Today, February 23, is National Banana Bread Day. While banana bread (as we now know it) became a staple among home bakers in the 1930s, banana bread had its start in the late Victorian era where “banana flour” came to the United States from the tropics. Vintage newspaper advertisements show the beginnings of banana bread available in bakeries and homemakers’ awareness of quality nutrition to be found in the imported fruit and “flour.” With or without nuts, banana bread is a hallmark of American quick breads… and our nineteenth century ancestors, complete with baking powder and a wealth of cake-baking knowledge, were prepared for the post-Great Depression’s urge to “use it up.”
At the Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Charles Louis Fleishmann offered pieces of freshly baked bread made with the world’s very first commercially prepared yeast from an exhibit modeled after a Vienna Bakery. An increase demand for Fleischmann’s yeast soon followed,Â bringing about the building of Fleischmann plants in New York. In this article, I share five key concepts about 19th century bread baking that stood out as surprising key concepts–and I’m a bread baker…so finding myself caught off guard by such research was really something.