Banana Bread: Grandma’s Legacy

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When I was young, visits to my grandparents house meant two things: a very long road trip that started before the sun was up and homemade banana bread.

My grandparents house was always cool when it was hot outside. And, it always smelled of talcum powder, clean laundry, and cinnamon banana bread. Grandma Susan would save aged bananas in the freezer until she had enough to whip up a double portion of her recipe. Then, all in one go, she would bake the whole batch in a heavy, yellow-gold bundt pan (that she stored in the original Nordic Ware box it came in).

My grandmother had the magic touch for turning old, brown, mushy (disgusting) bananas into fragrant, perfectly spiced, banana bread studded with chopped pecans that was just right for slicing and toasting in the toaster oven. I would slather a thick slice with butter and then stand at attention, watching thru the tiny glass window of the oven as the edges started to brown and crisp. It was torture to wait, but so worth it.

I never have old bananas in my house, because I never really buy new bananas. But as the weather starts to change…okay, I know… I live in Los Angeles… does it really change? Kind of… I mean, it’s not in the 90’s anymore! And, the other night, it got down to 60 degrees! I needed a blanket! So, okay, the change in weather is less actual Autumn atmosphere and more of a hopeful the-calendar-says-it’s-October-so-lets-do-this-already sort of thing. Either way, I was craving banana bread. So I bought some bananas and stuck them on top of my fridge and forgot about them. That’s step one.

Things We Lost in the Fire

Step two is finding my grandma’s recipe. Only, last year, my home town burned down in a pretty horrific fire. My parents home was lost, which meant all my mom’s recipe books and recipe boxes also gone. Do you remember those? The little wood/plastic/metal boxes filled with old recipe cards? My mom had a tan, tin box filled with grease-stained index cards covered in all manner of different, scrolling hand-writing. Some printed in big block letters, others in spidery cursive. The box was full of recipes my mom had written down, copied, or received from another gracious home chef. My grandma’s banana bread recipe was in there too. The corners yellow and translucent with butter stains. And, thank the good Lord, a few years ago I had my mom email me grandma’s recipe. Otherwise, it would have been lost along with everything else in the fire… But it’s not! It’s here! It survived!

And, yes, I messed with it.

Surprise, Surprise

I put my own spin on it. I used my blender (my darling, trusty blender that I use, basically, every day) to get the bananas really smooth. And, I added a few of my favorite ingredients: plain greek yogurt, whole wheat pastry flour, and browned butter! Are we surprised?

My grandma’s recipe uses vegetable shortening as the fat component and, that’s not my jam. I don’t typically have Crisco, on my shelf. So I reached for butter. And then I thought, “why not go with browned butter?” The toasty, nutty element of the browned butter not only reminds me of that tiny toaster oven in my grandma’s kitchen, but it also complements the warm spices and whole wheat flour I added. And because, browning butter mean a little less moisture, I regained said lost moisture with a dollop of yogurt!

I also cut back on the amount of sugar used because, for me, bananas are so sweet already! And, for my final trick, I toasted the pecans in the oven before chopping them and adding them to the batter. It just added to the over-all warm, cozy, crunching-leaves-under-your-feet, fall weather feel of this bread. Grandma would be proud.

Brown Butter Banana Bread

makes 1 loaf

Ingredients

Wet Ingredients:

  • 3 ripe Bananas
  • 3.5 oz yogurt, plain Greek or Icelandic
  • 1 stick butter browned
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs room temp
  • 1 tsp vanilla

Dry Ingredients:

  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp ginger
  • 1/4 tsp cloves
  • 1/2 – 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 – 3/4 cup toasted pecans chopped

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 350F and grease a loaf pan.
  • Place bananas and yogurt in a blender and blend til smooth
  • To the banana mixture add the browned butter, eggs, sugars, and vanilla. Blend to combine.
  • In a large mixing bowl sift together: flours, baking soda, baking powder, salt, spices, and nuts.
  • Pour banana "smoothie" into the mixing bowl with the flour and stir to combine. Making sure that you scrape the bottom of the bowl for dry "pockets" of flour.
  • Scrape batter into prepared loaf pan.
  • Bake for about 50-60 minutes or until a knife/toothpick/skewer inserted into the center of the loaf comes out clean.
  • Turn bread out of the pan and let cool on a wire rack.
  • Share (or hoard) and enjoy!

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2 Comments

    1. This recipe does great as muffins! The baking time would certainly go down, start with 15-20 minutes and adjust from there. Also, if you like, sprinkle some chopped pecans on the top of each muffin for a bit of added crunch!

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