Apricot Zabaglione Meet Botrytis Cinerea, You Were Born To Be Together

Isn’t summer simply divine? I’ve been sipping Castello di Amorosa Late Harvest Gewurztraminer, Anderson Valley 2011. Speaking of simple. I have the simplest of desserts for you today. But don’t confuse simple with boring. Because I am making a delightful, delicate Italian treat known as zabaglione. Prosecco-Poached Apricot Zabaglione to pair with this wine. It’s a dessert that is less sweet than the wine. Which often is the key to making some pairings work.

But you may know this dessert as sabayon, zabaione, zabajone, sambayon, sabajan, or ponche de crema. Even that classic Christmas concoction known as eggnog is not too far off the original intention of zabaglione (not the kind in the carton, though…).

No one really knows where zabaglione originated. Some credit San Bajon, a 16th-century monk from Turin, with the dessert’s invention & name. Others believe the Venetians or the Medici family in Florence came up with it.

Technically, a zabaglione is a caudle, a hot, wine-fortified drink made as a healing draught for a sick person. The noun later morphed into the verb ‘to coddle’, meaning ‘to treat with extreme or excessive care or kindness.’ In its chilled form it starts to become very pudding-like.

Castello di Amorosa wine pairingApricot Zabaglione

The basic recipe is simple to memorize. It’s a 1:1:2 ratio of egg yolks, sugar, and wine. The mixture is sometimes lifted and lightened through the incorporation of an airy, whipped substance. Traditionally egg whites, but more commonly these days, cream. Though I didn’t go that way in today’s recipe.

Marsala is the traditional wine to use in this dessert. But I’mgoing to mix it up and use Prosecco and a bit of apricot nectar. Because I plan to serve this luscious dessert with a very special wine. Castello di Amorosa Late Harvest Gewurztraminer, Anderson Valley 2011. Which is a dessert wine.

We haven’t featured many dessert wines here on Sippity Sup. Many are too heavy-handed and all together too cloying for my tastes. I have nothing against sweet wines though. That’s not what I’m saying. In fact when the weather gets hot like this I often turn to Riesling.

Rieslings get a bad rap. That’s because we’ve been tricked into believing that “sweet wines” are bad and “dry wines” are good. First off that’s hogwash. Sweet or dry is not what defines good wine. I know you know that, but I felt it needed saying anyway. Besides, Riesling can be bone dry. Perfect with oysters, bone dry.

But I am not here to talk about Riesling. I want to introduce you to Botrytis cinerea, which is a fungus that sometimes occures on wine grapes.This fungus is also called gray mould and can be devastating to a crop of grapes– causing the grapes to rot on the vine. But sometimes this same fungus causes a far more “noble rot” to occur. When conditions are just right this mould transforms wine grapes into something sweetly magical. As I said the conditions need to be just right for the right rot to set in. There must be wet weather at just the right time of the season– the kind that lets the fungus take hold. But that weather must then be followed drier conditions. The result is distinctive sweet dessert wines, such as the famed Sauternes or the Aszú of Tokaji.

Well, the magical condition of wet followed by dry occured in the vineyards of Napa Valley at Castello di Amorosa in 2011. Which is why I wanted to share this wine with you. The grapes for this  2011 Castelli Di Amorosa Late Harvest Gewurztraminer were harvested on November 7 & 8th at 38.3 Brix (which is the measure of sugar content). This grape is far more commonly harvested with a Brix in the twenties, so that should give you some idea of the sweetness of these grapes.

Just in case you still don’t get how special an occurrence “noble rot” is let me also tell you that not only is Botrytis cinerea a generally rare occurrence at any vineyard, but it is particularly rare in Gewurztraminer, whose thick skins make it particularly resistant. But when conditions are right, the resulting dessert wine has a strong honeyed apricot nose. It’s very succulent on the palate too. So I decided to mimic these qualities in the dessert I paired with this special wine. Hence today’s Apricot Zabaglione. GREG

Apricot ZabaglioneProsecco-Poached Apricot Zabaglione serves 6 CLICK here for a printable recipe

  • 1 1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoons Prosecco, divided
  • 1 1/3 c sugar, divided
  • 3 (4“x1”) strips fresh lemon zest
  • 1 pn kosher salt
  • 12 firm-ripe fresh apricots, halved & pitted
  • 1 T apricot nectar
  • 6 large egg yolks

Set a large saucepan over high heat,. Add 1 1/2 cups Prosecco, 1 cup sugar, lemon zest, and salt. Bring to a boil, lower heat and cook until slightly thickened about 6 minutes. Add apricots and poach at a bare simmer, turning occasionally, until fruit is tender but still holds its shape and skins are intact, about 4 minutes. Remove from heat and allow it to come to room temperature, about 2 hours.

Put the egg yolks and remaining 1/3 cup sugar into a stainless steel or heatproof glass bowl and whisk for 5 minutes, until thick and pale yellow. Place the bowl over a pan of barely simmering water and continue to whisk, drizzling in a little of the remaining Prosecco and apricot nectar every now and then, until the mixture almost triples in volume and is light, foamy and barely holding in soft peaks, about 15 minutes. Take care not to get the mixture too hot or it will start to cook.

Divide apricot halves into each of 6 serving glasses and top with zabaglione. Serve warm.

Greg Henry writes the food blog Sippity Sup- Serious Fun Food, and contributes the Friday column on entertaining forThe Back Burner at Key Ingredient. He’s active in the food blogging community, and a popular speaker at IFBC, Food Buzz Festival and Camp Blogaway. He’s led cooking demonstrations in PanamaCosta Rica, and has traveled as far and wide as Norway to promote culinary travel. He’s been featured in Food & Wine Magazine, Los Angeles Times, More Magazine, The Today Show Online and Saveur’s Best of the Web. Greg also co-hosts The Table Set podcast which can be downloaded on iTunes or atHomefries Podcast Network.

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Apricot Zabaglione