I’ve always disregarded winter. After Christmas my only goal was to reach Spring as quick as possible, trying to skip snow storms, cold winds and long nights. Every season had a reason to be appreciated: a green new life in Spring, the longest carefree days in Summer, foliage and scarves and squash in Autumn. Winter had Christmas, but after that, three months of longing for the next season.
This year I am enjoying winter so much. We had mild sunny days, then cold rainy days, now we’re back to the sun but it’s freezing cold outside. I keep on brewing tea, to clutch my hands around a steaming mug. The landscape is stunning, shimmering in the afternoon light. I enjoy walking outside all wrapped up in layers of wool, scarf, hat and gloves. It clears my mind. Oh, and how much I need it.
We’re finally close to the date when a bricklayer will enter our garage and start working to turn it into our lab. We’re browsing swatch books to decide the final look of our kitchen countertops, as we were completely adamant, since the beginning, about having a white kitchen. We’re deciding the kind of floor to install, trying to imagine how it will be to walk there, cook there, photograph there.
In the meantime we’re facing our second week of meal planning. I thought I could be smart enough to pick a different meal every day, but after one too many pasta dishes and mum’s or grandma’s take-away, we opted for a week meal planning. My aim was to be able to cook all the book’s recipes on time, to eat on a budget choosing among seasonal and local ingredients and to produce quick wholesome meals twice a day without much effort. We’re on day nine, and everything is fine so far.
But I need a zabaione to pick me up, to keep going, to face the cold fiercely and do not get lost in between swatch books, kitchen cabinets and samples for our future floor.
Zabaione is a pale froth of egg yolks, which are beaten with sugar and a sweet wine on a bain-marie to incorporate air, until it becomes thick and velvety. It can be served warm or cold, but either way it is a boost of energy of the highest enjoyable quality.
Zabaione is simple, it requires three ingredients. It will demand your undivided attention while whisking eggs, sugar and Marsala on a bain-marie, but it will generously reward you with a subtle dizziness derived from the alcool evaporating underneath your nose. I mean, I can get drunk just eating the fruit from sangria, so do not count me as a touchstone, but what a fascinating alchemy is happening just in front of your eyes.
Zabaione is an ancient Italian recipe and, obviously, it has many disputed and intriguing origins. Someone explains it with an Arabic influence, believing it was born in Sicily. Others believe its invention was due to a Franciscan monk, San Pasquale de Baylon, who lived in Turin in the XVI century. He is the saint protector of chefs and pastry chefs, and apparently he suggested this restorative drink to penitent women complaining about their fatigued husbands.
Emiliano Giovanni Baglioni, known as Zvan Bajòun, is another putative father of zabaione. He was a soldier of fortune who apparently invented this recipe by chance when, at the end of XV century, he sent his soldiers to raid the countryside around Reggio Emilia to feed the troops. The only ingredients they could put their hands on were eggs, sugar and wine, so the soldiers were served a soup made of these three ingredients which, apparently was a success.
It was known also at the Gonzaga court in Mantua, in Venice and even at the Caterina de’ Medici court, where apparently a similar drink was served frozen.
The name zabaione occurs for the first time in the famous Renaissance chef Bartolomeo Scappi‘s cookbook, Opera, in the 1570. His zabaione is made with fresh egg yolks, muscat malvasia and cinnamon, enriched with light chicken broth and butter. Quintessentially Renaissance. Zabaione becomes completely sweet in the XVII century with Latini, who presents a recipe with pistachios, butter, strong wines and cinnamon in his cookbook, Lo scalco alla moderna, the Modern Steward.
A quick zabaione to pick you up
Zabaione has such a long and fascinating story as it is made with ingredients which were easily available to families. It is relaxing and rewarding to make a zabaione, but it doesn’t even get close the pleasure of sharing it with someone you love in a cold winter day.
- 3 egg yolks
- 3 scant tablespoons of sugar
- dry Marsala wine or also a Tuscan Vinsanto, Madeira, Moscato, Porto or Malaga
Separate egg yolks and egg white and put your yolks in a little bowl, suitable for a bain-marie. Save an egg shell as your are going to use it as a measuring spoon.
Add sugar and marsala to the yolks. To measure Marsala pour it in a broken egg shell and fill half of it. Whisk the ingredients until well combined, then put them in a double boiler.
It is important not to heat the yolks abruptly, as you might find yourself with a prosaic batch of scrambled eggs. Keep whisking the yolks over slowly simmering water until you'll obtain a thick and smooth zabaione. it will require from 5 up to 10 minutes.
You can serve it hot or cold. If you prefer a cold version, put the bowl in a bigger bowl with ice and water and keep stirring until cold.
- This article about zabaione. Don’t mistake simple for boring. This is a universal truth.
- For those who love geek stuff, here you can find more scientific details on how to make a perfect zabaione.
- This is fun. Improve your Sex Life the Italian Way, where tiramisu and zabaione are mingled together in a real pick-me-up.
- Some food for thought. No food is healthy. Not even kale. by Ruhlman. When words matter.
A last note…
Have you notices those cookies? They are known as lingue di gatto, cat’s tongues, and are the perfect match with zabaione, as you can make them with the leftover egg whites.
Use the same weight of egg whites, unsalted butter, sugar and flour. Start beating butter and sugar until creamy, than stir in the sifted flour and the egg whites, as they are, you won’t require whipped egg whites. Scrape the batter into a pastry bag and draw little 1 cm thin lines onto a tray lined with parchment paper. They’ll tend to expand. Bake at 200°C for about 10 minutes, until slightly brown on the edges. Just out of the oven they are still flexible, then they will get crisp once cold.