Warm winter zabaglione


While citrus maybe refreshingly associated with hot summers, an entire family of citrus fruits including different varieties of oranges and grapefruits are abundantly available in the market during the winter. I asked a person at the fruit section of my local store if citrus was in fact seasonal to the winter, and if so, why? He wasn’t sure why but he did agree about the seasonality. There are at least two culinary books organized by the seasons, one written by an acclaimed chef and another by an acclaimed preserve-maker that feature citrus prominently in recipes seasonal for winter, and sometimes only for winter.

Dessert creams are usually associated with being chill, and so my first encounter with the warm and foamy Italian cream, zabaglione, during winter, always stands out. As does my memory of eating grapefruits for the first time in the US, which unlike other citrus fruits, originated in the West, and is widely cultivated in the US.

Here’s a method to make a grapefruit zabaglione:




Calvados or any good brandy



Use about one-half to three-quarter part sugar to one part egg yolk. Beat eggs and sugar until smooth and creamy using a wooden spatula. Add a good mix of freshly squeezed grapefruit juice and brandy, or just use brandy. Whisk continuously over a low flame using a curved bottom pan, or a double-boiler making sure the eggs don’t coagulate to form lumps. Adjust heat accordingly, or take pan off-heat frequently while whisking until a warm, creamy foam is obtained. Serve warm and as is or over freshly cut grapefruit.




The concept of cooking egg yolks with wine dates back to 14th century France1, and is also seen in 15th century England and Italy1 although whipping this mixture to incorporate air bubbles as it is being cooked seems to be a much later development appearing at least in a 1927 French cookbook. The zabaglione is one of the few if not only dessert that uses warm egg yolks as opposed to the whites to trap air as bubbles in order to create a foam.


With or without bubbles, Happy New Year!




1. On food and cooking: the science and lore of the kitchen by Harold McGhee

6 thoughts on “Warm winter zabaglione

  1. Shrutika Sankar

    I remember loving this desert when you made it in DC.

    A plausible reason for why oranges in the winter: While many of the citric fruits of the orange variety (ex: oranges/tangerines/grapefruits/clementines) can be harvested year round in tropical climates, in cooler climates these fruits harvest season traditionally begins in early winter and can go to mid summer.

    1. Bala

      Post author

      Thank you.

      I agree that in tropical climates citrus is harvested more than once in a year, and, in the US for instance we get citrus at least twice in the year, including a big supply during the winter (from Florida and Texas as examples). Perhaps there are regions that harvest citrus only during the winter - though why only winter remains a question - but I can't think of any immediately. Neither can I guess why citrus would be exclusive to the winter in cookbooks when it may also be available in the summer or why winter might be the traditional start of harvest in cooler climates as you suggest when it can grow just as well in the summer.

  2. Nirmala Vani

    Living in India all my life and being a fruit lover enjoyed oranges from different states of India practically throughout the year. Each variety had its own distinct flavour I assume based on the soil and climatic conditions.
    I have had it in the context of freshly squeezed juice, marmalade, the fruit by itself as a healthy snack, in the form of ice cream or a cold desert. We even pickle the leaves.

    Thanks for sharing your experience of the grapefruit and the warm and foamy italian cream in America during winter months. The egg yolk used with wine and whipped to incorporate air bubbles supported by the historical references sets your blog apart from other food blogs.

    The culmination of this blog is the photographs. One can literally feel and see the foamy texture of the zabaglioni. Thanks for sharing the recipe. It is a must try!

    1. Bala

      Post author

      I've never heard of pickling the leaves of the orange tree - it sounds interesting! Perhaps you might share a recipe sometime?

      Thank you very much for your kind words about the blog.

  3. Jeff

    I whole-heartedly second Nirmala's impressions. I came to this post and was just dazed for a few moments by the beautiful color and texture of the grapefruit. I wanted to reach in, sprinkle some of that sugar on top, and dig in with the spoon - and it almost seemed like I could. I also love that there is an impressionistic self-portrait in this photo, Bala, if you look closely at the spoon! 🙂 Thank you for the wonderful stories and photos.

    1. Bala

      Post author

      Thank you for your kind words, Jeff!

      The self-portrait - it's quite sharp that you notice - was entirely unintentional. It seems challenging to take a picture of a highly reflective object without reflections of the kind you mention.


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