Home-Baked "Vintage" Banana Bread

Here's what greeted me in the kitchen this morning:
A bunch of bananas past their prime. 

Now, I know some of you will gobble these up no problem, brown spots and all, but I really dislike eating these guys once their freckles appear. As far as I was concerned, these bananas had three choices. 

1) They could go into the new compost bin. (We just got new bins yesterday, and we can dump yard waste and compost all in one container. Yay!)

2) They could get gurred up in the blender with some other fruit friends to make a smoothie. 

Or...
3) They could find their way into a batch of home-made banana bread.

Feeling like Betty Crocker, I opted for the third option. Those lucky bananas!

I typically use my red-and-white checked Better Homes and Gardens cookbook for banana bread, but, feeling a wave of nostalgia as I glanced at the beginnings of my vintage cookbook collection, I decided to pull a recipe from my 1953 edition of The Joy of Cooking. I also own a 2006 edition, but somehow that didn't seem as fun.
For those of you who don't know, The Joy of Cooking was first published in 1931 by Irma S. Rombauer - with $3000 of her own money - and remains one of the highest selling cookbooks in history. (Read more on Irma Rombauer here. What a fascinating lady!)
Obviously, this recipe had been used before. I discovered a huge ring perfectly centered on the banana bread page. Maybe this was a good sign?

I also found this funny little piece of paper, no doubt leftover from the previous owner's trip to the Hawaiian Islands.
I got started by measuring my butter, sugar and lemon zest. Then I let the butter sit until it reached room temperature. Sometimes I have been impatient with butter softening and have been known to pop it in the mircowave for a bit. Although this speeds things up, it's not really a good idea. If the butter gets too soft, it can compromise the entire recipe! (Tip from my brother, the chef...and baker extraordinaire.) Besides, Irma didn't have a microwave...and I wanted to do this vintage-style!

If you don't have a microplane grater, you MUST get one. They are phenomenal at zesting and grating hard cheeses, as well as chocolate. Just be careful, because they are sharp as heck (as I personally discovered last week when I took out a big chunk of my thumb. Apparently, my injury was called an "avulsion", a term I just learned from my husband and his new job at a hospital. Ahhhh...the perks of married life!)
My collection of vintage Pyrex bowls. I love the candy colors.

My little baking area. The hutch was my grandmother's and is on my to-do project list. Needs a little color boost. Any  ideas?
Mashing up bananas the old-fashioned way in my Harvest pattern Pyrex bowl.
Reading through the the recipe, I came across something funky. (Yes, I know. You're supposed to read through a recipe in its entirety before you get started, but it's banana bread! How hard could it be?) There were a few different options for baking powder. Apparently, back in the time this book was published, bakers had the choice of "Tartrate or Phosphate Powder" or "Combination Type." Is that like combination skin? What the heck?
Thankfully, on pages 501 and 502 it was explained to me what these things were...and when I pulled out my own baking powder, I realized I had - and have never seen any other kind my entire life - the "Combination Type", otherwise known as Double Acting Baking Powder.

And then I read the last ingredient: "1/2 teaspoon soda." My mind totally blanked. What kind of soda? Club soda? A splash of tonic? Oh. Dum-dum. She means BAKING soda. I have just been so conditioned to see the word "baking" in front of soda. "Soda" means a bubbly, sugary drink. I was almost ready to call my brother and ask him what Irma meant by "soda", but knew it was probably going to be something stupid that I could never live down. I'm glad I gave myself a few extra minutes. Whew!

At least one good thing happened while I was in my state of confusion - the butter softened! Time to mix. I pulled out another Pyrex bowl, grabbed a wooden spoon and went to town. No electric mixer here!
Then I beat in the egg with this funky old thing, found at an estate sale. I thought about using my Kitchenaid mixer, but, again, I wanted to do this as no-frills as possible. Besides, mixing everything by hand burns a few more calories, which means I can eat more of the finished product!
After I mixed up the sugar and egg, I sifted the flour, baking powder and baking soda. Although I usually skip this step in other recipes, I know it's kind of a no-no. The sifted flour, as I understand, makes a lighter, more delicate end product. Besides, there's something so beautiful about sifted flour. Looks like a snowy Swiss mountaintop!

Side note: Something you should know about me - I'm kind of messy in the kitchen. 
Here's the lovely banana bread batter. 
And what do you think it will be baked in?


That's right! Another vintage Pyrex dish. The recipe called for an 8"x 4" pan, and this turquoise beauty was a match made in heaven. By the way, whoever said turquoise was a "new" color trend needs to take a trip back to the 1950s and 1960s. There's nothing "new" about turquoise. I'm just sayin'.

Here's my little baby all ready to go into the oven.
And here it is all baked up and ready to eat.


Only I'm restraining myself and I won't actually eat any until tomorrow. We are going up to my brother's mountain cabin in Twain Harte tomorrow, and I decided to bring it up to share. Yes, it's hard to resist with the smell of freshly baked banana bread wafting through the house, but that's the kind of sister I am.  So I'll have to have a taste test and report back to you later!

Enjoy your long weekend, everyone! And please feel free to share any of your favorite vintage recipes and baking tips. I'd love to hear them.


(All photos taken with my new Canon EOS T1i DSLR camera. What do you think? I'm hoping there is a little improvement over the old point and shoot!)





Kelly BergComment