1970’s Whole Wheat Banana Bread

cooling bread in pan for 5 minutes

I became a vegetarian during college in the early 1970’s.  When I moved to Tokyo six years later, I gave up this proclaimed role, because of my need to be open to all foods proffered by my Japanese hosts.

While abstaining from meat and fish, I searched for healthy alternatives in an array of natural food cook books.  There I found treasured recipes which I still use today; one was for this powerfully good, whole wheat banana bread.

Bananas have a long history.  Alexander the Great discovered them growing in the Indus Valley in 327 B.C.; they had been cultivated, however, in India since 2000 B.C.  Documentation dated in the 7th century shows that China was using them in abundance also.1

Portuguese explorers reported this same fruit in western Africa in 1482, where it probably had been grown for a long time; these Europeans adopted its local name Musa sapientum, which was originally given this fruit by Alexander the Great.  In 1496, Spanish conquerors found an intense cultivation of bananas in Tenerife in the Canary Islands.2

Nevertheless, the United States didn’t experience this tropical fruit until 1804, and then only in a limited way for the next 50 years; this delectable was imported infrequently, in such relatively small quantities as 300 stems, by sailing ships coming from the Caribbean or Central American ports.3

In 1830, during this early inactive period, Capt. John Pearsall brought the first full cargo of bananas, 1500 stems, to New York.  This man later became a N.Y. commission agent, specializing in the import of this prized fruit.  In the mid-nineteenth century, he went bankrupt when his shipment of 3,000 stems arrived too ripe to sell; big money was tied up in each of these loads, for then a “finger” sold at the exorbitant price of 25 cents wholesale.4   This was at a time when factory workers, consisting of women and children, were making between 25-50 cents per day.5

More and more cargoes from Honduras and Costa Rica were reaching New Orleans, New York, and Boston during the two decades before 1870, the year when large-scale banana traffic really began.  As the 70’s opened, the now more abundant bananas were sold, foil-wrapped, at a fair in Philadelphia for 10 cents a stem; it was the first time many of these fair goers had ever indulged in this delight.6

By 1885, 10,000 stem cargoes were being shipped from Jamaica in 10 to 12 days. Next, just prior to the turn of the century, this exotic fruit spread to inland America by rail express.7

Now, however, bananas are common and cheap; every American has experienced them, along with their familiar sweetbread.  This 45-year-old banana bread recipe is one of the best among thousands.  Here I have included grams, as someone recently requested that most accurate of measurements for my baking receipts; measuring in grams insures foolproof baking.   Nevertheless I can’t express how easy and certain this preparation is, even with cup measurements, for I could make it with my eyes closed.  Receive!

  1. James Trager, The Food Chronology (New York: Henry Holt and Company, Inc., 1995), pp. 18, 9, 41.
  2. Ibid., pp. 78, 18, 81.
  3. Ibid., p. 196.
  4. Ibid., pp. 217, 234.
  5. Stanley Lebergott, Chapter: Wage Trends, 1800-1900, The Conference on Research in Income and Wealth, The Trends in American Economy in the Nineteenth Century (Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1960), pp. 449-500.
  6. James Trager, The Food Chronology (New York: Henry Holt and Company, Inc., 1995), pp. 283, 301.
  7. Ibid., pp. 320, 360.

wheat grinding attachment on a kitchen aid

Whole Wheat Banana Bread  Yields 1 loaf.  Total prep time: 1 hr & 25 min/  active prep time: 25 min/  baking time: 1 hr.

1 cup (136 grams) whole wheat flour  (Bob’s Red Mill is high quality.)

1/2 cup (64 grams) unbleached white flour  (May grind 1 cup organic, hard red spring wheat berries to make total 1 1/2 cups-204 grams-flour.)

1/4 cup (60 grams) cream* or milk, soured with juice from lemon ball

1/2 cup (113 grams) butter, softened

3/4 cup (165 grams) brown sugar, packed  (Organic brown sugar is preferable, which is available at Trader Joe’s, or may substitute a healthier 3/4 cup-95 grams-coconut sugar.)

1 large egg (51 grams)

1 tsp (7 grams) baking soda

3/4 tsp (4.26 grams) salt  (Real Salt is important for optimum health; available in health section of local supermarket.)

2 large or 3 small ripe bananas (375 grams), 1 1/4 cup  (May ripen these overnight by gently, but firmly, squeezing the whole banana, until meat is mushy under the skin; let sit at least 8 hours.)

1 tsp (4.2 grams) vanilla

1/2 cup (62 grams) nuts, optional

Spray oil  (Pam coconut spray is best; our local Winco brand, however, makes this preferred spray for less than half the expense.)

Flour for dusting sprayed pan

  1. If using fresh ground flour, begin grinding 1 cup hard red spring wheat berries now (this berry makes a dense nutritious bread, which is extremely high in protein-one serving has the protein of an egg or 7 grams), see photo.
  2. Measure cream* or milk in a medium/large bowl; squeeze several squirts of lemon juice from a ball over surface; let sit until soured, about 10 minutes.
  3. Beat butter in a large bowl until light and fluffy; mix in sugar thoroughly; add egg, beating extra well; set aside.
  4. In a medium/ large bowl, mix together flour, baking soda, and salt; set aside.
  5. When cream/milk is soured (cream will appear curdled more than milk), add bananas to bowl and mash well with a fork; blend in vanilla; set aside.
  6. Add alternately flour and banana mixtures to butter mixture.  When all is incorporated, mix in optional nuts.  Beat well.
  7. Spray a 9 x 5, or 8 x 4, inch loaf pan; lightly dust with flour; pour batter in prepared pan.  (This bread will be denser when made in the smaller pan.)
  8. Bake for 55-60 minutes, or until bread responds, bounces back, when pressed with finger.  May also test with a toothpick; it is done when toothpick comes out, of soft area in crust, clean.  Do not over bake.
  9. Cool in pan for 5 minutes; then, remove and finish cooling on rack; see top photo.  Keeps well in refrigerator, wrapped in paper towel, and sealed in gallon size storage bag.
  10. This is a staple in my home!

Onion Bread

Grinding flour with a wheat grinding attachment on a kitchen aid

Bread is proverbially known as the staff of life.  Indeed, my onion bread promotes vitality in body and soul; how it nourishes.

Words, as well as bread, establish the life force in each of us.  As my blog unfolds each week, I passionately look up even the simplest definitions; thus, I am able to best express my vision to you.

I see maxims in cooking, succinct formulations of principles or rules of conduct, which subsequently transfer over to our everyday existence.  My specific choice of terms, defining food preparation, displays concise truth that releases liberty to our total person.

Each written expression must have the precise force to propel that which is being born in my thoughts.  My broad scope for this website is to set captives free from all hindrances to receiving healthy nutriments; my salutary insights first change our natural physiques, then invigorate our minds, last heal our emotions and spirits.

It has been spoken that the word of God is the bread of life.  We find freedom with it, as it produces needed change, which sheds light on the hidden fractures in our being.  This day may you be rejuvenated in my life-sustaining English meanings, God’s word, and this good onion loaf?

To gain this we must rise to action, by taking courage; one must purpose to step into the unknown.  Read on to grasp how the fundamentals of bread baking transfer to indefatigable living.

Let’s start with the practical first: may I encourage us to take a leap of faith by nimbly making bread with a food processor?  Blessings follow immediately with the remarkable ease which replaces this otherwise messy/time-consuming work.  Quickly we master making homemade bread using my simple, detailed directions; these comprehensive steps will circumvent all mistakes.  Let us allow ourselves the luxury of a little practice, which guarantees ultimate perfection.

There will always be new horizons, with greater challenges to overcome, as we walk through life.  Our proper attitude about this allows us to approach necessary growth with unspeakable joy and confidence.  It is, however, critical to learn the power of patience-both that needed in times of trouble and, equally important, the calm endurance required while waiting for promised good.

Faith is critical in learning this quiet process of baking bread, as well as achieving tireless living.  Take my pledge that simple, better bread is fool-proof if you honor my comfortable instructions.  Likewise effortless patterns of existence are more readily obtainable, as we draw upon my maxims between cooking and living; we dare to reach out for superlatives.

Now for the final stretch: when the time is right, invest in a wheat grinder for optimum health-giving bread with a long shelf life.  Grinding our own wheat is a quick, one-step process: we merely place the mixing bowl under the wheat grinding attachment on a kitchen aid, turn the machine on, and have the purest of flours minutes later (see top photo).  If you don’t have a kitchen aid, it is possible to buy less expensive appliances that only grind wheat.  Trust, you won’t be sorry that you made this investment!

easy mincing of onion

Onion Bread  Yields: 1 loaf.  Total prep time: 3 1/4 hr/  active prep time: 45 min/  inactive prep time: 2 hr/  baking time: 30 min.

Note: these steps are detailed, making this process easy to learn.  Also see my 1920’s Portland Cocoa Bread (2016/05/30).

1 3/8 cups tepid water, 105 to 115 degrees

1 1/2 small, individual packets yeast  (May measure 3 tsp of Red Star Active Dry Yeast, from an inexpensive 2 lb package, available at Costco, store in freezer.)

2 tbsp plus 1/4 tsp sugar

1 cup unbleached white flour  (Bob’s Red Mill is high quality.)

3 cups whole wheat flour  (If desired, grind 2 2/3 cup organic hard red spring wheat berries to make the total 4 cups of flour.)

1 1/4 tsp salt  (Real Salt is important for optimum health; available in the nutrition section at local supermarkets.)

1 cup yellow onion, minced  (1 medium/large yellow onion needed, refer to step 3 and above photo for easy mincing.)

4 tbsp dried chopped onion  (Available in bulk; also in jars in the spice section; save all jars and refill yearly with fresh, inexpensive bulk spices; place adhesive tape with date of purchase on each jar.)

1-13 gallon plastic bag

1/8-1/4 cup oil  (Any kind will do.)

Spray oil  (Coconut spray oil is best; PAM makes a good one.)

  1. If grinding your own flour, begin to do so now (see top photo).
  2. Place 1/4 cup tepid water in a small bowl, stir in yeast and 1/4 tsp sugar.  Let rest in a warm place for about 10 min, or until it doubles in size.  (When using yeast from the freezer, it will take twice the time to proof, or double in size.)
  3. Meantime mince the onion the easy way (see photo).  Peel it leaving the root on; next, score this by cutting slices close together across the top one way, going 3/4 of the way down into the onion; then, turn it and cut slices the opposite direction.  When onion is prepared thus, shave the minced pieces off the end with a sharp knife.  Set aside chopped onion, save leftovers for other cooking.
  4. In an 11 cup (or larger) food processor blend well: flour, 2 tbsp sugar, salt, minced fresh onion, and dried onion.
  5. When yeast mixture is doubled, add it and 1 1/8 cup of water to flour mixture in food processor.  (Note: coffee measures are 1/8 cup; Good Cook, available at our local Winco, has a cheap one.)  Knead for 40 seconds.  Let cool by resting for 4 minutes; be aware that processing heats dough, which kills the yeast, if cooling is not allowed.
  6. After dough has cooled, knead again for 40 seconds.  Let rest for 4 minutes.  At this point it should feel quite moist to the touch.  It will need to be wet as you take it out and knead by hand for 5 minutes, because a lot of moisture is absorbed as you knead by hand.  (This is especially true when you grind your own flour.)  Lightly flour hands and counter top as needed while kneading wet dough.  When it sticks to hands, it helps to regularly wash and dry them.  Add more flour and wash hands repeatedly, as you knead.  Dough should be soft, slightly moist, but not sticky, and rather smooth, with the exception of the onion bumps, when finished.
  7. In the case dough becomes too stiff to knead easily, place back in food processor, add 1-2 tbsp of water, depending on how stiff it is, and follow kneading instructions in step 6.
  8. Again, dough will be soft, elastic, and smooth to the touch (minus the onion bumps) when kneading is complete.
  9. Place in a 13 gallon plastic bag, in which you have evenly distributed 1/8-1/4 cup of oil.  Let rise in a warm place for 50-60 minutes, or until doubled.
  10. Punch dough down, forming it into a loaf, place in a bread pan sprayed with oil.  Also spray a piece of plastic wrap with oil, drape this loosely in and around the loaf.
  11. Let rise for 50-60 minutes, or until doubled.
  12. 30 minutes into this last proofing time, be sure to preheat the oven to 400 degrees; this insures oven is ready when dough has risen.
  13. Remove plastic wrap when loaf is doubled.  Bake 27-30 minutes, or until it sounds hallow when tapped on bottom with fingers.  (Temperatures vary slightly from oven to oven, my oven takes 27 minutes.)
  14. Cool thoroughly on rack.  This keeps well in refrigerator for 3-4 weeks, when wrapped in paper towel and sealed in a storage bag.
  15. This process becomes extremely easy and quick with practice!  Enjoy.

Cocoa Bread from 1920’s Portland, Oregon

Roaring twenties' cocoa bread

‘roaring twenties’ cocoa bread and fresh rosemary loaf

The spell-binding Cupid’s Book was a cookbook published twice in this city of roses in the 1920’s.  The downtown retailers enticed the brides-to-be into their shops with colorful advertisements, bountiful recipes, and good instructions on how to be a wife in these two editions.

The recipe for cocoa bread is the best of this collection.  It is a slice of heaven!  Unsweetened cocoa powder lends a flavor to this yeast loaf that makes one think of pumpernickel, with the first bite.  Hints of chocolate surface as one experiences it further.

I discovered this blessing, while I was researching at the Oregon History Center’s excellent library, during my graduate work.  1991 marked the completion of  my Master’s Degree, at which point I had exhausted every inkling to food in this archive.  My 114 page thesis, which they have on file,  closely documents the library’s details on nutrition.  It was here that I found the two romantic cook books appropriately named Cupid’s Book.

Bread is the staff of life!  It sustains one’s soul when made with love from scratch.  I grind the flour for all my bread from organic, hard red spring wheat berries.  My understanding is these, of all the wheat berries, have the highest content of protein.  One serving has 7 grams of this compound, the same as an egg.

The superb quality of the freshly ground flour allows the bread to last for up to six weeks.  However it is necessary to wrap it in paper towel to absorb the moisture, which keeps it from molding.  Always store the bread in an air tight storage bag.  Toasting it brings out optimum freshness.

Making bread with a food processor is quick and mess-free.  I encourage you to venture out using my technique; learning this will bless you with easy, homemade bread forever.

Be nourished by the baking and eating of this luscious loaf!

bread dough in food processor

bread dough in food processor

Cocoa Bread  This is adapted from a recipe in Cupid’s Book (Portland, Oregon: Oregon History Center, 1921, 1925). Yields: 1 loaf.  Total prep time: 3 hr/  active prep time: 30 min/ inactive prep time: 2 hr/  baking time: 30 min.

1/4 cup tepid water (Temperature should be 105-115 degrees.)

1 1/2 individual packages active dry yeast  (I use 3 tsp of Red Star Active Dry Yeast, which I buy in a 2 lb package at Costco; I keep this in the freezer.)

1/3 cup, plus 1/4 tsp, sugar  (Organic cane sugar is best; available at Trader Joe’s in 2 lb package, or less expensive at Costco in 10 lb package.)

2 1/2 cups whole wheat flour  (Bob’s Red Mill flour is best.)

1 1/2 cups unbleached white flour, more as needed  (You may grind 2 2/3 cups organic hard red spring wheat berries to make the total 4 cups of flour.)

1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1 1/4 tsp salt  (Real Salt is best; available in nutrition center of your local supermarket.)

1 1/4 cups of milk  (May use alternative milks, such as soy or almond.)

3 tbsp oil  (Any kind of oil will do, for oiling the inside of a 13-gallon plastic bag.)

Spray oil  (Coconut spray oil is best.)

  1. Dissolve yeast and 1/4 tsp sugar in 1/4 cup water.  Let sit for 10 minutes, or until it foams, looks creamy, and is doubled in size.  If using frozen yeast, it takes about 20 minutes to proof or double.
  2. In an 11 cup (or larger) food processor, blend well the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, and salt.  Stir, also, with the hard plastic spatula provided with food processor.
  3. Add yeast mixture and milk to flour.  Knead for 40 seconds.  Let rest for 4 minutes.  Knead one more time for 40 seconds.  (Note: processing dough will heat it and kill the yeast if cooling isn’t allowed.)
  4. IF dough is stiff to the touch, do the following steps: add water, 1 tbsp at a time; knead with machine for 40 seconds; let rest for 4 minutes; test to see if dough is soft and slightly wet.  Repeat steps if necessary.
  5. When dough is soft and somewhat wet, take out and knead by hand for 5 minutes.  If dough becomes stiff and hard to knead, place in processor again and add 1 tbsp of water; follow the above steps.  If dough is too wet and sticky, dust hands with small amounts of flour to facilitate kneading.  It helps to wash hands, if dough is stuck to them.  Dough should be soft and smooth to the touch after kneading.
  6. Place in a 13 gallon plastic bag, in which 3 tbsp of oil is evenly distributed. Let rise in a warm place for 50-60 minutes, or until double.
  7. Punch down and form into a loaf.  Place in a bread pan sprayed with oil. Spray piece of plastic wrap with oil.  Drape loosely over loaf.
  8. Let rise 50-60 minutes, or until double.  (Proofing times vary with each loaf.  Know you’ve proofed it too long, if it has an air bubble underneath the crust after baking.)
  9. Be sure to preheat oven to 400 degrees, after bread has proofed for 30 minutes; this insures oven is ready when bread has risen.
  10. Remove plastic wrap when loaf is double.  Bake for 27-30 minutes, or until loaf sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom.  (Temperatures vary slightly from oven to oven; my oven takes 27 minutes.)
  11. Cool on rack.  Enjoy!