One of the best things about holiday desserts and treats is that they seem to be universal crowd pleasers. From nutmeg to cinnamon to cloves and ginger (and, of course, sugar!), the sweet flavors of fall are adored for good reason. If you are someone who loves to bake at home, we have sought-after recipes to help you recreate favorite seasonal treats from some of the North Shore’s most popular farms. And if tying on an apron is not for you, you can look forward to skipping the cleanup and purchasing items fresh from the farm bakeries.
Russell Orchards Pumpkin Bread
At Russell Orchards in Ipswich, baking is truly a family business. This 120-acre fruit farm is run by Doug and Miranda Russell, who are the second generation of Russells to farm the land. While making every item in the bakery from scratch is a tall order, it is very important to the family. “All of our bakery items are from scratch and made in house, and while it is a lot of work, I really find it is worth it,” says Miranda Russell. “This is obviously such a busy time of year for us, but I can’t help but remind myself when I am in the middle of baking that the items I am making will end up on someone’s holiday table—and that is something really special,” she adds.
Choosing what to buy from the farm’s bakery is a tough decision you’ll have to make on your own, but we’re making a strong case for the pumpkin bread, possibly the perfect pumpkin bread. It’s amazing as is and even better straight out of the oven. The recipe itself isn’t too daunting for the at-home baker, so don’t be afraid to try your hand at it.
This recipe is from Russell Orchards’ in-house cookbook, Grammy’s Kitchen, The Russell Orchards Fruit Cookbook. The book is a collection of recipes to be made throughout the year as the fruits and veggies from the orchard come into season.
1 15-ounce can of pumpkin purée (or the equivalent amount of pulp from a roasted sugar pumpkin)
½ cup vegetable oil
½ cup applesauce
⅔ cup water
1 cup white sugar
1 cup brown sugar
3½ cups flour
2 tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. salt
2 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. nutmeg
½ tsp. cloves
½ tsp. ginger
1 cup chopped nuts or raisins (optional)
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
2. Line two loaf pans with parchment paper, or grease and flour them.
3. In a large bowl, mix together pumpkin, eggs, oil, applesauce, water, and sugar until well blended.
4. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and ginger.
5. Stir the dry ingredients into the pumpkin until just blended.
6. Pour into pans and bake for about 50 minutes. Loaves are done when a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
Cider Hill Farm Cider Donut Bread Pudding
An apple cider donut is quintessentially fall, and Cider Hill Farm in Amesbury has some of the best (just ask any kid, they are hard to beat!). Not content to rest on their donut laurels, the farm folks are kicking things up a notch with their Cider Donut Bread Pudding, which transforms their out-of-this-world donuts into a delicious dessert. Gooey, full of fall flavors, and complemented by apples, this is one dish you have to try to believe whether you serve it for breakfast or dessert. In addition to donuts, Cider Hill features a wide array of impressive baked goods and honey from their own beehives as well as sweet cider and hard cider, all pressed on site.
6 cider doughnuts, broken into bite-size pieces
1 large apple—peeled, cored, and chopped
1½ cups half-and-half
¼ cup sugar
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 tsp. vanilla extract
¾ tsp. ground cinnamon
2 tsp. maple syrup
1. Preheat oven to 350°. Butter an 8x8-inch baking dish.
2. Mix doughnuts and apple together in prepared baking dish.
3. Whisk half-and-half, sugar, eggs, vanilla, and cinnamon together in a bowl.
4. Pour half-and-half mixture over donuts and apples in the baking dish.
5. Let sit until liquid is absorbed, stirring occasionally, about 15 minutes.
6. Bake in the preheated oven until golden, about 30 minutes.
7. Cool and drizzle with maple syrup.
Smolak Farms Harvest Squares
At Smolak Farms in North Andover, there is so much to do (and eat). Whether you come for a fall festival weekend, a scoop or two from the ice cream stand, or seasonal fruit picking, this is a farm for every age. In the bakery, pies, donuts, scones, and whoopie pies abound. There is something in store to satisfy every sweet tooth. The Harvest Bars are a fall favorite not only for their flavor but also because of their portability (who doesn’t love a bar to enjoy at home, on the go, in the car, you name it). Made with pumpkin, chocolate chips, cinnamon, and more, these bars also freeze well, although the challenge will be having any left for the freezer!
½ cup butter
1 cup sugar
1 can of canned pumpkin filling
1¾ cups flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. cinnamon
½ tsp. nutmeg
¼ tsp. ground ginger
¼ tsp. ground cloves
½ tsp. salt
1 cup chocolate chips
1. Cream butter and sugar, add eggs and pumpkin, and mix well.
2. Sift dry ingredients together and add to pumpkin mixture.
3. Stir in chocolate chips.
4. Grease a 9x12-inch pan and pour mixture in. Bake at 350 for 30 minutes.
5. When cool, frost with 4 oz softened cream cheese ¼ cup softened butter 2 cups sifted powdered sugar 1 tsp vanilla
6. Cream butter and cream cheese until smooth. Add sugar and vanilla, mix well.
These can be frozen—they are addicting!
A big benefit of being surrounded by so many beautiful farms on the North Shore is that it’s hard to avoid them. Stop in, talk to the staff, ask questions about the recipes and the baked goods. It is in coming together to support our local farms and in turn providing for our families and friends that we are carrying out an important part of what the Thanksgiving holiday is all about.