Zabaglione (pronounced tsah-bahl-YOH-nay. See here for more information), also called sabayon and marsala egg custard, is a very simple Italian dessert made with egg yolks, sugar and marsala wine, and served warm. There are a number of variations, such as a frozen version (see below), and one with whipped egg whites added to lighten the dish.
There is no completely reliable evidence, but zabaglione is thought to have originated in the 16th Century, either in Florence at the court of the Medici, or in Venice. Though it is similar to custard, it is officially a 'caudle', a sauce which is used as a custard to fill pies and tarts. Before the 16th Century, it was a drink made with ale or wine and thickened with egg yolks.
Zabaglione is hard to define because it can be used for so many different things. On its own it is a light, but incredibly rich and delicious, dessert. Combined with fruit it can make a delicious summer dish. It can even be used as a substitute for cream and served with pies and tarts, though it is so sweet and rich that it is best served with something that is sufficiently strongly flavoured not to be overpowered.
How to Make Zabaglione
There are many different recipes for this dish, some of which use additional flavourings, whereas others simply use a slightly different method. This recipe, which serves four, is simple and so is the hardest to get wrong.
- 4 egg yolks
- 4 tbsp castor sugar
- 4 half-eggshells of dry marsala wine (though any fortified wine like sherry should do)
Put the egg yolks and sugar into a large heatproof bowl and whisk with an electric hand-held beater1 for a few seconds until the mixture is pale and thick.
Add the marsala and place the bowl over a pan of simmering water. Make sure the water does not touch the bottom of the bowl.
Continue whisking until the mixture increases dramatically in volume and becomes foamy. This will take at least ten minutes, but it can easily take up to half an hour to get it perfect.
Serve immediately on its own in bowls or glasses, or poured over sliced fruit.
First make some zabaglione according to the previous recipe.
- ½ tsp powdered unflavoured gelatin, softened in 1 tbsp cold water
- 1 tbsp boiling water
- 1½ tbsp brandy
- 300ml double cream, whipped stiff with a little vanilla essence and ½ tbsp sugar
Dissolve the softened gelatin in the boiling water and add it to the zabaglione, stirring slowly, and allow the mixture to cool.
Fold in the brandy and whipped cream.
Chill in a refrigerator for around five hours.
There are other recipes which do not use a pan of boiling water, such as this non-alcoholic version from another Researcher:
- 4 eggs
- 2 tbsp honey
Place the eggs and honey in a milk saucepan.
Whisk the mixture over a low heat until it is frothy and warmed right through.