I love living in Vancouver where there are four distinct seasons in the year. Autumn brings chillier mornings at the bus stop and rainy days spent cozily inside. Because my pastry school term in 2006 was during autumn, I am now reminded of the warm spices, robust fruit, and comforting flavour notes which were so inspiring to me this time last year. We had some barely ripe green Anjou pears in the fridge that were begging to be poached. A splash of rum, a cinnamon stick, orange juice and zest, and leftover vanilla bean livened up my poaching syrup.
My mom gave me a bunch of Physalis alkekengi or Chinese lantern flowers to dry. Its deep orange papery husk encases a small round fruit. A more familiar cousin of these lantern flowers is Physalis peruviana or Cape gooseberry which is commonly used as a garnish on desserts, but often left uneaten on the plate, unfortunately, even though the small yellow berry is absolutely delicious. Garnishes on plated desserts or cakes are after-thoughts in many instances; however, when the decor is taken into consideration during the inital design process, a more visually cohesive product can result. Ideally, a garnish should demonstrate skill, be edible, and relate to the ingredients used. So, in retrospect, please forgive the star anise which I hastily threw on my caramel-anise ice cream!