Vintage Books, Vintage Recipe

Vintage Recipe: Two Banana Muffins

I have a huge soft spot for self-published church cookbooks. My mom collected them when I was little because they always had the best recipes and years of thrifting have proved that she was right. The thing about those church cookbooks (which collect recipes from the congregation) is that all of those women really brought their best because nobody wanted to be embarrassed by bringing that one recipe that turned out to not be so tasty. It’s true that I’ve found the occasional dud hidden in the pages, but for the most part church cookbooks are much more well-rounded and reliable than cookbooks compiled by one or two people.

The other great thing about church cookbooks is that they can almost always be found for pennies, particularly at church rummage sales, and they get overlooked by a lot of pickers because they don’t have big glossy pages or fancy covers. They’re also wonderful representations of local diets so a good church cookbook from the area is a great way to see what your parents/grandparents/great-grandparents were eating at any given time.

This recipe is adapted from one submitted by Mrs. Graham in Tested Recipes – First Methodist Episcopal Church, Tracy, Minnesota. I don’t have a date for this one but newspaper clippings taped inside date it at 1929 or earlier. I love the church cookbooks from the 20’s and 30’s because the recipes are very simple and use only as many ingredients as they absolutely need to (depression era!) so they’re money savers.

I went to this cookbook yesterday because we had two overripe bananas in the house and all of my standard banana bread recipes take at least three. I was disappointed to see that there wasn’t a single banana bread recipe in here and then I remembered that bananas weren’t as common eighty years ago as they are now. They were hard to transport since they would brown and bruise on the way up from South America and there was a lot of political chaos involved in getting them out of the countries where they were grown and into American homes. Ever heard the term “Banana Republic? It comes from the military coup in Guatamela that was supported by the United Fruit Company just to get a better deal on bananas. True story.

Anyway, the women of Tracy, Minnesota, probably weren’t eating too many bananas and certainly weren’t letting them sit around until they were only suitable for bread.

Anyway, I was about to cheat on one of my other recipes and only add two bananas instead of the required three but then I thought maybe I’d get better results by tweaking one of these reliable plain muffin recipes instead. There are four recipes for just “muffins” in this particular cookbook, which blew my mind because we’d only ever eaten flavored muffins in this house (corn, blueberry, lemon, etc.). Plain muffins, as it turns out, are kind of like eating baked donuts in another form. Fine, but not something you’d crave.

Enter bananas.

As I mentioned, I had to do some tweaks to adjust the recipe for bananas since bananas add moisture, sugar, and fat to any recipe. The result was perfect – totally banana-ish but not too sweet or sticky.

Two Banana Muffins

/// Two scant cups of all-purpose flour (or 1 and 1/2 overflowing cups if you aren’t in a high altitude area like I am)
/// 1/2 tsp salt
/// 1 tsp baking powder
/// 1 tsp baking soda
/// 2 very ripe bananas, mashed (mine were large so you could probably do 3 medium/small bananas)
/// 1/2 cup white sugar
/// 1 egg
/// 1 tsp vanilla
/// 1/3 cup melted butter

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

Whisk together the flour, salt, baking powder, and baking soda in a medium bowl. In a larger bowl, whisk together the bananas, sugar, egg, vanilla, and melted butter, and then mix in the dry ingredients until combined. Pour into a greased muffin pan or muffin papers and bake for 15-20 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted. Makes 12 muffins.

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