Friends came for dinner recently and I debated over whether to do dessert. At the last minute I decided yes, but what? With fresh berries in the refrigerator, I turned to an old favorite dessert recipe – Champagne sabayon sauce with berries. All it takes is three ingredients and about 10 minutes. Don't drink Champagne? See note at end for what to use.
Champagne Sabayon Sauce with Berries
Sabayon is a simple, luscious dessert sauce made with egg yolks, sugar (just a little) and sparkling wine. The ratio is 1 egg yolk, 1 tablespoon of natural, unrefined sugar and about 1 ½ ounces of wine per person. It's lovely served over berries or with the mixed fresh berries and fruit. Make it in minutes and serve it warm right off the stove, layered into glasses or jars with the berries. I’ve also allowed it to cool and rewhipped with success.
What is Sabayon Sauce?
If you've heard of Italian zabaglione, sabayon is the French equivalent. Champagne sabayon is light and foamy in texture with a pale golden color. The taste is sweet, but not too sweet if you use a dry Champagne or dry sparkling wine.
Don't Open a Big Bottle
For my sabayon recipe I buy the mini size airline bottles (6 ounces) versus opening a big bottle. You don’t need expensive stuff for sabayon. The mini size is perfect for four servings, or open two minis for eight servings. Plus the mini bottles are inexpensive and store easily in the pantry for a quick dessert.
How to Make Sabayon Sauce
Set up a double boiler on your stove by filling a large pan (about 4 quarts) a quarter full of water, then bring it to a simmer over medium heat. To make the sabayon, use a medium stainless-steel bowl that fits on top and partially inside the pan but does not touch the simmering water. Off the heat, add the yolks and sugar to the bowl and whisk until they are thick, pale and smooth and then place the bowl atop the simmering water.
Next, whisk in the wine a little at a time. It comes together like magic, but its a bit of an arm workout. You can whisk in circles, alternating fast and slow to give your arm a break, but don’t stop whisking.
Notes for Making Sabayon
Making sabayon is an arm workout. You need a large stainless steel whisk. Here are tips that make it easier:
- When you whisk the sugar and egg yolks together the mixture will be heavy and sticky at first, but it lightens up and gets easier as you whisk.
- To stabilize the bowl on top of the pan, wedge a small soft potholder between the edge of the bowl and pan. This way you can whisk without trying to hold a hot bowl.
- I use natural, organic, unrefined cane sugar (versus white granulated) and it's crystalline versus fine. After you whisk the sugar and yolks together off the stove, place the bowl on top of the pan and whisk until the sugar melts, then start adding your wine.
Make It Ahead & Fruit Options
I discovered that sabayon sauce holds up well made a little ahead of time. The difference is the sauce will be chilled versus warm, but both are heavenly.
For more variety and color, add bite-sized pieces of cantaloupe and honeydew melon, kiwi, pineapple and halved grapes to your berry assortment. Use what is best in season.
Alcohol-Free Version of Sabayon
I've made it with ginger ale for a non-alcoholic version for a special event where wine was not allowed. It worked great. The problem is commercial ginger ale is nothing but carbonated water, high fructose corn syrup, caramel color, preservatives and hardly any ginger. If you don’t cook with wine, try to find a natural ginger ale and give that a try.
The Original Post
The original post was in January of 2011 for Valentine’s Day. While it’s elegant enough for special occasions, it’s too good not to use for more casual times. It's a great to have in your repertoire. I left the old photos for links.
Thanks to my friend Nancy who said "this would be good for 4th of July!" And I agree. While berries and melon are at their best, try sabayon.
- French whisk
- Medium stainless steel bowl
- 4 large egg yolks
- 4 tablespoons unrefined cane sugar or sugar substitute
- ¾ cup dry sparkling wine or dry Champagne airline sized bottle, 6 ounces
- 4 cups fresh berries or mixed fruit
- mint sprigs optional garnish
- Set up a double boiler using a 4 quart sauce pan and a medium size stainless steel bowl. The bowl should fit on top and partially into the pan. Fill sauce pan with about 3 inches of water. Be sure the the water does not touch the bottom of the bowl you are using. Bring to a simmer.
- Off of the heat, whisk the egg yolks and sugar in the bowl until smooth, thick and pale. Place the bowl over the simmering water and wedge a small soft potholder between the pan edge and bowl for stabilization. Whisking quickly, in a steady stream add the wine. Continue whisking until the sauce becomes light and foamy and all of the wine is incorporated.
- Place berries or mixed fruit in wine glasses, brandy snifters or glass bowls. Pour sauce over the top. Garnish with mint for color.