Chefs are notoriously known for never making something the same way twice. There’s the constant search for a new recipe, or the persistent tweaking to perfect the way to make [________] better, is a “thing” we are very guilty of. I know that I am often thinking of a new way I could make something better, even something that I have a recipe for that I already love. For example, I truly enjoy my own chili recipe, but I have indeed made many other chili recipes.
My exception to this is banana bread. To my recollection there is only one banana bread recipe I have ever made. It is my Gramma Lucy’s recipe. I have made it so many times throughout my life that I have no idea how long ago it actually was that I would have had to read the recipe, or from where I would have read it? My guess is it must have been in my dad’s recipe box — yes, my dad cooked, not my mom – because it was not written down in my kitchen anywhere. The recipe seems to have just been etched in my mind most of my life. The only thing I changed (decades ago) was the nuts. I think my Gramma’s recipe used walnuts, which is funny because she didn’t even like them (she once said they tasted like ‘feet’ to her! I still laugh at that). For years, when the kids were little, I omitted the nuts all together. Then when I did add them back in, I added pecans. The pecan crunch I put on the top is something I started doing a few years ago. Nuts aside, the recipe is still just as she made it.
One day over a decade ago, my daughter Lauren (a young teen at the time), never having seen me look at a recipe when I made it, asked me to be sure to write it down so that when I was ‘gone’ she would have it. The funniest part of that is that teenagers actually think their parents (who might only be in their late thirties) are so old & thus so close to death that they need to scrawl all of their secrets down super quickly. Ha ha! I did write it down for her (…but just in case, it will be here too)!
The irony of banana bread being the recipe I won’t experiment with is that I am one of those people who doesn’t particularly love bananas, & I detest banana-flavored anything. And, if I do eat a actual banana it tends to be toward the unripe side vs. too ripe. So, why the attachment to THIS recipe I asked myself? I gave it a lot of thought. I believe it is because it’s one of the earliest recipes I remember making with Gramma, in that farm kitchen where I learned to cook; that same kitchen where my love for cooking all began. It’s a sensory memory that takes me back & anchors me somehow… or at least that’s my theory, and I’m sticking to it!
Just like milk & bread, I bought bananas weekly when I was raising my kids & so it worked out that when they started to turn brown, I would just chock them off as banana bread. On average I probably baked banana bread at least every other week if not more frequently sometimes. Logic would’ve dictated that I should have just bought less bananas, but I’m also guessing somewhere in my mind I was buying them just as much to make the banana bread as I was for my kids to eat the fruit!? I would be surprised if the smell of it baking it isn’t some type of sensory trigger memory for my kids too… hopefully a good one like it is for me!
Do you have any good ‘trigger memories’ tied to food? What is it & who cooks/bakes (or cooked/baked)it? I love these stories & would love you to share in the comments!!
So friends, here is the recipe for my family banana bread. I have made this hundreds & hundreds of times. I want to share it with you. Is it that good? I think so…& I hope you do too!
Preheat oven to 350. Butter & flour baking pans (or pan). I use 2 smaller ones (a small bundt & small loaf) because I live in a small space & it allows me to freeze one loaf for later.
Assemble all ingredients (mise en place!!)
Cream together butter & sugar until well incorporated (a fork works well)
Smash bananas & beat eggs. Add water & vanilla to eggs, Stir to combine.
Add add egg mixture & bananas to creamed sugar & combine just until it comes together. It may be slightly lumpy -- that's normal.
and combine all dry (EXCEPT NUTS) ingredients & stir to combine
Slowly add dry to wet, stirring to combine. The mixture will be thick but still stir-able. Fold in 1 cup pecan pieces.
Pour batter into pans until about half full & no more than 2/3 full. Sprinkle with topping down center of batter IF you are using it.
Bake for 30 -45 minutes for smaller & for 55-65 minutes for large loaf pan. The size of pan will cause a variance in time needed. Check half way through & rotate if needed (it is needed in my oven). Top will be golden & toothpick will come out clean.
ENJOY! Keep on cooking in your tiny kitchen & I hope to see you down the road!