Harvest time and cooler fall temperatures go hand in hand with freshly baked pumpkin. The pumpkin harvest happens just in time to brighten Halloween with jack-o'-lanterns, but bakers are more likely to value the familiar orange squash for its versatility.

Harvest time and cooler fall temperatures go hand in hand with freshly baked pumpkin. The pumpkin harvest happens just in time to brighten Halloween with jack-o'-lanterns, but bakers are more likely to value the familiar orange squash for its versatility.

Pumpkin goodies abound at local bakeries this time of year, from scones and specialty breads to salted pumpkin seeds and cheesecake. To honor the season, three local bakers shared some tried-and-true recipes using the fragrant fall staple.

Artisan Bakery Cafe owner Scott Brechtel adds pumpkin this time of year to traditional chocolate chip cookies, and he says he can hardly keep them in supply at his Medford bakery.

Brechtel says he'd like to take the credit for their popularity, having made the cookies for more than 30 years, but he admits the credit has a lot to do with the star ingredient.

"Pumpkin is a very versatile ingredient to work with, and the nice thing about pumpkin is the products that you make with it usually really hold up and really do last," says Brechtel.

"It's also just really festive, and it makes people feel like the they can enjoy summer a little bit longer but that the holidays are right around the corner."

Susan Krebs, owner of The Cupcake Company in Medford, delights friends and family with another fall favorite: fresh pumpkin bread loaded with extra nuts and dates.

Most pumpkin recipes allow for either canned or fresh pumpkin (decrease liquid if using fresh to keep recipes from being too runny), but Krebs is a fan of the canned variety.

"There's no difference between canned and fresh pumpkin in terms of flavor, but I almost always use tried-and-true Libby's pumpkin in the can," she says.

"It really is the best out there. Making it yourself is great, but the Libby's is the same every time, so you don't have to adjust your recipe."

To personalize a recipe, Krebs recommends adding ingredients such as raisins and dates. Dry ingredients can be interchanged, and extra won't usually hurt the recipe.

"I add about three times the amount of nuts the recipe calls for, and instead of raisins I like sugar-coated dates, which I also use about three times as much of," says Krebs. "It gives a lot more texture. Then I usually always do extra seasoning. I always use a splash more of whatever seasonings it calls for and a little extra pumpkin, too."

Great Harvest Baking Co. owner Lisa Allen shares her mom's "famous pumpkin pie" recipe, which is so tasty, she says, that friends and family often request it in lieu of birthday cake.

"It's pumpkin pie from actual pumpkin, and I've never had it turn out bad," says Allen, noting that she prefers to cook the squash in a pressure cooker and split the yield into same-size bags for easy use.

Allen says she and her daughter keep a baking journal to track new ideas and changes to recipes, but it's hard to do anything wrong when using pumpkin, she admits.

"It's just so much a part of fall every year to bake with pumpkin. We've even tried different varieties of pumpkin, and it really doesn't seem to matter," she says.

"The pies just always seem to turn out great. A lot of it is probably because it's hard to go wrong with pumpkin."

To find more recipes, go to the Mail Tribune's Recipe Box, which contains more than 3,000 recipes. at www.mailtribune.com/recipes