The top baking trend of 2020 is none other than banana bread, and this is brought to the world by a basic human need for comfort and familiarity. With the world on fire and so much stress to start off the year, it’s not surprising that this comfort food has come out on top of all the others. There’s nothing like the smell that wafts through the kitchen with a freshly-baked loaf, and there’s nothing like slicing off that first piece and slapping it with some melted butter and possibly a drizzle of honey or smear of jam.
Now that everyone’s mouths are watering, it’s time to drop some fun facts about this quick bread. Interestingly enough, its origins come not from the US – while the US was most likely the first country to bake up the banana bread we know and love today, bananas themselves are not native to the country. Thus, our comfort food actually has completely different roots than what many people initially think. It also wasn’t a dish that was created out of a need for something sweet, but rather a need for food, period. Just as it offers comfort in today’s day and age, at one point, it was a means for survival.
The turn of the 20th century was when bananas officially became widely available in the US but were never used as the main component in any dish. Despite their delicious flavor and versatility in nearly everything, they were mainly used as garnishes or toppings to add a sweet and decorative flair to desserts or breakfast. While they weren’t considered to be a very important fruit or an important pantry staple, all of this changed drastically in the 1930s, which also happened to be the date of banana bread’s conception.
The Great Depression And Rotten Bananas
The crash of the stock market in 1929 set off a round of events that directly affected every household in the US. All of a sudden, things such as food were a precious commodity and no family could afford to throw anything out; every scrap was saved including, you guessed it, on-the-verge-bananas. Obviously, it’s not very pleasant to bite into a mushy, brown banana, so the time came to get creative with using out-the-door ingredients.
Luckily, leavening additives such as baking soda and baking powder were also beginning to be widely available for at-home use, combining timing and creativity to create a sweet snack we’d continue to love decades later. The two – overripe bananas and baking powder or soda – became a match made in heaven. By adding flour and eggs to the mix, the term “quick bread” was born, which means a bread that’s baked to rise without any yeast.
Recipes for banana bread took the country by storm, appearing in major household magazines, and, soon enough, everyone had a recipe for what was considered the “best” banana bread. These recipes were simple as well, requiring no extra effort other than mashing a banana and measuring the proper ingredients. This is why most cookbooks dating back to the 1930s will likely have at least one recipe for the delicious bread and as the decades went on, more quick bread-style recipes would become popular.
Twists On The Old And Twists On The New
It wasn’t uncommon to dress up banana bread although nowadays, most people appreciate it in all its simplicity. Ninety years ago, however, banana bread could possibly have been sprinkled with sesame seeds, topped with apricot jam, or combined with orange peels (another scrap) or wheat bran, according to King Arthur Baking. As the decades went on and more products became widely available and/or affordable, the style and flavor of banana bread have changed rather significantly. During the 1930s, the bread would have tasted heavily of bananas, since the other ingredients would have been used sparingly and cautiously, with overripe bananas being a base. The loaves themselves also would have been smaller, with the lack of access to the wide array of ingredients we can now get at the grocery store.
During the 1950s, the banana bread was introduced to nuts, and the winning combination stuck around. In stark contrast to the previous decade, the result added both flavor and texture, something the bread of the 30s and 40s lacked due to their lack of high-end ingredients.
From the 60s to the 80s, banana bread was flavored with various spices (which were now much more affordable and easily found). This gave the bread a unique flavor and a wonderful smell, and it’s the same scent that wafted into the 90s: Cinnamon and nutmeg.
Today, banana bread culture has simply exploded. With the addition of keto and gluten-free lifestyles, bakers have found ways to make banana bread with anything from flour alternatives to artificial sweeteners. The ingredients in banana bread are also much bolder, including things such as chocolate chips, honey, and even berries.