Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Author in the Kitchen: Wild-West Texas Banana Nut Bread Recipe

Banana Nut Bread
Pumpkin bread (left), Banana Nut bread (right)
During this season of thanksgiving, as I've paused to give thought and thanks, it occurred to me that in a perfect world it would be great to sit down with my readers and share a slice of my favorite banana nut bread (or pumpkin bread, coming later) and tea, and talk about books and life.
Since I can't serve up a warm slice direct from the oven, I thought I'd do the next best thing, which is to share an old family recipes. My great grandmother, Nannie Brittain, from Jacksonville, Texas, used to make this, presumably in between assisting her husband, the doc, in tending to gunshot victims on the kitchen table of their grand Victorian home -- it was latter part of the 1800s, and Texas was still the fairly wild west. I can just imagine the pair saving lives with the aroma of banana nut bread wafting from the oven. Perhaps that's my next saga...
Anyway, I digress, back to the bread... My mother and grandmother Bebe could recite this recipe by heart. I've found I can adapt it in countless ways for health and variety, so it's a darn good base, and has never let me down. It's a gift from my heart to you and yours.
Banana Nut Bread recipe
I began writing in earnest again two years ago. If you've been following the blog, you know I'm preparing for a dream come true in March, which is the St. Martin's Press debut of Scent of Triumph. I've published a couple of other books, too, and once I finish my current historical manuscript for St. Martin's -- which is set in the vineyards -- then I'll work on a novella I've outlined -- another gift to you, coming soon.
So, without further ado, here's that wild-west Texas banana nut bread recipe, circa 1880. It's fairly foolproof. Although I appreciate fine food, I can be a disaster in the kitchen (please don't ask about the flaming tortillas, or the AC vent/waterfall incident). However, baking is definitely my preference over anything else.
Trivia: As an aside, a lot of my novels include food. This recipe is for the bread mentioned in my first contemporary novel, Flawless.
  • 1/2 pound butter (1 cup or 2 sticks)
  • 2 cups sugar (can also reduce by half, or use 3/4 cup sugar and 3/4 cup Splenda - better for diabetics, and not as sweet)
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 1/2 cup pecans (or slivered almond, walnuts, macadamia nuts, whatever you have on hand)
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 1/12 cup mashed bananas (about 3 large or 4 medium, preferably mushy or past their prime)
  • 4 cups flour (I usually mix unbleached and wheat flour, but you can use other types of healthy alternative flours, too)
  • dash of salt
  • 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract (I might throw in a teaspoon or so of almond extract, too)
  • Optional: dark or golden raisins are good, too. Throw in a handful, maybe 1/2 to 1 cup.
Cream butter and sugar. Add eggs. Mix in dry ingredients. Add nuts and bananas last. Pour into 2 prepared (butter or oil with flour, or Pam baking spray) loaf pans and bake at 325 for an hour until done.
One of our sons is a chef school graduate, and he might be laughing at this, but if I can make this, so can you!
Serves with a side of grapes or fruit and hot tea, or a glass of wine, and you've got a nice afternoon or late night snack. Warm a slice in the microwave for 10 seconds and top with butter, cream cheese, or jam, and you have another variation. And these loaves freeze really well, so I usually have a loaf or two on ice for emergencies.
So, if you wonder what I'm snacking on when I'm writing at midnight, this is it :)
Bon apetit!


Eliza Cross said...

What a treasure! This bread sounds divine, and I can't wait to try it. However, I MUST hear about those flaming tortillas! Thanks so much for sharing your Nannie's special recipe, and happy Thanksgiving. xo

Sue Coletta said...

I love banana bread. My recipe is very similar to this one. And it IS delicious. I will try yours next. You can never have too much banana bread, especially around the holidays. Thanks for sharing, Jan. I bet you're secretly a wonderful cook/baker. What can't you do?

Peter Hogenkamp said...

Jan, loved the post. I am thinking about how easy I have it stitching people up without people shooting at me. (If historical fiction wasn't way too much work i might consider a tale like that). Thanks for sharing. Enjoy the realization of your lifetime dream. Cheers