Banana Bread History

A Tale of Two Leavening Agents

Banana bread history tells the interesting story of the development of banana quick bread recipes in the United States following the introduction of baking powder and baking soda.

My Best Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Banana Bread Recipe

Bananas were first sold in the U.S. in 1870. By the turn of the century, they had become hugely popular.

Because bananas are sold in bunches and ripen all at once, one can only wonder what Americans did with the fruit they failed to eat out-of-hand before it spoiled in those days.

They couldn't have frozen them. Modern production of the refrigerator did not begin until after World War II.

I don't suppose they could have made banana smoothies as the blender had not yet been invented. Also, most American cities did not have electrical power until the 1930s.

I am sure they would not have made banana bread with their excess fruit because banana bread recipes depend on baking powder and baking soda for leavening and these handy kitchen helpers were not widely used until much later.

The Rise of Soda Breads

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The U.S. began to import baking soda from England in 1846. The first American factory to produce bicarbonate of soda here was located in New York. The new company adopted the arm and hammer logo in honor of Vulcan, the Roman god of forge and fire.

Baking powder, which contains baking soda, was also discovered in England. A British chemist, Alfred Bird, created it because he wanted to make a yeast-free bread for his wife who was allergic to eggs and wheat.

Chemists around the world began to experiment with phosphoric acid and phosphates for use in food production.

In 1855, Rumsford Baking Powder, the first calcium phosphate baking powder, was patented. Two years later, it was available for sale in U.S. markets.

Bananas During The Great Depression

A Little Boy Holding a Banana Whilst Other Children Gaze Longingly at It
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If ever there were a time in American history when people would have wanted to make use of every scrap, it was during The Great Depression.

By the spring of 1933, nearly one third of all non-farm workers were unemployed.

That was the national average.

Unemployment was running as high as 50% in poor urban areas. During this same time frame, the Dust Bowl teamed up with the economic crash to cause the loss of many Midwestern farms.

These were the toughest times America ever faced.

There was very little in the way of public assistance in those days. Hunger and malnutrition became prevalent.

The first banana bread recipe was published by Pillsbury in 1933. Balanced Recipes was put together by Mary Ellis Ames, Director of the Pillsbury Cooking Service.

This was a spiral-bound collection of 224 recipe cards.

We cannot know if Ms. Ames developed the first banana bread recipe in U.S. banana bread history. However, it is likely that the recipe in her book caused housewives all over America to begin experimenting with their own banana quick bread recipes and kept tons of nutritious fruit from going to waste.

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