Banana Bread, or the first thing I ever made.

Outside of what is likely everyone's first cooking experience - Tollhouse cookies, I think the very first thing I ever mastered on my own in the kitchen was banana bread. And the flavor of this recipe is a thing I connect very closely with my mother’s kitchen, and the idea of home. Mom's recipe of choice came from the 1982 Sunset Easy Basics for Good Cooking cookbook. 

By the time I was old enough to want to make stuff on my own, my mom was a you-figure-it-out-yourself style of teacher. She had been a divorced working mom trying to reinvent herself as a professional interior designer for a couple of years, and I suspect she didn’t really have the bandwidth to sit down and put me through the recipe paces personally. And even when we were teeny things, when she was a full time stay at home mom, she promoted the idea of learning by doing. But, I digress. Getting back to the story: I have a vivid memory of the moment I first made banana bread: reaching for the yellow checkered, spiral bound paperback cookbook, looking up banana bread in the index, and following the pictures that guided me into making my first quickbread.

All these years later, this is still the only banana bread I want. The recipe is forgiving, simple, takes additions like nuts or chocolate chips like a champ, and always tastes exactly right to me. Plus, it’s a good solution for what to do when you have too many brown bananas.

In 2014, when I was newly dating my now hubs, I was near constantly cooking professionally for the TV show we met on. As any food oriented person does when they love someone, I wanted to make him a special food treat. So I made two loaves of this tried and true banana bread for him to share with his work crew, a group of 4 or 5 other dudes. (Hubs is what people in the business call a juicer, or an electrician, or more properly, a set lighting technician - one of the people who provides the electricity and adjusts the lights in film and television). He's into chocolate, so I added chocolate chips, and I thoughtfully made one loaf for him, and one more for his crew. 

He later confessed to me that he never shared a lick of it with anyone, and that his buddy busted him secretly gnawing like a maniac on one of the loaves far away from set. Apparently he just went ahead and peeled the foil back off one end of the thing and went to town on it, not bothering to cut or even break a piece off the loaf. When said fellow crew member saw him acting surreptitious in broad daylight, he gave hubs a dude what is THAT look from 20 yards, instinctively knowing by my guy's intensely guilty look that he was hoarding some secret, purloined treasure. In this moment of sudden confrontation, without even breaking his stride, my then guy-now hubs turned on his heel, spun 180 degrees around, and just walked away with purpose, hurriedly stuffing the bread back in his bag or pocket or wherever he was stashing it, trying to act like there was nothing to see here.

I guess the moral of my story is either: make some of this banana bread for someone you love, and maybe they'll wind up putting a ring on it, or this stuff is so good it turns work weary human beings into banana bread fiending trolls. Either way, it worked for me.


Here’s a copy of the recipe my mom gave me over the phone when I called asking for it in 2014. I doubt if it’s been altered over the years, because it's perfect, but if I can get her to give up that cookbook, I’ll let you know. Or maybe one of you has it and can report back in the comments below.

BANANA BREAD

Preheat oven to 325F. Lightly grease a 9x5 inch loaf pan; set aside.

INGREDIENTS

  • 3 large ripe bananas
  • 1 cup of sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 4 tbs of butter, melted and cooled
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp each salt and baking soda

DIRECTIONS

  1. Mash it. In a bowl, mash the bananas; you should have +/- 1 cup. Don't worry if you're off a little.
  2. Beat it. Beat in sugar; then egg and butter.
  3. Dry stuff. In another bowl, stir together flour, salt, and baking soda.
  4. Combine. Add to banana mixture and stir just until all flour is moistened. Pour batter into prepared pan.
  5. Bake for 55 to 60 minutes. Or until a toothpick comes out almost clean, with dry crumbs on it. Makes 1 loaf. 

TIPS!

  • Fill the pan about 1/2-3/4 full. Quickbreads rise, but not very much. Mix in chopped nuts, or chocolate chips, or whatever you fancy. You can substitute coconut sugar for white sugar, and you can likewise reduce the sugar by as much as a half. It's still tasty. This is a very forgiving recipe in general.
  • Toasting tip: you may find that to get it good and crispy when you toast a slice, you have to really go for it with a dark setting to get it brown and crunchy around the edges. 

PS. I like this bread best well toasted and drowned in butter or cream cheese, but in my near constant quest to make food photos that look stuck somewhere between 1956 and 1974, I also frosted it with tinted yellow cream cheese frosting. It would probably also be good split down the middle horizontally, with cream cheese jammed in the center like a layer cake filling. What did frosting it teach me? That fancied up, or just gnawed off a whole loaf on the run, and maybe out of a foil wrapper, this banana bread is delicious no matter what.

PPS. It freezes well.