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. There are some recipes where banana bread is made with yeast when it is then usually sliced, toasted and spread with butter.
It was with the popularization of baking soda and baking powder in the 1930s that banana bread first became a standard feature of American cookbooks and appeared in Pillsbury’s 1933 Balanced Recipes cookbook. Banana bread later gained further acceptance with the release of the original Chiquita Banana’s Recipe Book in 1950.
The United States saw the arrival of bananas in the 1870′s, but it took a while before they appeared as an ingredient in desserts.
The Vienna Model Bakery advertised banana bread as something new in the April 21, 1893, edition of St. Louis Post-Dispatch. An early restaurant/bakery chain owned by Gaff, Fleischmann & Company, The Viena Model Bakery was known for their 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, there was a surplus of bananas due to very few ships to export the fruit. In order not to waste the fruits, alternative uses for bananas were developed. The 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.
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 full of banana recipes including banana muffins and breads. This little cookbook would have been handy during the Great Depression which was just around the corner. Throwing out overripe bananas was not something a family could afford to do. Utilizing every bit of food and stretching meals was a daily practice. Overripe bananas, as well as other fruits and vegetables, were baked into breads, stews and other dishes when flavor and texture were not as appealing raw.
There are many different variations of the traditional banana bread, a few of which include Banana raisin bread – Banana nut bread – Chocolate chip banana bread.
HOW TO OBSERVE
To participate in National Banana Bread Day, try one of the following banana bread recipes:
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