This recipe is even older than Leefa, who was nearly 100 years old when she died; it was her mother’s and might date back to the mid 19th century. But from all accounts, Mary Jane was an unpleasant woman, so I’ll give the credit for this wonderful recipe to her daughter.
I’ve been making it since the 1970s and it has never failed me yet.
(Don’t be off-put by the buttermilk. I never have it on hand. If you don’t have any, make a substitute by adding about 1 T. vinegar to 1/2 c. whole milk (scant). Let it sit about 10 minutes until it clabbers. Do this first and it will be ready by the time you add it to the batter.)
Makes 2 loaves.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
1/2 c. shortening (I use vegetable oil and it works just fine)
1 c. white sugar
1/2 c. brown sugar
After thoroughly creamed, add:
2 mashed bananas (no chunks, at all)
Then add remaining dry ingredients:
2 c. flour
1t. baking soda
1/4 t. salt
1 t. cinnamon
1/2 c. buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla
After thoroughly mixed, add:
1 c. chopped pecans or walnuts
Pour into 2 greased (Pammed) loaf pans.
Sprinkle tops lightly with sugar (and maybe cinnamon).
Bake at 350 for about 45 minutes on the middle rack in the oven.
Check with a toothpick or a slim knife. If toothpick doesn’t come out clean, turn down the oven temperature about 25 degrees, rotate pan and check again in 10 minutes. Keep checking until done.
When done, run a knife around the edge of the loaf pan to loosen, then remove the bread and place it on a rack to cool.
*To make muffins instead of loaves, add a little extra flour for a stiffer batter.
*The recipe calls for shortening. Years ago, I used a stick of butter or margarine, but now only use vegetable (canola) oil. It works fine.
*The recipe calls for 1 c. white sugar & 1/2 c. brown sugar. Sometimes I use 1 1/2 c. brown sugar (because I like a darker, richer loaf); other times I put in 1 1/4 c. white sugar and a couple of tablespoons of dark unsulphured molasses (Grandma’s brand).
*Cut off all the bad (dark) spots on the bananas.
*Mash bananas thoroughly. Any chunks can result in unpleasant pinkish colored lumps in the finished bread.
*If you dislike really, really ripe (over-ripe) bananas, don’t use them. Your bread will adopt the same wine-y flavor. I never eat bananas after they get any dark spots, but I will bake with them. However, I won’t use black bananas. Baking doesn’t improve them.
*I usually use 2 bananas, but if they’re small, 3. However, more than that will make a heavy batter and it might be difficult to get it completely done in the middle.
*Sometimes I use cinnamon, sometimes nutmeg. If I’m out of nutmeg, a bit of allspice. If you really just want the flavor of the bananas, omit all the spices.
*Nuts improve everything. Pecans or English walnuts both work fine.
*Sprinkling sugar on the tops helps keep the crust from becoming gummy and sticky after it cools. It also gives it a nice texture. I’ve tried sugar on the top of one loaf and none on the other – the sugared loaf always gets eaten first.
*Muffins take a much shorter cooking time. Check them after 20 minutes.
*On high humidity days, I’ve had to increase the cooking time. Just keep checking every 10 minutes or so.
*Is great served plain, with butter or softened cream cheese.