Susie’s Pumpkin Banana Bread

As a missionary for World Impact, our niece Susie spent many years working with Spanish-speaking immigrants, first in California and later in Wichita, Kansas.  She lived in the neighborhood where she ministered, teaching Bible clubs to the kids and various adult classes as well, all designed to guide people to a faith in God and eventually to establish churches.  No longer a missionary, Susie now teaches English as a Second Language in the Wichita school system to students from Asia and Africa as well as many from South and Central America.

She brought two loaves of a golden bread to a family dinner the last time we visited Jerri’s relatives in Kansas.  After two slices I asked her for the recipe and an explanation of how she came to make such a great-tasting treat as Pumpkin Banana Bread.

As she tells the story, when she moved back to Kansas from California, she wanted to plant a new church for underserved Latinos in Wichita.  She recruited a team which spent weeks walking and praying through three lower-income neighborhoods which had a large percentage of Spanish-speaking residents. They wanted to move, and were seeking God’s guidance about which neighborhood was ready for a Spanish-speaking church plant.

On one prayer-walk, they discovered the “perfect house” with a large back yard for BBQ’s and rooms large enough for ESL classes, Bible studies and worship services.  However, the house was already under contract—even if World Impact had been able to afford it. They settled on an empty house with a complicated financial situation that the owners let them use for the summer to teach Bible clubs.  When the bank could not release the building for sale by summer’s end, Susie called to find out if the “perfect house” had in fact been sold.

Surprised to hear that the contract had fallen through, Susie convinced the World Impact leaders to come tour the house. They could see the home’s potential for ministry, and decided to move ahead. With lots of prayer and a very generous gift from a WI board member, Susie and her team had a home for the new church. As Susie concludes the story, “We closed on the house in September, moved in in October, sent out a fund-raising letter in November, and paid off the house completely by the end of the year. ONLY GOD could have done that!”

Susie continues, “So. . . where does the bread fit in? We started an ESL class to get to know our neighbors. We had a big table and a big dining room, and we had fun, lively classes! But in the Latino community, there are always refreshments at every get-together. What could I serve? I bought some delicious Mexican pastries one day, but that proved to be too expensive to do regularly.  So, I decided to serve different kinds of homemade bread and coffee or tea. I made the bread and froze it so I wouldn’t have to bake before each class. The ladies loved the bread, and I accumulated quite a collection of recipes. The Pumpkin-Banana Bread was one of the breads that I served to my ESL class. They enjoyed it, and it also became a favorite of our young director!

“By the way, we planted our church–La Iglesia de Cristo Victorioso! They first met in our living room, but now they have their own building and their own pastor. They are currently completely independent from World Impact and are doing well.”

Here is Susie’s recipe for a really delicious banana bread complemented by pumpkin!

INGREDIENTS:

2 cups granulated sugar

2/3 cup vegetable oil

4 large eggs

3 1/3 cups flour

2 tsp. baking soda

1 tsp. baking powder

1 1/2 tsp. salt

1 tsp. ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp. ginger

2/3 cup water

1 15 oz. can mashed pumpkin

1/2 cup mashed, ripe banana

3/4 cup chopped pecans, toasted

PROCEDURE:

Grease the bottoms and a half-inch up the sides of two 9 x 5″ loaf pans and set them aside.  Preheat the oven to 350º and lightly toast the pecans by stirring them in a small skillet over moderate heat until they begin to change color.  Mash the banana.

In a very large mixing bowl, beat the sugar and oil with an electric mixer on medium speed until they are well blended.  Add the eggs one at a time and beat them into the sugar and oil.

Sift the flour, baking soda, salt, baking powder, cinnamon and ginger into a separate mixing bowl.  Add the flour alternately with the water to the sugar mixture, beating after each addition just until the flour is combined with the liquids. 

Beat in the pumpkin and banana until you have a smooth batter. Blend in the pecans, and spoon the batter into the pans.

Bake for fifty to sixty minutes.  Check for doneness with a toothpick inserted into the center of a loaf.  If it comes out clean, the bread is done. If not, bake for another five to six minutes and check again.

Remove the pans from the oven and allow them to cool for about fifteen minutes on a rack.   Loosen the loaves from the pans and turn them out to finish cooling on the rack. 

NOTES:  Susie says that she often substitutes apple sauce for part of the oil and that you can use more mashed banana.  I mashed a large banana which produced three-fourths of a cup, and the bread turned out fine.  Incidentally, I like to butter my banana bread.

Speaking from experience, I urge you to be very careful when you toast the pecans.  I heat a small cast iron skillet first, pour in the pecans and use a wooden spoon to stir the pecans continuously.  As soon as the nuts begin to change color, remove the pan from the heat and pour the pecans into a small bowl.

As Susie suggests, you can freeze this bread and serve it a couple of weeks later.

Mrs. Deckert’s Hawaiian Banana Bread

My mother’s recipe box has a lot of banana bread recipes in it. Since I like numbers and facts, I was going to count them today. However, I abandoned that project after looking at the third card in the box. It was a recipe for Hawaiian Banana Bread that had no pineapple, macadamia nuts or coconuts. I was intrigued. Why call it Hawaiian?

Mom’s note said “Patsy’s from Mrs. Deckert. Very good.” So I grabbed the cell phone and called my sister.

After telling her of my aborted banana bread counting project I asked, “Why do you call it Hawaiian?”

“That’s what Mrs. Deckert called it,” she said. “I don’t know why she did, but it’s our favorite banana bread. You should try it.”

She explained how she got the recipe. “When we were first married, we bought a house in Northwoods Beach south of Hayward. Mrs. Deckert lived across the road and next to the town hall across from our house. She was the nicest little old lady. She had a strong German accent and came over to welcome us when we moved in. She brought us a loaf of her Hawaiian Banana Bread. I asked for her recipe and later gave it to Mom. Mrs. Deckert used to bring us Kuchen too. It was delicious but I never got that recipe.”

Bananas do grow in Hawaii, so maybe that explains the name.

Too lazy to go back to my recipe counting project, I decided to see how many banana bread recipes would show up on a search of the Internet. The answer is, A LOT. Even more than recipes for zucchini bread, a notoriously prolific squash that frugal cooks desperately keep trying to use up every summer.

My Google search returned about 3,260,000 results for zucchini bread but over 7,750,000 for banana bread. If each banana bread recipe were written on a standard three by five-inch recipe card and laid end to end, you could mark the route all the way from St. Paul, Minnesota, to Rapid City, South Dakota with enough cards left over to guide you most of the way to Mount Rushmore.

The zucchini bread cards would run out at Sioux Falls.

This is another really easy recipe. Just cut the shortening into the dry ingredients before folding in the banana and eggs. No electric mixer and just a little stirring. Here is what you do.

INGREDIENTS:

1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 cup vegetable shortening
3 ripe bananas
2 large eggs

PROCEDURE:

Preheat the oven to 350º and mash enough bananas to fill a measuring cup. Grease and flour two bread loaf pans.

Sift the flour, sugar, salt and baking soda into a mixing bowl. With a pastry blender or table fork, cut the shortening into the dry ingredients until it looks like coarse corn meal. This is like the first step in making pie crust.

Beat the eggs in a small bowl until they are lemon-colored. Fold the mashed bananas and eggs into the flour mixture until everything is moist and put half of the batter into each pan.

Set the pans on the center shelf in the oven and bake for thirty to forty minutes. Check for doneness at thirty minutes. A toothpick inserted near the center of the bread should come out clean.

Remove the pans from the oven and let them stand for about six minutes to cool slightly. Then loosen the loaves and transfer them to a rack to finish cooling.

NOTES: Patsy says that you can bake this bread in one standard loaf pan if you want. Extend the baking time to an hour and test for doneness before taking it from the oven.

Frugal shoppers watch for discounted bananas at the supermarket. Produce managers often reduce the price on bananas starting to get brown streaks on the peel as they ripen. If you want bananas to peel and eat raw, buy ones with little or no brown on them, but if you want to make banana bread, pick ones that are turning brown or take yellow bananas home and let them ripen on the counter. They get sweeter and sweeter.

This recipe produces two five by nine-inch loaves a little more than an inch thick. Maybe because you cut the shortening into the dry ingredients, the bread is a bit darker than most banana breads, but it is delicate and flavorful.