Monday, November 3, 2008

Time changing banana bread

Ah! The time change. Yuck. It does remarkable things to my hibernating habits: I draw the shades at night, I turn up the heat, I stay inside more, I eat more, I bake. Lately, my son and I have been making banana bread. We use an old recipe from the Mary Meade's Country Cookbook by Ruth Ellen Church. I got this book from my grandmother. She was not a big cook, though she made the absolute best gravy ever; I cannot imagine ever having better. She also gave me my Joy of Cooking, which still included how to skin an opossum and bleed a rabbit. They got rid of that a while back, much to my chagrin. I'm not going to skin an opossum but the fact that it was there, in black and white, meant that I could. Maybe some people still opened up that book to get instructions. It was like a story passed down from generation to generation, that is never forgotten because each generation learns it by heart.

But I digress. We've been baking banana bread together, and it's easy and fun and delicious. I always have bananas since my non-fruit eating daughter actually likes bananas, but I also have a bunch frozen. It's a great way to preserve a banana that's over the hill. Throw it in the freezer (I don't even wrap it up) and when you want to make bread, pull it out an hour or so beforehand. It will thaw quickly and be perfect in bread. It's actually quite disgusting when it thaws, and I have to power through the minute it takes to get it out of the peel. It should be noted that I'm not a banana fan at all, short of bread, so you may have no such squeamish moments.

One thing I love about this recipe is that it's a snapshot of the times (1960s). It calls for butter or margarine, soda (baking soda - when I was ten or eleven and first starting to bake and using an old Joy of Cooking, I thought you had to add Coke/Pepsi soda, and since we never had it in the house, almost stopped cooking then and there!), and sweet or sour milk (buttermilk?).

I've modernized this for today's reader, though the actual recipe remains the same:

Preheat oven to 350. Grease one bread pan.

Cream 1/2 cup butter and 1 cup sugar (we've been using dark brown sugar though any works; we cut the sugar just a bit, too).

Add 2 lightly beaten eggs

In another bowl, add 1 1/2 TBSP regular milk or buttermilk, 1 teas. lemon juice, and 1 cup bananas (around 3). Mush until bananas are slightly chunky. (The recipe calls for mashing them through a sieve but it's both tedious and unnecessary.)

Add banana mix to butter mix.

In another bowl, stir 2 cups flour, 1 1/2 teas. baking powder, 1/2 teas. baking soda, 1/4 teas. salt. Add to wet ingredients and stir until just blended.

You can cook it as is, though the original recipe suggests adding a cup of chopped pecans or walnuts. We add chocolate chips instead. Cook for around 45 minutes.

We decided it's best hot from the oven, with too much butter, but it's pretty good cold, too.