One of my favorite things to bake (and eat) for the holidays is my Grandma’s Old-Fashioned Apricot Nut Bread.
For me, it is like spending a little time with Grandma – even though she’s been gone for 20 years now. The smells that fill the house… using her recipe card – complete with stains from baking episodes past… using her old tin measuring cup, snipping apricots, chopping nuts… To me, the holidays aren’t truly here until I make Grandma’s Apricot Nut Bread and spend a little time with her through this ritual.
When I was young, I spent Christmas vacations (and every other moment I could) with Grandma. We spent a lot of our time together in the kitchen. While we were cooking or baking, Grandma would tell me stories about her childhood. It was sadly a pretty short one, because she had to become Mama to her baby brothers at only 9 years old when her mom died at a devastatingly early age. We would talk about her early married life with outhouses, coal furnaces, and washboards. And some of my favorite stories, especially when I was young, were the ones she would tell about me when I was a baby and how she danced in the hospital hallway with the doctor after I was born and how she fed me her homemade chicken soup on my first day home.
We laughed while we worked, and I never felt so loved.
One of the things Grandma made every year was Apricot Nut Bread. Growing up, it really wasn’t my favorite. I much preferred the lady locks or nut horns or nut roll – even the chocolate chip cookies. This bread is not overly sweet. It is not overly moist. But as an adult, it has become my absolute favorite. A slice with a swirl of creamy salted butter or a schmear of rich cream cheese and a cup of coffee might just be my favorite way to start the day.
This weekend, I made my annual batch of Grandma’s Old-Fashioned Apricot Nut Bread.
I started with some dried apricots, which I snipped with scissors into large chunks. (I cut most of the apricots into fourths.) Sharp kitchen shears work much better than a knife given the stickiness of the apricots while cutting. And – it’s how Grandma did it…
After the apricots are coarsely snipped, they are placed in a bowl of hot water to further plump and soften. Equal parts of apricots and water are used.
The dry ingredients are mixed together next in a separate bowl: flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.
In a third bowl, eggs are beaten, and sugar is added.
Next is time to coarsely chop some walnuts – 1 cup per batch (unless you are my son, Nick – then no nuts are added!)
To combine everything, alternately add the apricots with water and egg/sugar mixture to the dry ingredient bowl.
At this point, you could place the batter in your greased and floured bread pans if you are not adding nuts.
Or gently fold in the nuts.
It is important to thoroughly grease and flour your bread pans. I use a paper towel to generously smear Crisco into every corner and crevice of the pan and then dust thoroughly with four. If done well, the bread will roll right out when you tip the pans once out of the oven.
You can use a number of small bread pans or one large bread pan for a single recipe. I tripled the recipe this weekend and made eight smaller loaves.
I fill them about 3/4 full to get a nicely risen loaf.
Baking time varies depending on the size of the loaf, so watch carefully and check with a toothpick. If you insert a toothpick in the center and it comes out clean, the bread is done.
I immediately pop them out out of the pans and cool completely on a wire rack. These loaves freeze beautifully if wrapped in saran wrap and foil or in freezer Ziploc bags.
Slice and serve warm or cold and with or without butter or cream cheese. In my opinion, this is best served as breakfast or brunch fare with a steaming cup of coffee (with Italian Sweet Cream of course!). Sometimes we even toast a slice of it, and then the edges are crisp and the center is warm and gooey and the butter just melts into it.
Here is Grandma’s well-loved and stained recipe card:
I remember typing these on index cards for Grandma as a young girl. I wish I had more of her handwritten copies, but they are long gone…
Some beloved people and possessions in our lives may no longer be around, but memories can never be erased or replaced.
May cherished memories of your loved ones and holidays past fill you with warmth and happiness.
Here is the recipe for you to try:
Grandma’s Old-Fashioned Apricot Nut Bread
Mix together 1 cup chopped apricots and 1 cup boiling water. Let stand until the rest of the ingredients are ready.
In another bowl, beat two eggs and gradually add 1 cup of sugar.
In a third large bowl, stir together:
2-3/4 c. flour
3 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
Add the first two mixtures to the dry ingredients – alternating as you incorporate. Fold in chopped nuts.
Bake one large loaf at 375 degrees F for approximately 50 minutes, then 350 degrees F for 25 additional minutes.
For smaller loaves, bake at 350 degrees for 40-50 minutes.
I hope you enjoy.
Cheers & Nostalgic Hugs,