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Everyday Italian: Chocolate Zabaglione

As Giada De Laurentiis notes in her introduction to this recipe, traditional zabaglione doesn't include chocolate. But its addition turns the light, frothy custard into something truly delectable. Served with fresh berries, this makes a sophisticated dessert.

The list of ingredients is short, and the zabaglione doesn't take a whole lot of time to make, but it's a completely hands-on cooking process. You've got to continuously whisk the eggs yolks, sugar, and Marsala over simmering water until they become thick and creamy. Have all your ingredients ready before you get started. An instant-read thermometer is useful, but not essential. You can estimate doneness by the texture and consistency of the custard.

De Laurentiis serves the zabaglione with strawberries, but it would also be delicious as a topping for pound cake, or to dip cookies into. Serve it either warm or cold, but don't try to rewarm it once it's been refrigerated, as it will curdle. When warm, its consistency is very soft and creamy. Once chilled, it sets up and has a texture more like chocolate mousse. The Marsala flavor is very strong; this isn't a dessert for kids!

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: about 5 minutes
Yield: 6 servings

1/4 cup whipping cream
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips
2/3 cup sugar
2/3 cup dry Marsala wine
Pinch salt
8 large egg yolks
1 pound fresh hulled and quartered strawberries, or 6 slices of pound cake, or assorted cookies (amaretti, biscotti, ladyfingers, or any cookies that strike your fancy)

In a small heavy saucepan, bring the cream just to a simmer over medium heat. Remove from heat, add chocolate chips, and stir until melted and completely smooth. Set aside.

In a large saucepan, bring about 2 inches of water to a simmer. In a large metal mixing bowl, combine the sugar, Marsala, salt, and egg yolks. Set the bowl over the saucepan of simmering water, being careful that the bottom of the bowl does not touch the water. Whisk the egg mixture constantly until it is thick and creamy, about 4 to 5 minutes. (The mixture should register 160 degrees on the thermometer. If you're not using a thermometer, make sure that the zabaglione has lost all of its foamy bubbles and is a uniformly thick, light yellow custard.)

Remove from heat and fold the chocolate mixture into the custard with a large rubber spatula. If using warm, place strawberries or cake into coupe dishes or other dessert plates, and spoon the zabaglione over the top. If serving cold, cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours, and up to 1 day, before serving alongside berries, cake, or cookies.



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