The Nut Tree of Vacaville, Calif. has been a destination since the 1920s. Started in 1921 as a fruit stand, it grew into a multiple-venue destination, complete with restaurants, amusement park rides for the kids, and, an airport. This bread predates it all, made from a recipe that Nut Tree family ancestor Hester Harbison got from her pioneer mother. (Hester herself was born in 1857 on the ranch that was once under the namesake tree.) With a chewy crust and well-flavored crumb, we like this bread toasted and served with Pear Honey, a North Carolina concoction. But it also works well as a sandwich. Loaves of this bread were the signature accompaniment to Nut Tree’s do-it-yourself Vagabond Sandwich Platter, which included cold cuts, veggies and a mound of the Nut Tree Green Frosted Potato Salad. Try that recipe, too!
Makes 5 miniature loaves (5” x 2 ½” x 1 ½”)
- 1 cup lukewarm water
- 1 ½ Tbsp sugar
- 1 fresh cake compressed yeast
- 3 cups sifted all-purpose flour
- 1 ½ tsp salt
- Tbsp canola oil
- Add water to warmed mixing bowl along with sugar and yeast, stirring undil dissolved. Add 1 ½ cups flour and salt, mixing hard with wooden spoon about 2 minutes. Gradually add 1 ¼ to 1 ½ cups flour, mixing first with spoon, then kneading with hands, to make a smooth, springy ball of dough. (This takes about five minutes.)
- Pour oil in large bowl. Place dough in bowl and turn to coat. Cover bowl with towel and let stand in warm place 25 minutes until doubled in bulk.
- Divide dough into 4 pieces. Flatten each out and roll into loaves. Place into greased 5” x 2 ½” x 1 ½” individual sized loaf pans. Cover again and let rise in warm place about 25 minutes. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
- Bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from pans and cool on racks.