Thinking of my first connection to banana nut bread takes me back to high school where I took Home Economics and learned the basics in cooking and baking. The simplicity of making the recipe along with the smell and delicious taste of the bread made it my favorite bread instantly. The banana nut bread recipe has changed throughout the decades with new versions that were made adaptable to the time period and creative inventiveness, but the thing that remains constant is the sweet taste of the ripe bananas that is present in all the recipes. As for my recipe, I incorporated chocolate chips at the request of my then six-year old son. Additionally, for practicality reasons, I opted to make muffins instead of the traditional loaf. The recipe was a hit and I have been making banana nut chocolate chip muffins for many years now. With the posting of this recipe, I have decided to name the muffins after my son, Jesse, who inspired this version of the recipe.
History of Banana Bread
The making of banana bread emerged during the Great Depression with the 1929 stock market crash, when the need to make the most of every scrap of food was eminent and throwing away over ripe bananas was not an option. Out of the need to preserve and make use of these bananas evolved incorporating bananas into bread.
According to PJ Hamel’s article, “A Short History of Banana Bread,” the rise in popularity of banana bread also came with the invention of baking powder and baking soda in the 1930’s. Before then, housewives used pearlash. Pearlash is a refined form of potash, and it produces carbon dioxide gas in dough (FoodReference.com) Soon after banana bread recipes started to appear in cookbooks. Pillsbury’s Balanced Recipes cookbook is credited as featuring the first banana bread recipe. This led to more recipes and varieties of the bread, many with the inclusion of nuts and other different ingredients and spices.
Banana nut bread is still a staple to this day and is very much a comfort food. Simple to make using basic ingredients that are found in just about any kitchen, this bread is a must try for anyone and is sure to be a regular addition to your baking list.
Varieties, Evolution through the Decades
The making of banana bread has changed and evolved throughout the decades. Hamel explains the changes over time in his article, starting, with the 1930s, where the use of wheat bran was incorporated in the recipe. Bran was an inexpensive bulk filler. In the 1940s, the recipes for banana bread use one less egg and called on sour milk or buttermilk. The 1950s, emerged the use of nuts in the loaves and the bread was low-fat, low-sugar, less bananas and un-spiced. Probably, not too tasty. During the 1960s through the 1970s, the incorporation of vanilla, almond, orange, nutmeg, and even coffee made it to some recipes, making this bread very fragrant and tasteful. The 1980s brought a whole wheat flour into the recipe and the increase use of butter. The 1990s was a decade where many people used food as “creative expression.” As such, recipes from that era called for well balanced flavors and a moist texture, with the use of spices such as cinnamon and nutmeg. And finally, to our current decade, the 2000s. A time when more than ever, people are being more mindful about what they eat and strive be fit and trim. The recipes I’ve seen online recently call for less sugar, less nuts, and include other types of sweeteners, like honey and stevia.
Bananas Nutritional Facts
According to the online website Healthline, a medium sized banana contains:
- 89 calories
- 75% water
- 1 grams of protein
- 8 grams of carbs
- 2 grams of sugar
- 6 grams of fiber
- 3 grams of fat
Bananas are a good source of potassium and are high in vitamin B6 and C. (Arnarson, May 2019). They are great for quick snacks or breakfast on the go. They are practical, low fat, and easy to tote around which make them perfect for the fast lifestyle we all currently find ourselves in.
Walnuts Nutritional Facts
According to the online website Healthline, a one ounce serving of walnuts (about 14 halves) contains:
- 185 calories
- 4% water
- 3 grams of protein
- 9 grams of carbs
- 7 grams of sugar
- 9 grams of fiber
- 5 grams of fat
Walnuts are an excellent source of vitamins and minerals including copper, folic acid, phosphorus, vitamin B6, manganese, and vitamin E. They contain a high percentage of omega-3 fat and is made up of protein and polyunsaturated fat (Arnarson, March 2019). Consuming walnuts has many health benefits including decreasing heart disease (when combined with healthy lifestyle habits), cancer prevention, and can improve brain function. Walnuts, when eaten in moderation, are a great snack and a great alternative to potato chips and other non-healthy snack foods we tend to reach for.
Some fun and interesting facts about bananas and banana nut bread include:
- February 23rd is National Banana Bread day
- Banana nut bread is a quick bread (as it contains no yeast)
- Pillsbury’s Balanced Recipe cookbook published the first banana bread recipe
- Banana bread became more widely accepted when a recipe appeared in the Chiquita Bananas recipe book in 1950
- There are over 1,000 varieties of bananas, grown in more than 150 countries
- Bananas are not only yellow. There are pink and even blue bananas!
- Bananas come in different shapes and sizes
1 ¼ cups sugar
½ c butter or margarine, softened
1 ½ cups mashed very ripe bananas (3 to 4 medium)
½ c buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 ½ cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
½ cup chopped walnuts* (see note)
½ cup chocolate chips
- Heat oven to 350°. Grease (or use cooking spray) sides and bottoms of muffin tin or use cupcake/muffins and omit the greasing or using spray.
- Cream sugar and softened butter in a large bowl.
- Add eggs, mashed bananas, buttermilk and vanilla. Beat on medium speed with electric mixer until smooth.
- Stir in flour, baking soda, salt, chopped walnuts and chocolate chips until moistened.
- Carefully pour batter into muffin liners (I like to add extra chips on top).
- Bake muffins for twenty minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. If needed, return to the oven for one or two more minutes. As all ovens are different, adjust time accordingly.
- Cool for approximately ten minutes.
Some notes before you begin: it’s best to gather all of the ingredients before you get started and measure everything. In particular, make sure the walnuts are chopped and the bananas are mashed before you begin your recipe. I use a regular knife and cutting board to chop the walnuts, but I am sure you can use a food processor, if you have one, for this step. This way, you will be able to add your ingredients seamlessly. I use a fork in step two to combine the softened butter with the sugar. It is important that the butter and sugar are creamed completely. You can use an electric mixer or a KitchenAid for step three. I use a spoon on step four when combining the dry ingredients-flour, baking soda, salt, nuts and chocolate chips together . I carefully stir and fold. Ensure the batter is completely moistened and mixed before going to step five. It’s also important not to over stir.
Additional note: you can omit the chocolate chips and double the nuts in the recipe. I always make one batch of with nuts and chocolate chips and another batch just nuts.
The walnuts can be used straight from the bag or can be toasted, cooled and then chopped for an enhanced flavor and texture. Walnuts can be toasted in the oven or on the stove. Toasting walnuts is easy to do and will add a rich tasting flavor to your muffins. Although not necessary, I highly recommend this step.
Instructions for toasting walnuts in the oven:
- Preheat oven to 350º. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper or foil.
- Arrange walnuts in a single layer on lined baking sheet.
- Toast for approximately 5 to 10 minutes, until browned and fragrant, stirring occasionally.
- Remove from oven, let cool, then chop or use as desired.
Instructions for toasting walnuts on the stove:
- Toss walnuts in a medium skillet over medium heat.
- Heat walnuts until browned and fragrant for about 2 to 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Remove from skillet, let cool, the chop or use as desired.
I often bake these muffins and take them to work for meetings or just as a “pick me up” at work for my staff to enjoy with coffee. To this date, I still have family members who give me their over ripe bananas and ask me to make muffins for them.
Through the years, I’ve always enjoyed baking, and making these banana nut chocolate chips muffins are probably the item I bake the most. I especially love to bake in the fall and winter and during cold nights as the oven warms up the house. Additionally, nothing beats the smell of bread baking in the oven. The smell is so welcoming and to me evokes the memories I have associated with my family. I especially like the simplicity in making these muffins and their delicious taste. The buttermilk is an important component in this recipe as it is what makes the muffins so moist. The next time you are looking for an easy homemade muffin idea, I invite you to make my delicious banana nut chocolate chip muffins and hopefully they will be part of your family’s memories as well.
Arnarson, Atli. (2019, May 07). Bananas 101: Nutrition Facts and Health Benefits. Retrieved from Healthline: https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/foods/bananas
Arnarson, Atli. (2019, March 26). Walnuts 101: Nutrition Facts and Health Benefits. Retrieved from Healthline:https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/foods/walnuts
Banana Bread History. Retrieved from Food Reference.com. http://www.foodreference.com/html/artbananabrd.html
Hamel, PJ. (2017,02,23). A Short Story of Banana Bread. Retrieved from King Arthur Flour: https://www.kingarthurflour.com/blog/2017/02/23/short-history-of-banana-bread
Stephens, Emily. (2018, May, 16). 7 Fun Facts About Bananas and Banana Bread You Didn’t Know. Retrieved from My Great Recipes: https://www.mygreatrecipes.com/blog/7-fun-facts-about-bananas-and-banana-bread-you-didnt-know/