The Fresh Loaf

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Mrs. Wilson's Banana Bread

Debra Wink's picture
Debra Wink

Mrs. Wilson's Banana Bread

I haven't posted to my blog in a while, so it's high time I do. I've been away on vacation for a few weeks, which is why I haven't participated lately, nor have I been baking either. My husband and I just got back from a road trip we took to Charleston, South Carolina. Beautiful town... ever been? Unfortunately for us, the weather was gray and rainy for a good bit of our trip, so when the sun smiled down on us for one whole day, we put on our walking shoes and headed downtown. We traversed our way through the streets, admiring the architecture and beautiful old mansions, the many small graveyards tucked in here and there, and dined on some pretty amazing seafood (something we miss here in the heartland). Just as the sun was getting low, we happened upon a sort of open-air market, where locals hawk their wares.

We meandered through oodles of sweet grass baskets, art, leather, jewelry, spices, etc., until my husband zeroed in on cookbooks. He was on a quest to find gumbo recipes. The booth's owner directed him to a few of the popular ones, and then handed him Charleston Receipts, "America's oldest Junior League cookbook in print." I flipped to the copyright page to see when it was published and found that the first printing of 2000 was November of 1950. It must have been an immediate hit, because they printed 3000 more just one month later. And the thirty-third printing in 2007 brings the total to over 800,000 by my calculations. That's a lot of books. I haven't even looked at the gumbos yet, because I'm still flipping through the baking sections. I love old cookbooks. Anyway...  

As we were packing up to leave Charleston, we had a couple bananas left from a bunch we bought at the beginning of the week. They were already past the point of good eating, so I threw them in the bag to cart back with us, estimating that they would be about perfect for making banana bread by the time we got home. And wouldn't you know it, there's a "receipt" for that :-)

Banana Bread

1 3/4 cups sifted flour (I still have some White Lily from a previous trip south, so I used that)
2 teaspoons baking powder (I used Argo, of course)
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup shortening (I chose unsalted butter)
2/3 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 cup mashed banana

You mix this one just like a butter cake---cream the "shortening" and sugar, beat in the eggs one at a time, sift together and add the dry ingredients alternately with the liquid (in this case, the bananas). The batter is turned into an 8 1/2 x 4 1/2" loaf pan and baked at 350ºF. The recipe says about 70 minutes, but mine was done in 45-50.

I'm not at all sure who to give proper credit for this recipe, because the conventions used in the book aren't explained. I'm going to guess the contributor was a Mrs. Robert Wilson, Jr., but she got it from Gabrielle McColl...  I really don't know. Thank you Mrs. Wilson and Gabrielle McColl, whoever and wherever you are!

Now I must tell you, either the temperature was too high or my pan too dark, because the edges are a bit over-browned. I will bake at 325º next time, or 300º with convection, which I find is usually best for anything in a deep pan like this. Regardless, the crumb is just wonderful---moist, tender and fine-textured. I think a double recipe could make a fine bundt cake. It might even be a nice layer cake, made with cake or pastry flour. This is dessert.   -dw

Edited 12/20/18 to fix a broken link


SylviaH's picture

I loved your story and photos and the banana bread!  What a beautiful vacation!  Thank you for sharing!


Debra Wink's picture
Debra Wink

It really was beautiful---thanks Sylvia!

P.S.  Did you change your avatar again?

Susan's picture

It was nice to "go home again" via your post, as I hail from North Carolina and am familiar with the places you visited.  Perhaps one day I'll get to Missouri to see its sights, too.

Your banana bread looks yummy.

Susan from San Diego

Debra Wink's picture
Debra Wink

Boy are you a long way from home! California is beautiful too (we really enjoyed Napa Valley)---I look forward to getting back there again some day.


avatrx1's picture

Our son had joined the Navy and therefore spent 2 years going thru Nuclear Power School in Goose Creek. not far from Charleston.  Although my hubby and I are self-employed, starving people who rarely take vacations ( about 6 in 37 years) we always were able to justify a trip to SC in order to attend one of our son's graduation ceremonies.  There were 3 of them.

I have use my seagrass basket to raise bread.  I purchased it at the King's Street Market.  That is most likely the open air market you spoke about.

My step brother (owner of the renowned Pigs in a Pen Catering business) lives in PIttsboro, NC and we typically included a visit to his house when we went east.  Because we usually left on a Thursday and had to be back by Tuesday - (we drove every time) we didn't get much time to see the sights either, but we did enjoy travelling thru the area and thru Mayberry and Mount Pilot (famous from the Andy Griffith shows).

Its' one of the only times I indulge in country ham and grits - YUM!  and Seafood!  YUM.  Deep fried softshell clams and raw oysters right off the boat!  and I have to mention my brother CAN COOK!  I'd gain 10 lbs in a week if I were to visit him very often.


edited to say I live on the IL/WI border so a trip out there was a treat!



Debra Wink's picture
Debra Wink

Not sure about the name. On the map, it's just labeled as 'the market,' and is four long, narrow buildings running down the middle of Market Street from Meeting to East Bay (3 blocks). I didn't see a sign (but I wasn't exactly looking for one either :-)

I was surprised at how sturdy those sweetgrass baskets were. They look more delicate than they are. The prettiest ones I saw were at Boone Hall Plantation. There were two women making their baskets in one of the slave cabins there as part of the display. I don't know why theirs were different, but they had more aqua coloring in them and they were just more artistic, somehow.

I know what you mean about the food---it is so rich. I never found clams, but I had fried oysters, crab legs and fried soft-shell crab, fish, coconut shrimp, and shrimp and grits (with bacon and cheese, oh my!). What saved us was a brisk 3-mile walk after breakfast every morning, and sightseeing on foot all afternoon. We got so much exercise that I managed not to gain any weight---YAY!

avatrx1's picture

Market Street.  That's it.  Maybe it was a turn onto King street that I was thinking of.  Somewhere I think the name King came in somewhere.

They have some beautiful carvings there.  I bought a wood carving of a man leaning against a post smoking a pipe.  All hand carved out of some type of dark wood.  I had to prop him against something because the bottom wasn't perfectly level.  I also bought a seagrass basket and a salad bowl.  I could have spend a fortune there, but managed to get out of there in time!


RobynNZ's picture

Delicious looking banana bread. Here in NZ, there have been a number of 'afternoon tea' recipe books published this year, some of them based on the 'best recipes' from the old community fundraiser recipe collections. Notably many of the older recipes have more sugar and butter than tends to be used these days so there was quite a lot work done to come up with recipes that taste nostalgically familiar while being more in tune with current dietary needs (so few of us doing manual work these days!).  There has been quite a revival of home baking here in these recessionary times, no doubt this has also been a contributing factor to the growth of this site too.

Thank you it was a pleasure to share your beautiful photos, with the synergy of your commentary.

Debra Wink's picture
Debra Wink

Here's the banana bread I usually make. Instead of white flour, white sugar and white fat, it uses whole wheat flour, natural sweatener and healthy oil. It won't give you the same texture that the white stuff does, but it's good, and something I can live with. Maybe you'll like it. Sometimes I smear a slice with peanut butter for an afternoon pick-me-up, or spoon on some sliced strawberries for a healthier "shortcake."

This is from The Country Inn and Bed & Breakfast Cookbook by Kitty and Lucian Maynard, but was contributed by the Poipu Plantation in Koloa, Hawaii.

Quick and Easy Banana Bread

2 eggs
3-4 bananas, mashed
1/4 cup oil
1/2 cup honey (I prefer 3/4 cup)
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 cups whole wheat flour (preferably white whole wheat, or www pastry flour)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup shopped nuts
1 cup raisins (I leave them out---maybe that's why I need more honey)

Combine all ingredients and bake at 375F, about 45 minutes. Makes one loaf.

I prefer to mix wet and dry ingredients separately, and then stir together just to combine: Mix the flour, soda and salt together, and stir in the nuts and raisins if using. In a separate bowl, whisk the eggs and oil together and add the honey. Mash the bananas with the lemon juice and stir into the honey mixture. Combine with the flour mixure.

Some of the recipes in this book don't give detailed instructions. And this one doesn't specify a loaf size, but if you put in all the nuts and raisins, you will need to use a 9x5 or a combination of smaller pans. Bake at 325-convection if you have it. Be careful not to overbake, as that will make the bread dry. Adding more honey not only tastes better IMO, but gives the bread more moisture. Agave nectar would probably work here too, but I haven't tried it yet.


RobynNZ's picture

The banana bread recipe I use was given to me when I stayed in Bamfield, Vancouver Island around 15 years ago. It's been passed on countless times since then. I often make it up as muffins and always keep some ripe bananas in the freezer. So the ones there now will be used with your recipe. Thank you.

ehanner's picture

Your travel photos are postcard worthy, very nice. Charleston is a wonderful town. I've been there a number of times and always tried to eat the soft shell crabs when in season.

The Banana bread pix are just perfect. Looks delicious. Thanks for sharing Deb.


Debra Wink's picture
Debra Wink

I got to eat a soft-shell crab---my first one.

audra36274's picture

for sharing. It is such a beautiful spot for a getaway. I have always wanted to go back ot Biltmore at Christmas. They brag of over a hundred Christmas trees decorated. I wondered if the trees were showing good color this year up there. Ours are usually a month behind. Can't afford to go this year for sure, so thanks for letting me visit thru you! Fond memories, Jamestown , Va. a sandwich of Virginia ham on Sally Lunn bread made right there in the outdoor WFO. No electricity on the entire village. Everything was period costume. Sigh....Good times.


Debra Wink's picture
Debra Wink

Audra, we didn't see too much color on the way there, but it was much more evident at the higher elevations on the return trip through the mountains. I'll bet it's approaching peak now.

P.S.  I've never had Sally Lunn, but there's a "receipt" for that too :-)