I imagine there are a lot of folks rediscovering the ignored art of baking now that we’ve been “Covid-ed.” I was pleasantly surprised recently to see that the flour and baking aisle was virtually bare. That never happens. Even the self-rising flour was wiped out! Does everyone know what self-rising flour is and how versatile this convenience product is? Banana bread with self-rising flour is a great start.
SR flour is simply flour perfectly blended with leavening and salt perfectly for easy, consistent baking, especially biscuits. In fact, it’s often called biscuit flour in the South. Well, I’ve got plenty of ideas for you thanks to many years of working with the test kitchen for Martha White, Nashville’s hometown flour.
For starters, self-rising flour replaces pancake mix, muffin mix, and any quick bread mix. Once you get accustomed to not finding and measuring the leavening and salt, it’s hard to go back to those extra steps. Most of my baking powder tins expire before they go empty, that’s how much I use self-rising flour.
Here’s my go-to banana bread recipe–it’s a great all-around recipe and so easy to make. There are lots of other great self-rising four and self-rising cornmeal recipes on this site as well. So, find a bag when you can and get busy baking!
A Little Nashville History For You…
Nashville has a long history with milling and self-rising flour. In the early 20th century Nashville was known as the self-rising capital of the world, the home to big flour blenders that made a lot of self-rising brands. Martha White with “Hot Rize” became the most famous brand thanks to Cohen Williams. Mr. Williams bought the Royal Flour Company in 1949 and changed the name to the company’s best selling brand Martha White (named after the daughter of the original owner Richard Lindsey). Savvy Mr. Williams was the first self-rising flour marketer to give the flour’s leavening feature a catchy name, “Hot Rize.” Williams cleverly advertised his products to reach his target customer–the folks all over the mostly rural South who made biscuits and cornbread every day.
What a happy coincidence that Nashville was also home to clear channel 650-AM WSM radio. Martha White hit the airwaves in the 1950s as the sponsor of the 5:45 a.m. Biscuit and Cornbread Time program, airing when families were waking up and baking biscuits. Of course, families all over the South and beyond huddled around the radio on Saturday night to hear the WSM Saturday night broadcast of Nashville’s famous Grand Ole Opry. Martha White would become the longest-running continuous sponsor of the Opry and I used to write those live commercials all through the 1990s.
To further tie Martha White to music, Mr. Williams hired little known bluegrass musicians Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs and The Foggy Mountain Boys to barnstorm the South in their Martha White bus known as the Bluegrass Express. The Martha White Jingle would become a bluegrass standard and one of their most requested songs–even when performing at Carnegie Hall in New York City. Garrison Keillor was so taken with the Opry and the live commercials delivered by the Opry announcers that he created his parallel universe version of Martha White called “Powder Milk Biscuits” on his famous radio broadcast Prairie Home Companion.
So, if you’re ready to get in on a great American food and cooking tradition, buy a bag of self-rising flour when you see it. And make some banana bread with self-rising flour soon!
Goodness Gracious, It’s Good!
- 1 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup oil or melted butter (1 stick)
- 2 eggs
- 1 1/2 cups mashed very ripe bananas (3 to 4 medium)
- 1/2 cup buttermilk
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 2 1/2 cups self-rising flour
- 1 cup chopped nuts, and/or chocolate chips
Heat the oven to 350 F. Grease the bottoms of two 8 or 9-inch loaf pans.
Combine the sugar, oil, and bananas in a large mixing bowl and blend well. Stir in the eggs, buttermilk, and vanilla and blend well. Stir in the flour just until moistened. Stir in the nuts or chocolate chips.
Bake about 40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean and the loaves are nicely browned. The larger loaf pans will take less time to bake. The baked loaves won't be too tall. Cool slightly. Run a knife around the edges of the pan to loosen the loaves. Turn out onto a wire rack and cool completely before slicing (if you can wait). Wrap tightly in foil and store in the refrigerator. The loaves also freeze well.