece and tasted it. It was alright. It didn’t really taste like her bread and as it sat on the counter it never developed that special crust. So I made it again and the second time it wasn’t quite right either. In fact, it never came out like the banana bread I remembered. So then it happened, I cheated on my mother and her banana bread. I started trying other recipes. I mean what else could I do? Life just wasn’t as good without this banana bread and if I couldn’t make my mom’s bread then I was determined to find a recipe for banana bread that was just as good, if not better. Let’s just say that over the past couple of years I’ve tried a lot of banana bread recipes.
And then last week, I started wondering about the recipe calling for an 8″ by 8″ pan. My mother had never used a pan like this for her bread and I began to wonder if I had perhaps copied down the wrong recipe. A day or two later, per a request by me, a scanned copy of the recipe came through. With both recipes side by side, I scanned them to see if they were different. They were.
Who knew that 3/4 cup of flour, 1 tsp vanilla, and 1 tsp salt could change so much? It was a good question, but one that I didn’t give much thought to as I bit into my second piece of banana bread. Finally, I had my mother’s recipe.
Mom’s Banana Bread
Adapted by my mother, Jonette Sawyer, from the Centenary Church Cookbook (Winston-Salem, NC).
1 stick butter, softened
1 cup sugar
3 large, ripe bananas, thoroughly mashed
2 eggs, well-beaten
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (My mother sometimes uses whole wheat flour with regular flour (1 1/4 cup of each))
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup chopped nuts – OPTIONAL
1. Preheat oven to 300° F and place rack in the middle of the oven.
2. In a mixer, cream butter and sugar.
3. Add mashed bananas and eggs and mix until incorporated.
4. Add dry ingredients.
5. Add vanilla and, if using, nuts.
6. Bake in greased loaf pan for about 1 hour and 20 minutes on middle rack. Test with a skewer to determine if loaf is fully baked.
7. Let cool briefly in pan and then turn out onto a wire rack and cool completely. Enjoy!