If the result of a two-second Google search is correct, the first banana bread recipe appeared in Pillsbury’s 1933 Balanced Recipes cookbook, and later found mainstream success with the release of Chiquita Banana’s Recipe Book in 1950. In the six decades that have followed, everyone from Chrissy Teigen, Joanna Gaines, Kourtney Kardashian, divas, Nana, Sally, Southern ladies and everyone else you know have created their own quietly (or not, in Teigen’s case) superlative version.
Despite its lowkey everwhereness, banana bread always seemed to me the equivalent of staying in bed on a rainy day; a cozy, occasional delight. It’s the thing you grab a slice of at the buffet or the brunch table because it’s there, barely even tasting it as it goes down. Then came The Great Quarantine of 2020, and in a matter of weeks banana bread has found itself posturing alongside Dalgona coffee and sourdough as one of the Internet’s Favorite Things; a newfound salve seemingly tailor-made for the isolated reality we’ve found ourselves in.
At last count there are more than 1.3 million posts tagged #bananabread on Instagram; websites are consulting mental health professionals to unpack our newfound obsession; and bloggers are ranking celebrity recipes because what else do they have to do? The point: those of us privileged enough to be bored at home have gone banana bread crazy, and it doesn’t take a therapist to understand that sometimes it’s the most familiar, most utilitarian things that bring us comfort in times of uncertainty. Recipes that are practical, participatory, and whose outcomes don’t depend on their ability to photograph well (though that’s certainly a bonus). Banana bread is not a showpony like an Alison Roman Cookie nor is it as florid as Julia Child’s Boeuf Bourguignon (something I personally say I’ll make “when I have time”).
During the last few quarantined weeks, I’ve seen dozens of varied banana bread recipes surface in my feed and I commend them all. But—and this is where things get controversial—I believe I am the owner of the best one.
To be clear, I did not create this banana bread recipe. It’s my mother-in-law’s, but since my husband and I have started making it, it’s been a gigantic hit with everyone we know. I’ve had fierce banana haters admit it’s delicious and I’ve had people request it for their birthday. Last fall, I got away with making a particularly large loaf for my mother as payment for watching my infant son for a week during a childcare snafu. The bottom line: this banana bread is the best.
Before you dive in (or challenge me), a few tips: Use a hand mixer if you can. You can blend the ingredients by hand but the end result will be denser and the flavors not as symbiotic. Do not use decently ripe bananas, they must be bordering on rotten. Also, do not add nuts. Nuts are for banana muffins, not bread. There’s a difference.