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Long, bitter winters chill me to the marrow. As the weeks pass, my face turns jaundice-yellow and my mood mimics that unsavory hue. I begin to long for the sound of the wind whispering to the palms and the sensation that my flesh is rendering under the broiling heat of midday sun. It is on those stark, washed out-blue days when the light in the sky is nothing but a flashlight with failing batteries that I realize my roots are deeply planted in warmer soil.
However, every year when the temperature begins to drop here and there throughout September, I forget the pleasures of more temperate climes. I flirt with the crisp chill and my skin willingly textures into tiny bumps under the cool wind's bony fingers. "It's fall," I whisper to myself as I walk, neck arched backward to give my eyes a better view of the garnet and crimson leaves that are beginning to speckle the trees.
With fall I begin to dress my kitchen with paper notes full of recipe ideas for thick, meaty stews cobblestoned with starchy potatoes and glossy pearl onions, spiced soups redolent of orchards, and desserts that are as comforting and luxurious as a cashmere scarf wrapped round and round a delicate throat.
This flourless chocolate cake is one of those deeply satisfying, intense desserts that overwhelm me, make me lose myself, willingly, in its mysteriously lush darkness, just like a walk in Central Park when the day ebbs and does little to induce you to step back into the lit and crowded streets.
The recipe is dense with vibrant egg yolks, lightened with meringue, and saturated with bittersweet chocolate. The ginger-and-pepper spiced wine-poached pears that top this cake are fiery orange, tinted with beet, as an ode to the opening night regalia of the turning foliage.