Whenever I bite down on a baked good bursting with orange flecks of sweet-tart, chewy dried apricots, I can’t help but think of family road trips.
It makes me think of a time, ensconced in the back seat of my parents’ car, when I’d get all giddy as we pulled into the parking lot of the original Nut Tree in Vacaville. It was the perfect spot to take a break on trips to Sacramento to visit family friends or to Lake Tahoe, where my family used to rent a cabin in the summer. You could fill up on lunch, beverages, or even take a mini train ride. What it meant most to me, though, was getting my hands on a loaf of apricot nut bread.
You’d find the tea cake loaves stacked on a counter, wrapped in paper and plastic, and tied with a fuzzy string of orange yarn the same color as the apricots. There was a date nut bread, and a blueberry one, too. But my family’s favorite was always the apricot.
We’d buy a loaf — or two — and carry it home, where we’d enjoy a slice for breakfast, dessert, or an anytime snack. It was tender, moist, crunchy with nuts, and bursting with tanginess here and there from the pieces of stone fruit. It’s remains my first — and fondest — memory of dried apricots.
Back then, a car trip was something special, as plane tickets for a working-class family of five were a stretch. I guess that’s why dried apricots inexplicably make me think not only of family, but of adventures and travel, sort of like my own edible Eurail pass.
The Nut Tree closed long ago. Although there’s now a Nut Tree Theme Park, I’ve never stopped at it. And I doubt the nut bread is still part of the repertoire.
You could say that “Apricot Flaky Scones” from Flo Braker’s “Baking for All Occasions” (Chronicle Books) cookbook are not at all like a Nut Tree nut bread. They aren’t, except for the fact that they do have jewels of dried apricot pieces throughout a crispy exterior and a fluffy, buttery interior. They also have nuts — in this case, pistachios. Like my nut bread of yore, the scones also are not overly sweet, making them a nice way to start the day without an over-bearing load of sugar.
Braker gives precise directions for folding the dough into thirds like a business letter, so that the scones end up slightly puffed and layered inside. And they do. She says to cut them into thin, small wedges to create 14 scones. I like my scones a little wider, so I cut the dough into a dozen instead.