Cooking School: Zabaione with Brandied Plums

Zabaione (01) by MeetaK

Zabaione, Zabaglione, Zabajone or Sabayon. However you choose to call it, the fact remains, that this has got to be one of the most delicate, frothy Italian desserts around. Pronounced tsah-bahl-YOH-nay, this dessert comes in several variations. There is a frozen version or a lighter version with whipped egg whites, or even flavored versions with chocolate or honey. This version however is the authentic one, the way I learned how to make it, while training at the Sheraton pastry kitchen. 

Zabaione is a simple Italian dessert made with egg yolks, sugar and marsala wine and often served warm. These are the three main ingredients that make up a traditional zabaione. At times cream or mascarpone cheese might be added to give it a thicker, creamier consistency. Zabaione is basically a light custard type dish, made by whipping the egg yolks to incorporate large volumes of air, over a warm water bath. The classic version of the zabaione uses raw eggs, however nowadays it is preferred to prepare the dessert over a water bath or a double boiler.

Legend has it that this dessert was created by accident sometime in the 17th Century, when a chef from Turin accidentally tipped a bottle of sweet wine into an egg custard. Today, Sicilian Marsala wine has become the sweet wine of choice when preparing zabaione. Although it is similar to a custard, officially it is a caudle, which in the 16th century used to be a warm drink consisting of wine mixed with sugar, eggs, bread and spices.

It is difficult to define zabaione as it can be used for so many things. Serving it on its own, zabaione is a gorgeous light, but incredibly rich and delectable cream. Together with seasonal fruit it makes an exquisite dessert. Zabaione can also be used to fill tarts and pies or in the summer it can be used to make ice-cream.

There are several different recipes for this dessert. You'll find some with additional flavorings others will use an entirely different method. This recipe is the basic and easiest method of making zabaione. If you have not made this dessert before, you won't be able to go wrong with this recipe.

Zabaione (03) by MeetaK

Tips & Tricks For A Perfect Zabaione

  • In big hotel/restaurant kitchens zabaione is often made in copper bowls. These bowls provide a chemical reaction between the copper and eggs, which increases the stability and structure of the foam. If you do balloonwhisknot have a copper bowl at home, use a stainless-steel bowl instead. It still makes a terrific and creamy zabaione.
  • Whisking is the main motion here. I recommend a simple balloon whisk either out out of  stainless-steel or one made of silicone like I use. It's a simple utensil but I swear it's one of my most precious pieces in the kitchen For making zabaione it provides for the perfect fluffy consistency of the cream. 
  • Instead of a double boiler, use a heatproof bowl over a saucepan filled with simmering water. Make sure the water does not touch the bottom of the bowl, otherwise this may cause the eggs to scramble.
  • For beginners it is advisable to keep the water to a bare simmer. This will take a little longer whisking the zabaione to a creamy froth, but it is also safer as you'll avoid scrambling the eggs at a higher heat.
  • Whisk constantly in a rotating figure-8 pattern. Make sure you make contact with all the inner surfaces of the bowl. In this case, speed is not important but actually making contact with the surfaces is vital.

My zabaione is dressed for Fall! I serve it with heavenly brandied plums dripping with gorgeous red-purple sweet syrup. The cinnamon flavored plums complements the creamy and sweet zabaione so well that you'd think they were always meant to be.

Plums are the current featured fruit in my Food Guide. You'll find several helpful and useful tips on storing, selecting and preparing these juicy fruits.

Printable version of recipe here.

The brandied plums

10-15 soft ripe plums, halved, pitted and then quartered
2 tablespoons Muscovado sugar
3-4 tablespoons brandy
1 cinnamon stick

The Zabaione
serves 4

4 large organic eggs yolks
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup sweet Sicilian Marsala


The brandied plums

Place a small skillet over a medium heat. Add the plums, sugar, cinnamon stick and brandy and about 2 teaspoons water. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook for about 5 minutes until the fruit softens and begin to release their juices. Remove from heat and spoon into 4 individual glasses or serving bowls. Chill in the refrigerator.

The Zabaione

Fill a saucepan halfway with water and bring to a gentle simmer. Regulate the heat as required to maintain a gentle and constant simmer as you prepare the zabaione.

Place the egg yolks in a round-bottomed stainless-steel (or copper) bowl, which rests comfortably when placed on top of the saucepan.

Whisk the egg yolks with a balloon whisk until they turn pale yellow. Add the sugar , then the Marsala and continue to whisk until incorporated.

Rest the bowl on top of the saucepan, making sure that the water does not touch the underside of the bowl. Constantly whisk the mixture using the figure-8 pattern, until it is foamy and has tripled in volume. The mixture will eventually become soft and creamy - approx. 15 minutes. The consistency is just right when the mixture forms thick ribbons when the whisk is lifted.

Be sure to whisk the entire inner surface of the bowl, clearing the bottom of the bowl with the whisk so that the eggs do not stick to the bottom.

If the mixture starts to separate just remove from heat and transfer to the countertop, whisking all the while.

Zabaione should have the texture of lightly whipped cream. It should be light in texture, yet thick enough to coat a spoon.

Immediately pour the zabaione over the plums. Garnish with a few sugared plums and a sprig of mint. Serve immediately.



Zabaione (02) by MeetaK

Pure bliss! This is such an elegant and delicate dessert, which really creates a WOW! effect. The light sweet cream combines so well with the fruity sweetness of the plums, it's almost ethereal. As the warm creamy zabaione meets the cool brandied plums, heaven is created - in your mouth. I love making zabaione when I have spontaneous drop-in guests, then after a light dinner of bread, a variety of cheeses and salad, I will whisk up this simple zabaione with a fruity compote or caramelized fruit using what ever I have. Pears, apples, berries all make great accompaniments to zabaoine.

Dear Abby is celebrating World Egg Day and she asked us to come on over with a dish showing how versatile, delicious and fun eggs are. Abby you know you can count on me for dessert ;-)!

Have a great weekend folks! If you'd like to do a little food reading, besides several posts you might find here ;-) check out my latest article for FoodieView: Greeting Fall with Root Vegetables & Pumpkins!

You might like these recipes using eggs from WFLH:

BostiniCreamPie 01a Bostini Cream Pie
AsparagusLunch03 Poached Eggs with asparagus and sauce hollandaise
Piquant Salmon Egg Roll01 Wasabi Egg Rolls

From around the blogs:

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  1. Hi hi Meeta you should have seen the smile on my face when i saw this post title popping up.
    I have been waiting for you to post this .
    I am sure going to try this.
    Loved the tips and tricks you gave.
    Will keep in mind when i make them.

  2. A gorgeous dessert to start off the weekend. I know I would love the lightness and elegance of this cream with the wonderful fragrant brandied plums. The pictures are so enticing.

  3. I just love creamy dessert, whatever it may be called hehehe... Lovely presentation, Meeta.

  4. Meeta, this does sound elegant -- especially with those brandied plums. My husband likes to do the stirring on desserts like this -- it keeps him busy! I'd love to try this one...

  5. Elegant indeed. One can never go wrong with your recipes. Thank you Meeta for yet another informative post. You are such a lovely lady.

  6. Brandied plums...I bet those would be good on just about anything!!!

  7. Oh, this is a lovely post. I have learnt a lot about zabaione. I have always been a bit concerned about preparing them because of how to handle the eggs. I am a bit inspired now with all the tips.have a lovely weekend.

  8. You know, I've never actually known exactly what Zabaione was, so I especially appreciate this informative post!! Thanks, Meeta!! :0)

  9. I am with VeggieGirl. Thanks for this informative post. Yeah, it's delicious too :) food for the brain and the stomach (lol)

  10. Great post... Such excellent tips and explanations, especially for someone like me who has never made zabaglione.

  11. delicious and beautiful pics too Meeta, I love the brandied plums!

  12. I used to live close to this fabulous trattoria in Rome, and they had the most incredible zabaione. This recipe brings back so many delicious memories! Definitely going to make it this week, can already tell its going to be an absolute hit. Thank you SO much, Meeta, my favorite blogger!

  13. gorgeous pudding and very helpful post meeta. thanks for sharing your dessert with me for world egg day! x

  14. Thanks everyone for the feedback. I hope that everyone finds the recipe easy enough to try. It's a wonderful dessert and yes - those brandies plums can get addictive!

  15. Beautiful job, Meeta :)

  16. Thanks for sharing the lesson. Now I'm armed with some good know-how on making a GOOD zabaglione!

  17. I like your beautiful photos
    and this place is healthy and yummy!

  18. Beautiful photos and delicious looking dessert!

  19. You probably won't believe me, Meeta, but I have never tried zabaione! I am missing out, I know! Your version with fruit looks delicious.

  20. Meeta, this one is one of my favorites! And I love the idea serving it with brandied plums!

  21. Meeta, this is just so pretty and so refreshing. Oh my gosh, I could eat this for breakfast everyday, no matter the season.

  22. Stunning! I love Zabaligone (sp. I know!) and this is pure Autumnal Simplicity! Gorgeous!

  23. Meeta!

    Thanks for the recipe! Finally a Zabaglione recipe close to home! There are so many out there but all of them seemed to be morphing into almost Cream Anglaise -

    Superb!! Thank you!

    Gabi at

  24. I can't think of a better way to enjoy fruit soaked in alcohol, than balancing on Zabaglione. (Thanks for the alternative names, lol)

  25. What great timing for me to stumble upon this post! I recently bought a case of plums and was running out of inspiration for using them up. I always forget about the simple elegance of zabaglione. Beautiful

  26. This looks amazing!! Also, great explanation I feel now completely schooled on the art of Zabaione making. Definitely going to have to give it a shot.

  27. The only zabaione I have known was the zabaione ice cream which I used to eat when I was kid. I didn't know they could end up in another form.


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