It was sudden. One day I was lamenting the end of berry season; the next I was blissfully curled up on the couch, wrapped in my favorite blanket, sipping a hot cup of tea as I watched the sky grow dark. Finally, it was here.
It took me a while to get into the spirit of fall this year. As I watched the piles of apples, pears and pumpkins grow, I felt dread rather than anticipation. As I exchanged my bed sheet for a thick duvet, I envisioned ice cold nights rather than a warm bed. And as I saw the evening light retreat, I worried about not being able to photograph during the week, instead of looking forward to calm evenings of nothingness. For a while there, I was starting to wonder what it was that I loved so much about fall.
Then, the light changed.
As a teenager, I rolled my eyes at my mother when she gushed about the light. Now, I find myself equally enamored. (Do we all turn into our mothers one day?) Because she was right. There is nothing more beautiful than the low, golden light of a fall day as it pierces through the trees. It is warm and peaceful, soft and soothing. Unassuming, too. Like a simple, comforting hug ... enough to make you feel supported, without being oppressive. As I stood in that light this weekend, walked through it with Thomas by my side, I felt the weight of a very tough week fade away, and for the first time in what seemed like forever, I felt truly calm. Soaking up those golden rays, I remembered ... Only fall can make me feel this way.
As I write this down, I am starting to see just how much I've missed that. I am starting to realize that I didn't experience this last year, when the last months of the year were centered almost entirely on running a pop-up coffee and pie bar, and I wonder whether that played a part in the restlessness I've been struggling with. Do I need this season to help me find my center? Is this when I recharge for another year?
Either way, I am ready now. Ready for the apples, the pumpkins and the pears. For wearing my favorite sweater and hiding underneath the duvet. For morning walks in the golden light and late afternoon strolls through a darkening city. For evenings on the couch and slow weekends in the kitchen. For hearty meals, hot breakfasts and warm beverages. But most of all, for the extra time that the shorter days seem to yield and all the stillness that fall brings to my heart.
• I spiced this panna cotta with instant chai latte powder. Since brands can differ, check the instructions on the package to see how much powder you need for 500 ml. (I used slightly less than instructed.) Alternatively, you could infuse the cream with fresh chai spices (cinnamon, cardamom, star anise, cloves, ...). Check out this post on The Kitchn to learn more.
• I used gelatin sheets, as they are most common around here. You could substitute the sheets with powdered gelatin or even agar agar, but you'll have to do some research and check the instructions of the product you're using. Also note that I used a little less gelatin than usually called for for 500 ml of liquid. Find more on the differences between gelatin sheets and powdered gelatin here or here.
chai panna cotta w/ caramelized pears
for the panna cotta
500 ml heavy cream
100 g granulated sugar
3 tbsp chai latte powder (or according to instructions)
7 g gelatine sheets
for the caramelized pears
2 medium pears, ripe but still firm, peeled, cored & sliced
20 g unsalted butter
50 g dark brown sugar
for the panna cotta
1. In a medium saucepan, combine heavy cream, sugar and chai latte powder. Heat over medium heat.
2. Meanwhile, soak gelatine sheets in a bowl of cold water.
3. When the cream reaches the boil, remove from heat immediately. Wring gelatine sheets to remove excess water and stir them into the cream.
4. Once gelatine has been incorporated, divide cream into 4 heat-proof ramekins. Let cool slightly on the counter, then move ramekins to the fridge and allow to cool for at least 4 hours, preferably overnight.
5. When ready to serve, remove panna cotta from the fridge and put ramekins into hot water for 1-2 minutes before inverting them onto a plate. If the panna cotta won’t come out, run a knife along the edges of the ramekin or submerge into hot water for a little longer. Serve with caramelized pears and a sprinkle of toasted walnuts.
for the caramelized pears
1. In a large frying pan, melt butter and sugar.
2. Once butter has melted and the sugar is starting to dissolve, add the pear slices. Let cook on medium-low heat for 15-20 minutes, flipping the pears halfway through, until pears are tender and caramelized.