Retro Recipes: Peanut Bread, 1953

Photo by Stephanie Butler

It's time for Retro Recipes! Brought to you from the capable kitchen of Eat Me Daily's Stephanie Butler, each week revisits a preparation from the past that straddles the line between ingenious and absurd. This week: Peanut Bread.

After turning my stomach for the past few weeks, I wanted this Retro Recipe to be something, anything, that would give me an appetizing end result. In the course of my search, it became clear to me that time has been much kinder to breakfasts and desserts than it’s been to vegetables and main courses. Our greater access to fresh vegetables renders the canned veggie recipes of yore almost laughable, and changing tastes means a significant decrease in the amount of bologna, codfish, and prime rib that the average American family wants to consume. A random selection of main course recipes from Meta Given’s 1953 tome The Modern Family Cookbook reveals a litany of meats that are anything but modern: ham and lima bean casserole, Piquant Cheeseburgers, the intriguingly named Lamb Scallop.

But even if a recipe is over 50 years old, it'll be easier to digest if it's for cake, pie, bread, or their ilk — it’s hard to find someone who will turn down a slice of a Chocolate Jelly Roll or Pineapple Upside Down Cake. And so I turned to the “Bread” chapter of The Modern Family Cookbook to find a recipe that would satisfy my needs. I found that recipe in Peanut Bread.

Photo by Stephanie Butler

Peanut Bread reads simple and classic, just different enough to stand out from the crowd of Griddle Cakes and Nut Bread. I’ve made a lot of quick breads in my life, but never had I seen a recipe that called for peanut butter. Inspired by that ingredient, I figured this bread would lend itself well to different uses: spread jam on a slice and you’ve got a new take on a PBJ, slice bananas over the top and there’s a peanut butter banana sandwich!

Right away, I noticed that the recipe called for sifting the dry ingredients together three times. It seemed excessive to me, since normally I just sift once or not at all. I also doubted that the 1/3 cup of peanut butter called for would be enough to make the bread taste sufficiently peanutty, and hoped that the cup of buttermilk’s sour taste wouldn’t overwhelm the loaf. But I put my doubts aside, and prayed to the homemaker gods that Mrs. Given wouldn’t steer me wrong.

Photo by Stephanie Butler

Fifty minutes later, I took my beautiful peanut loaf out of the oven and just looked at it admiringly for a bit. The upper crust was perfect: the big crack along the top, the shine of the bread that you normally have to use an egg wash to get, maybe Mrs. Given was on to something with her “sift three times” directive. I cut into the loaf and noticed that the crust was perfectly crunchy, a delicate layer of crackly crust. The taste, while not as spectacular as that crust made me hope, was good. The peanut butter flavor wasn’t overwhelming, certainly not as present as it is in a good peanut butter cookie. It was very sweet, almost enough to take it out of contention for a breakfast bread. There was a nice crumb, and I was impressed at how moist the loaf stayed.

Testing out my initial Peanut Loaf hypothesis, I smeared on some of my grandmother’s spiced peach jam for maximum peanut-butter-and-jelly effect. Turns out my instincts were right: that's hands down the best way to eat fresh Peanut Bread. And when a couple days later I made a peanut butter bread pudding with my leftovers, that was even more delicious. So, Meta Given, your Peanut Bread has stood the test of time remarkably well. I wish I could say the same for your Veal Baked In Milk, but I couldn't even bring myself to try.

Photo by Stephanie Butler

Peanut Bread

from The Modern Family Cookbook, 1953 edition

1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon soda
1.2 teaspoon salt
1 cup brown sugar, packed
1/3 cup peanut butter
1 egg
1 cup buttermilk

Sift flour, measure and resift 3 times with soda and salt. Blend sugar into peanut butter. Stir in beaten egg and beat until smooth. Add flour mixture and buttermilk alternately, beating until smooth after each addition. Turn into buttered loaf pan, bake in a moderate oven (350) 1 hour or until well browned.

– Stephanie Butler

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