As the leaves blow away and the sharp winter winds bring with them promises of snow and holiday tidings, zabaione makes its annual appearance on dessert menus and in gelato shops across Italy.
Zabaione is a dessert you have seen before, even if you didn’t know its name. A creamy custard served either warm or cold and liberally spiked with sweet wine, it has the versatility of being eaten alone or scooped atop a mess of biscuits, a bowl of fruit or for true decadence a slice of your favourite cake. I
t is also one of those desserts that will easily impress. Set it in front of your next table of dinner guests and you will have them all chatting that you are the home cook of the year! Zabaione though, for all of its grandeur, is dead simple to make and only requires a bit of patience and an arm ready for a toning workout. Keep reading for the recipe and a few serving suggestions.
A note on ingredient quantities, the ratio to always follow is 1:1:1. So for each egg yolk, you need one tablespoon (12g) of sugar and one tablespoon (15mL) of Vin Santo. This recipe serves 4, but feel free to make as much as you would like!
- egg yolks, 4
- sugar, 1/4 cup (50g)
- Dolce Arianna – Vin Santo del Chianto Classico DOCG, 1/4 cup (60mL)
- salt, a small pinch
- lemon zest for added tartness
- vanilla extract for added sweetness
What you will need:
- a double boiler – a round bottomed, heat resistant bowl set on top of a medium saucepan is the best system
- a whisk
- a willingness to keep whisking for 5 minutes, we’re doing this the old-fashioned way!
- Set your saucepan with water to simmer; there needs to be about 3cm of space between the bottom of the bowl and the simmering water.
- In the bowl, off the heat, whisk yolks and sugar together until they are pale, smooth and creamy in consistency.
- Whisk in Vin Santo, a pinch of salt and lemon zest and/or vanilla extract if using until mixture is frothy.
- Place bowl on top of the saucepan, and holding one side with a cloth or oven mitt, and continue to whisk, incorporating air into the mixture, until it thickens. You will be able to tell it has thickened when the whisk leaves tracks in the zabaione and it begins to pull away from the sides of the bowl.
- Take the bowl off the heat, place it on a folded kitchen cloth, and continue to whisk the zabaione so that it continues to thicken while also cooling it down. If you want to cool it down quickly, place the bowl into an ice bath and continue to whisk.
The ways to use zabaione are infinite, feel free to let your mind wander down a sugary path of imagination. However, if you enjoy a touch of tradition, there are a few classic methods of serving.
Warm with amaretti (almond cookies) or biscotti
After you take the zabaione off the heat, keep whisking it until you can comfortably hold the bowl without a cloth. The zabaione at this point will still be warm, which is the most traditional way of serving it. Scoop it out into individual bowls/cups and top with a crumble of biscuits or cacao powder and a few biscotti on the side. The Vin Santo will have a rich, sweet taste that permeates the custard if served warm.
Chilled and mixed with whipped cream
Whisk the zabaione until it has completely cooled down, you can do this quickly by placing the bowl into an ice bath, and then fold in homemade whipped cream. Set it to chill in the fridge for a couple of hours. The Vin Santo will taste lighter this way, making it perfect for pairing with fruit or using it as a topping on another dessert.
As a meringue
Whip the leftover egg whites into stiff peaks and fold it into the still warm zabaione, which will set the mixture and make the zabaione less dense in consistency. Serve it still slightly warm.