[70] Grandma Ella’s Banana Nut Bread

Once upon a time, I was going to ask the family of a friend of mine to take care of my cat for while. I don’t recall how long or why. I think it was during a holiday from school when almost no one would be around. I didn’t have a lot of money, so paying in cash wasn’t doable. So I asked my friend if payment in baked goods would work. I was advised that yes, and banana bread was the right answer.

I hate banana bread.

Thus, I didn’t have a recipe for it and was completely unwilling to taste test a bunch of recipes. So, I did what any sane college student would do: I asked my great-grandmother for her recipe. She was a fabulous baker (at least by the time I came around), and so I knew whatever I got from her would be delicious. Thus, I’d be able to make a loaf of banana bread I could be pleased to give away without tasting it. However, I did decide to be cautious and bake a loaf for my friend first, just to make sure. He said it was delicious, but I might want to bake it all the way through first…

I have no idea what happened. It was the first time I made it and the only time this recipe failed on me. Luckily, he didn’t mind just eating the cooked ends. And I didn’t end up needing cat-sitting, so I didn’t have to worry about screwing it up for complete strangers.

Here’s the recipe she gave me:

Grandma Ella's Banana Bread

In truth, I can’t imagine you can read that very well. As you can see, it’s a well-used recipe, and well-loved too (by the folks I give loaves to). So, I’ve typed it up and added some clarity to both the ingredients and instructions.

h2. Ingredients

2 c all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 c shortening (I used butter. Nom to the butter!)

1 egg

6 tbsp sour milk (Her note reads, “If you have no sour milk, measure sweet milk and add 1 tsp vinegar”.)

1 c sugar

2 – 3 bananas, mashed

1 c nuts (Optional; I have never added nuts to this recipe.)

h2. Instructions

Preheat oven to 350F. Sift together the flour, baking soda and salt. Cream together the butter/shortening and sugar, then mix in the egg, milk and bananas. Combine the dry mixture with the liquid mixture, and mix until everything’s just combined. Don’t over mix or worry too much about a few lumps (either of flour or of banana; both may happen). Fold in the nuts, if using, then pour into a greased loaf pan and bake for 45 minutes; until a fork poked deep in the middle comes out clean.

Cool in the pan on a wire rack for 5 minutes, and then remove from the pan and cool completely.

h2. Cooking and Consumption Notes

h3. Cooking

Just looking at what my Grandma Ella wrote, you can tell this recipe took a little trial and error and intuition to perfect. In truth, I had to use more engaged thinking to type it up just now (for clarity) than I ever use baking it. It IS a lot of intuition.

The entirety of her instructions are, “Mix all together place in loaf pan bake 45 min at 350.” There’s a note on how to sour milk, and that 12 tbsp of liquid is the equivalent of 3/4 c of liquid, and to put the first 3 ingredients in a sifter.

So, some of it’s obvious. Clearly you’re not putting things in the sifter just to hold them, so sift them together. Some of it is a lot less obvious, such as if you need to just mix everything together or what. Don’t fret about it.

This, like so many recipes I learned when I was young, is hard to screw up. You really can mostly just throw it together. I do keep the dry ingredients separate from the wet, briefly, but I don’t think that’s a hard requirement. Just don’t beat it into submission and it won’t be tough.

Oh, and double the recipe. It’s just easier and who doesn’t like having a spare loaf around? It freezes well, if nothing else.

h3. Consumption

I have tried it once or twice and just can’t get past the “overripe banana” flavor that permeates all banana breads.

However, everyone I have ever made it for has enjoyed it (even that first friend, who did make sure to eat everything that was cooked). I most recently made this recipe for Bill’s co-workers (they had some bananas I had him bring home), and everyone who tried it wanted more. So I’d say it’s a hit.

I only wish I’d asked for more recipes before she died. I only have this one and her peanut butter cookies. I can only hope my mother has her oatmeal cake recipe, because that’s what really marked my childhood memories of visiting her. Peanut butter cookies for me and oatmeal cake for my father.

2 thoughts on “[70] Grandma Ella’s Banana Nut Bread

  1. I can’t really put into words how delightful it is to see your great-grandmother’s handwriting here. Such a neat, intimate touch and so very reminiscent of how so many of us knew recipes to be (before ye olde interwebs). Makes me want to write down family recipes in my own scrawl for Mike RIGHT NOW.

    Also, banana bread is delicious & you are a loon.

    • A loon you think is FABULOUS!

      I’m really glad you like the recipe. It does make me want to share a bunch of hand-written recipes as well. There’s really something to be said for it, and then you have moments like this where the writer is gone, but the memories triggered by the handwriting remain.

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