What began as a banana bread recipe from an old church cookbook has become a cherished tradition in David Watson's family.
Watson, who lives in Jacksonville, Florida, said his paternal grandmother's mother first made the recipe in the 1920s, after finding it in a recipe book compiled by the Skycrest Baptist Church in Clearwater, Florida.
"It says in the cookbook the recipe was provided by a person named Karen Gardenhour," Watson, who shared his family's go-to banana bread recipe in the Old_Recipes subreddit, told TODAY Food. "Our family's only difference from the original is the addition of vanilla extract."
"I remember the first time my mother obtained it from my Aunt Bonnie," Watson continued. "She made it in Illinois, where my aunt lives, then we took an Amtrak train back down to Florida and we ate it all during the train ride. From then on throughout my childhood my mother made it. And, my father remembers his mother making it quite often when he was a child as well."
Watson said he shared the recipe on Reddit because he hadn't seen a similar banana bread recipe shared among his fellow vintage recipe enthusiasts. The recipe was an instant hit, with many Redditors attempting it at home and sharing their own photos in the group.
"Many people all around the world baked the bread in different pan types, adding and removing various ingredients," said Watson. "For example, some people tried different extracts or added chocolate chips."
"I've tried those changes," Watson added, "but nothing can beat the original recipe."
I decided to try the original recipe, and Watson shared some very specific (and helpful!) tips with me before I gave it a go.
Among Watson's tips is to use a stick of salted sweet cream butter, "room temperature, not cold or melted," and mix the batter thoroughly after each individual ingredient is added.
"I just use a regular wooden spoon," he said. "Or just use whatever works best for you — I prefer to do it all manually."
Another tip: To keep the walnuts from sinking to the bottom of the batter, Watson suggested adding a tablespoon of flour to the chopped nuts and combining before adding to the bowl.
"That will then coat the nuts and keep them in place in the batter," he explained.
I followed all of Watson's careful instructions and was rewarded with the most delicious banana bread I've ever tasted. No exaggeration. Everyone in my house was obsessed with the nutty, sweet bread, from my dog, who watched the entire process from the kitchen floor, to my 10-year-old daughter, who ate two slices fresh from the oven and proclaimed, "This is what I want my birthday cake to be this year!"
Watson said he's not surprised.
"So far, I've heard every single time someone made it, they loved it … and they, their family or their coworkers ate the whole thing at a quick pace," he said. "This recipe is amazing and I highly recommend everyone to give it a try once. I've never had a banana bread like it before or since."