Genius

My Family's Forever Banana Bread

After writing about many other recipes over the years, this is the one I just can’t quit.

October 13, 2021

Every week in Genius Recipes—often with your help!—Food52 Founding Editor and lifelong Genius-hunter Kristen Miglore is unearthing recipes that will change the way you cook.


Even though I’ve written about (and loved) many quick cakes and muffins and their ilk in 10 years of Genius Recipes—including at least three banana breads (1)—the recipe my mom always made when I was growing up is the one I turn to first and most. The original version, without my extraneous tips, was barely over 30 words long, unattributed in a spiral-bound community cookbook. The title, plainly: Banana Bread.

This simplicity is no doubt key to its longevity, for my family and for me. I can make it anytime I need a gift or a pick-me-up—or both, since it makes two loaves, one for us, one for them. Or whenever my freezer gets precariously full of overripe bananas and they start to fall at my feet.

When life just keeps giving you bananas. Photo by Julia Gartland. Food Stylist: Lauren Lapenna. Prop Stylist: Sophia Pappas.

I know I can get it in the oven in about 15 minutes, with whatever baking supplies I have on hand. It can weather my whims and experiments, as I switched from creamed shortening to melted butter for speed, wedged it into the pans I had nearby, and tinkered with flours and sweeteners and mix-ins freely, knowing there would always be more chances to get it right. It was even my daughter’s first birthday cake of the pandemic and of her life—no frosting but plenty of chocolate chunks and crunchy sugar on top. It fits into our life, no matter what life has put in front of us.

Join The Conversation

Top Comment:
“I really want to try this recipe, but how much do the 6 bananas weigh or measure? You may have different sizes and mine are all frozen! Appreciate the weight of the other ingredients. That is how I bake now, everything by weight. The results always turn out perfect.”
— jellysquare
Comment

As I’ve started asking more about its history in my family, it seems this recipe has been just as bendable for my relatives. My Aunt Peggy first shared it with my mom from a book called A Plan for All Seasons: A Menu Cookbook by the Stanford Junior Women of Pasadena. The notes on my mom’s hand-copied recipe (2) say they first made it at Christmas 1983, which means it was one of my first cakes, too.

There’s a dedicated column for the adaptations my mom made in the 1980s to protect my dad’s cholesterol—oat bran for flour, honey for sugar, faux eggs, no salt. (They ultimately returned to the original, deciding to fight cholesterol in other ways.) After my aunt’s cookbook collection was swallowed by the Oakland fire in 1991, my mom combed thrift shops and used bookstores to find replacements. In her new copy, Peggy’s notes in the margins document sprinkling the walnuts on top for a “crunchy rich topping.” Sometimes, they say, she adds chocolate chips, too.

Now, no matter what version I turn out, my daughter will eat outrageous amounts before we realize what’s happening, so I think she’s destined to get attached to this recipe for life, too. And like me, I hope she’ll make it her own.

(1) One from Nigel Slater had fancy sugar and chocolate, one from Lucy Cufflin had a full cup of mayonnaise, one from Samantha Seneviratne took half the time because it was actually a scone.

(2) I emailed myself and my brother a photo of a photocopy of my mom’s hand-copied version so we’d never be further from an inbox search from it.

This post contains products independently chosen (and loved) by our editors and writers. As an Amazon Associate, Food52 earns an affiliate commission on qualifying purchases of the products we link to.
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See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Piyush Gandhi
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  • jellysquare
    jellysquare
I'm an ex-economist, lifelong-Californian who moved to New York to work in food media in 2007, before returning to the land of Dutch Crunch bread and tri-tip barbecues in 2020. Dodgy career choices aside, I can't help but apply the rational tendencies of my former life to things like: recipe tweaking, digging up obscure facts about pizza, and deciding how many pastries to put in my purse for "later."

19 Comments

Piyush G. October 15, 2021
Hi, adding 1/4 tsp of vanilla extract to the wet ingredients and 1/4 tsp of cinnamon to the dry ingredients will definitely add more flavor to the bread. Also adding 1/2 cup of sour cream to the final mixture will make the bread more moist.
 
Author Comment
Kristen M. October 19, 2021
Great riffs!
 
Peggy F. October 14, 2021
Best of luck in your move Kristen. I can’t wait to see what masterpieces you create from your new kitchen.
 
Author Comment
Kristen M. October 19, 2021
Thank you so much, Peggy.
 
Deborah October 14, 2021
Hi Kristen. Is the chocolate dark, unsweetened chocolate?
 
Author Comment
Kristen M. October 19, 2021
Hi Deborah, I'm sorry for the delay! I usually use chopped dark (but still sweetened) chocolate or semi-sweet chocolate chips.
 
Deborah October 19, 2021
Thank you Kristen. I really enjoy you, it's like cooking and sharing recipes with my daughter. Please keep doing what you do, no matter where you do it from.
 
daria October 14, 2021
Hello, Kristen!
How do you think, will this dough be suitable as layers for the cake?
 
daria October 14, 2021
Hello, Kristen!
How do you think, will this dough be suitable as layers for the cake?
 
Author Comment
Kristen M. October 19, 2021
I do! It was my daughter's first birthday cake, though only 1 layer and unadorned, but plenty sturdy.
 
daria October 22, 2021
Thank you!
 
jellysquare October 13, 2021
I really want to try this recipe, but how much do the 6 bananas weigh or measure? You may have different sizes and mine are all frozen! Appreciate the weight of the other ingredients. That is how I bake now, everything by weight. The results always turn out perfect.
 
Rosalind P. October 14, 2021
Weights -- Yes!
 
jellysquare October 14, 2021
Found this at:
https://findanyanswer.com/how-many-grams-is-a-large-banana

Small (6–7 inches, 101 grams): 23 grams. Medium (7–8 inches, 118 grams): 27 grams. Large (8–9 inches, 136 grams): 31 grams. Extra large (9 inches or longer, 152 grams): 35 grams.

Equivalent values:

2/3 cup 200 g 7.1 oz
3/4 cup 225 g 7.9 oz
7/8 cup 265 g 9.3 oz
1 cup 300 g 10.6 oz
 
Author Comment
Kristen M. October 19, 2021
Hi all, I'm very much with you on weights in general, but my version of this recipe is very much informed by the practicality of chucking whole overripe bananas in the freezer when I don't know what else to do with them, and using them all up. But I can tell you that I've made this banana bread many, many times with varying sizes of large-ish bananas and it was always very good, except the one time I lost a banana in the bottom of the defrosting bowl—then it was a little less good. If you are more organized about your frozen banana storage than me, please share the weights that are successful for you!
 
jellysquare October 19, 2021
I know what you mean about tossing bananas in the freezer! I weigh them after peeling, or cutting the end off and squeezing them out like toothpaste. So I will do that when I make this!
 
edward C. October 13, 2021
I enjoy watching and learning. I also love the music in the videos. Where can I find your source? Thank you
 
Author Comment
Kristen M. October 19, 2021
I'm checking in with our video team!
 
Author Comment
Kristen M. October 20, 2021
Update! They said we source our music through Artlist.