From Grandma Castle's Kitchen: The Perfect Banana Bread

From Grandma Castle's Kitchen: The Perfect Banana Bread

There's a certain magic to rituals, a way they weave themselves into the fabric of our lives, connecting us to the past and grounding us in the present. Here at the lodge, one such ritual centres around the simple act of baking banana bread. The aroma, warm and inviting, fills the air, a comforting echo of a woman who, though no longer with us, remains a vibrant presence – my Grandma Castle.

 

Grandma Castle was a force of nature, one of eleven children raised in Mississippi. Her personality was as big as the Southern sky, and from stories I hear, her table was an extension of her open heart. I can still see her dining table in my mother’s childhood home with beautifully embroidered cloths and carefully curated dining sets for special occasions. A fondness for this collecting and hosting that was certainly passed to my mother herself, as the home I grew up in rarely passed a Saturday without someone’s special event occurring in our dining room.

 

But Grandma Castle's legacy extends beyond the dinner table. It lives on in the worn silver tea set that graces our lodge, a silent testament to her love of hosting and creating a welcoming space for others. And most importantly, it endures in the simple yet soul-satisfying ritual of baking her banana bread. I like to think she wouldn’t mind that I often add chocolate chips.

 

The recipe itself had a fascinating journey. It wasn't handed down directly from Grandma Castle, but rather came through my family in a beautiful, unexpected way. It was first my Aunt, on my father's side, who told me about my grandmother’s bread when I had a sample in her home one day. After the recipe had slipped my mind entirely, it found its way back to me through my niece, who carries the torch as my grandmother’s namesake and as the baker of the family. She shared the recipe, a treasure I'd forgotten, and now bakes her own loaves, keeping the tradition alive.

 

In this way, the banana bread transcends a mere recipe; it becomes a vessel of memory, a way of keeping Grandma Castle's spirit alive. With every loaf that emerges from the oven, golden brown and fragrant, I'm transported back to my mother’s childhood home in Cincinnati Ohio, the steep staircase that led to a room with a merlot coloured shag rug, and a basement filled with my grandfather’s honey- a perfect accompaniment to Grandma Hazel’s bread.  

 

Grandma Castle, with her warm heart and generous spirit, wouldn't keep something this good to herself. So, in her honour, here's her famous banana bread recipe, passed down through generations with love:

 

Grandma Castle's Banana Bread Recipe

 

Makes 2 loaves

 

Ingredients:

3 ½ cups flour

1 ½ cups sugar

3 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

2 Tablespoons lemon juice

¾ cups softened butter

4-6 overly ripe bananas

¾ cups milk

¾ cups chopped walnuts or pecans

 

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (175 degrees Celsius). Grease 2 loaf pans (9x5 inches).
  2. In a large bowl, mash the ripe bananas until smooth. Using an electric mixer or a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream together the softened butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg and sugar until well combined.
  3. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt. Gradually add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients, mixing until just combined. Be careful not to overmix.
  4. Fold in the chopped nuts (if using) with a rubber spatula.
  5. Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pans. Bake for 50-60 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the centre comes out clean.
  6. Let the banana bread cool in the pan for 10 minutes before transferring it to a wire rack to cool completely.

Tips:

  • For a richer flavour, use brown sugar instead of granulated sugar.
  • You can substitute other chopped nuts for walnuts or pecans, such as almonds or hazelnuts.
  • To add some moisture, you can add 1/4 cup of plain yogurt to the batter.
  • If your bananas are not very ripe, you can ripen them quickly by placing them in a brown paper bag with an apple for a day or two.
  •  

The beauty of this ritual lies in its simplicity. It requires no grand gestures, no extravagant ingredients. Just a well-loved recipe, passed down through generations, and the willingness to share a taste of love with those around you. As I pour steaming mugs of tea to complement a slice of warm banana bread, I'm reminded that the most meaningful connections are often forged in the most ordinary moments.

 

Cheers to the legacy of a remarkable woman, Hazel Castle, whose spirit continues to grace our table with warmth and love. From our family to yours, happy baking!

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Welcome to Buffalo Lodge, your cosy retreat tucked away in the Whakaneke Catchment Area of the Coromandel Range. Surrounded by regenerating native bush,

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