Nothing beats the aroma of baking bread, although I suppose that could be said about most baked goods, not just breads. While nothing pleases me more than warm bread slathered in butter, I don’t do much baking myself. And when I do bake, I mostly stick with simple things such as quick breads and drop cookies or biscuits. Sadly, this has more to with laziness than anything else. Wait for dough to rise? Pass. Roll the dough out? Meh. Shape dough with cutters? Way too much work! That’s why this banana bread is so perfect for me–it comes together quickly and is super moist and delicious. It’s so easy, I decided to kick it up with some candied walnuts. Perhaps I’m not so lazy after all.
Quick breads are named for the “quick” leavening process. In the old days, when it came to baking, yeast was just about the only game in town, which made baking an hours-long process. By the mid-nineteenth century, chemical leavening was “rediscovered” and soon became popular. Certainly, Clayton’s Quaker Cook Book (1883–free Kindle edition) has numerous baked goods calling for either bicarbonate soda along with cream of tartar, or baking powder. Although from Best Recipes for Baking (1907) it’s clear that quality varied greatly by brand: “The strength of baking powder varies so much with the different brands that it is impossible to state how much to use.” Uh, good luck with that!
This particular bread is leavened with baking powder and is mixed using the “creaming method.”Â That is, the shortening and sugar are creamed/beaten together first before the other ingredients are added. The end result is a light and moist loaf. The addition of the candied walnuts adds a sweetness, along with a nice candy crunch from the walnuts sprinkled on top. This recipe was adapted from Marcia Adams’ Heirloom Recipes, which is my personal favorite after attempting many banana bread recipes in my lifetime.
First, let’s take care of the walnuts–lightly toast them in a medium pan, then set aside. In that pan, melt the sugar until golden brown. Toss the walnuts back in until coated, then spread on parchment paper to cool off. Chop them when ready to use.
Cream the shortening and sugar until fluffy. Blend in the eggs and vanilla until thick and light yellow. In a separate bowl, mix the flour, baking powder, and salt. Then add them to the sugar mixture, alternating with the mashed banana.
Stir in 1 cup of the walnuts. Then, grease the bottom of an 8-inch loaf pan, and pour the batter evenly inside. Sprinkle the remaining candied walnuts on top.
Bake until golden and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
Serve warm with plenty of butter and a hot cup of tea.
Here’s the printable version:
- ⅓ cup shortening
- ⅔ cup sugar
- 2 large eggs
- 1½ tsp vanilla
- 1¾ cups flour
- 2¾ tsp baking powder
- ½ tsp salt
- 1 cup mashed bananas
- Candied walnuts
- 1 cup walnut halves
- ½ cup sugar
- pinch salt
- Preheat oven to 350F.
- Beat the shortening, in a large mixer bowl, until creamy. Gradually add the sugar, beating until light and fluffy. Add the eggs and vanilla, beating until thick and pale yellow in color.
- In a separate bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder, and salt.
- With the mixer on low, gradually add the flour to the creamed shortening mixture, alternating with the mashed bananas. Combine well after each addition.
- Fold in 1 cup of the candied walnuts, then pour batter evenly into a greased 4½ x 8½ inch loaf pan that's been greased on the bottom.
- Sprinkle the remaining candied walnuts on top, and bake for 50-55 minutes, or until done. (A toothpick inserted in the center should come out clean.)
- Let this cool for about 10 minutes before removing from the pan.
- Best when serve warm with copious amounts of butter!
- Lightly toast walnuts in a non-stick pan over medium heat, set aside to cool.
- Meanwhile, melt the sugar over medium heat, stirring until golden brown. Once the sugar is completely melted and browned, toss in the walnuts, coating evenly.
- Spread the candied walnuts on parchment paper to cool. Chop when cooled. Makes just over 1 cup.
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