Famous Nut Tree Bread

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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


  1. 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.)
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. Bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from pans and cool on racks.

18 thoughts on “Famous Nut Tree Bread

  1. We loved the Nut Tree and stopped every rime we travelled by… Any chance you have the recipe for their dark rye or Bavarian loaf?

  2. I’m dying for their banana bread recipe. I remember it as the best I ever had! I had a fruit plate with banana bread the last time I was there and then they closed…

    • Hi Vicki!
      I don’t have their banana bread recipe, but I do have the Nut Tree’s Date Nut Bread with Brown Sugar Glaze, Orange Nut Bread, and Spicy Orange Nut Bread. Let me know if one of those would suit.

      • I would love the orange nut bread recipe! I’m looking for the pineapple nut bread, too. It was my favorite! I loved flying to the Nut Tree for lunch back in the day.

        • Sure! Here you go (Pls note: I haven’t tested this one in our kitchens here) Have fun!
          This is the bread that was served plain or waffle-toasted, with the Nut Tree Fresh Fruit Plate.
          3/4 cup sugar
          3 Tbsp softened butter
          2 eggs
          grated orange zest from 3 oranges
          1/2 cup chopped California walnuts
          2 1/4 cups sifted all-purpose four
          3 Tbsp baking powder
          1 tsp salt
          1 cup milk
          Preheat oven to 350. In large mixing bowl, gradually add sugar to butter, beating until fluffy. Beat in eggs, one at a time then mix in orange zest and nuts. Sift flour with baking soda and salt; add small amounts to first mixture alternately with milk, beating smooth after each addition. Pour into greased 9 x 5 x 3 loaf pan. Bake at 350 for 55 to 60 minutes, until tester is removed clean. Remove from pan; cool. Slice in 1/2-inch slices. may be frozen for longer storage.

        • My favorite place when I was a kid. We always stopped there on the way home from Tahoe. Does anyone have the recipe for the Orange Nut bread? I’d appreciate getting it. Thanks

  3. I worked there late 60’s early 70’s. I loved the Chocolate cake- would any one have recipe for it. I worked deserts, salads, sandwiches, and prep.

  4. Just about 36 years ago, I took my future wife to the Nut Tree for my favorite, Vagabond Sandwiches. It was our 2nd date, but we were both thinking that this would be the last one with each other. I wound up proposing to her that night. You probably won’t want to try this at home. We just found we had all the most important things in common, and it felt right to both of us. Six kids and 36 years later, we figured we made the right decision. I was so sorry to see the Nut Tree close down.

  5. I worked there while going to college 1987. I served in the dining room. What great memories. Some of the older gals Ada, Claire served there from the day the dining room opened. Ada had to have been 70+ when I started, and Sylvia Anderson was my boss. She was classy, great. Memories. I loved their Prawns with tropical fruit. Does anybody have a picture of that plate? I would love to have the recipe of the banana praline sauce the would place over ice cream. So, good. It was an amazing operation. I am still proud of being part of it and so sad to see it go.

    • I am looking for the banana praline sauce also, it’s just heavenly. I know the recipe is in the postcard packet that you could buy with the recipes on the postcards. I had them and lost them in a couple of house moves. I would love to have that recipe again. It was also very easy to make.

  6. Years ago, when my husband and I lived in San Bernardino, a friend gave me a recipe for a barley casserole that she said was like the one served at The Nut Tree. I have made the casserole over the years, and wanted to make it again, but, alas, I have lost the recipe. Does anyone have this recipe?

  7. Hired in 74 as a bakers helper, I learned to make all the bakery products and then rose to being the bread shift supervisor In charge of making all the breads for the nut tree businesses. My favorite was the blueberry coffee cake, I would eat one ever night when I was working the ovens. I still regret not writing down all the recipes but I was young and didn’t realize the nostalgia factor. My father recently sent me an old article and picture of me making sticky buns in the Vacaville reporter. I met my wife ( a waitress) there.

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