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If you missed the Marsala class a week ago, we had a great time exploring a variety of ways to cook with Marsala.  For dessert, we made zabaglione – an Italian “custard” made with Marsala and we served it over fresh berries.

I did a little research on Zabaglione and everyone pretty much agrees that it was being made in the late 1500’s, but exactly how it came to be is not known for sure.  There are some interesting stories, that honestly sound more like fables.  Take your choice between the kitchen’s of the famous Medici family, an Italian nobleman named Giovan Paolo Baglioni, the pastry cooks of Turin or one of several other options.  I saw one book that called it “Italy’s gift to the world.”

While the dish is very similar to a custard (and is often referred to as a custard), it is technically a “caudle” which is a thickened sauce that can be used similar to a custard.  While the classic Zabaglione has 3 ingredients, other versions appear in a variety of places.  You may also see it referred to as zabaione, zabajone, or in France as Sabayon.  It is a very versatile sauce to learn as it can be used in so many different ways.

The summertime classic is as a sauce over fresh fruit.  The Zabaglione on it’s own is rich and sweet.  In addition to be used with fruit, it can be used similar to whipped cream or clotted cream and served with a variety of pies and tarts.

Here’s the recipe:

8 each large egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
2/3 cup Marsala wine and 1/3 cup Prosecco or 1 cup of Marsala
(Note: for the French version, Sabayon, this is usually replaced with 1 cup of Champagne.  Any fortified wine, such as Sherry, could be used as well.)

1. Bring a pot of water to a simmer.

2. Using a large bowl, add the egg yolks and whisk until foamy (You can use a hand mixer as well).  Gradually add the sugar while continuing to whisk.  Add Marsala and Prosecco (or whatever you are using) and continue to whisk.  Place the bowl over the simmering water and continue to whisk (Make sure the bottom of the bowl does not touch the water).  Whisk (or beat with hand mixer) continuously until it thickens and increases in volume.

3. When foamy and thickened, remove the bowl from the water and continue whisking or beating for a couple more minutes.

4. Serve as desired – I like to spoon it over the berries and garnish with mint leaves.  If you like, before you start the sauce, put the berries in a small bowl and sprinkle a little sugar over them, add a small amount of the Marsala and allow the fruit to mascerate while you make the sauce.

As I mentioned, the classic summer dessert is served over fresh fruit, but I’ve found many variations including adding whipped egg whites to lighten it.  You can add additional ingredients such as cinnamon or other flavorings.  You can add heated cream to the custard and make Zabaglione ice cream.

The whipping the custard while it is cooking serves two purposes – it stabilizes the foam and it cooks the eggs enough if you are concerned about eating raw eggs.  According to the Culinary Institute of America, you need to bring it to at least 165 degrees to stabilize the eggs – I generally take it to just above 170 degrees.  You generally want to serve it immediately.  If you do wait, cover with plastic wrap pressed down onto the surface to prevent a skin from forming.

(Unfortunately, I couldn’t take pictures during the class – so here is a picture from the Associated Press showing the classic Zabaglione with berries….)

Zabaglione with fresh berries

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