Fall is back and Panera Bread is celebrating with the season’s best ingredients and comfort foods that can warm you from the inside out.

Panera’s own Orchard Harvest Chicken Salad features fresh d’Anjou pears, dried cherries, gorgonzola cheese and toasted pecans on a bed of crisp field greens and romaine lettuce. Each salad is hand-tossed in a sweet cherry balsamic vinaigrette. According to Dan Kish, Panera’s head chef, “We pair juicy pear slices, selected at their peak ripeness, with the strong, robust flavor of gorgonzola in each bite. The crunchiness of the toasted pecans completes the salad, adding to its textural complexity.”

The latest addition to the Panera Bread bakery case is the new traditional sugar cookie made with M&M milk chocolate candies which appeals to kids and grown-ups alike.

Autumn also signals the return of Panera’s Pumpkin Spice Latte. According to Kish, “Pumpkin is such a versatile ingredient and has such a unique flavor that it can easily transition between savory and sweet.” The Pumpkin Spice Latte is made with espresso, foamed milk and pumpkin spices, topped with whipped cream and a drizzle of caramel sauce. It can be enjoyed on its own or paired with Panera’s whimsical Pumpkin Cookie, made from pumpkin-shaped shortbread and accented with orange icing and colorful sanding sugar.

The menu item Kish especially recommends for fall is the pairing of its signature Mac & Cheese with the Bacon Turkey Bravo Sandwich. The Mac & Cheese features shell pasta enrobed in a blend of white cheddars, including natural Vermont White Cheddar, resulting in just the right combination of sharpness and creaminess. The sandwich stacks smoked turkey, Applewood-smoked bacon, smoked Gouda, lettuce, tomatoes and a signature spread on freshly-baked Tomato Basil bread.

Over the course of the Mac & Cheese two-year recipe development process, Kish used his very own focus group of four – his family. The former associate dean at the Culinary Institute of America shared more than 15 different recipes with his wife and three kids -- and judged the success of each recipe by the emptiness of their bowls.