Now, A Reason to Use Up That Sherry....

If you have ever wondered what to do with the bottle of sherry that your friend brought back from Spain, I (or rather Delia Smith) have the perfect recipe.
I am not a big sherry drinker, finding it too heavy and sweet for sipping purposes. However, it is an excellent all-round alcohol for cooking with, whether you want to add a bit of depth to a stir-fry or gravy, bolster a rich, meaty ragu or to bring out the natural sweetness of berries. You might even use it in a trifle.
Sherry, or particularly Marsala, is used to it's greatest success though in that most traditional of all Italian sweets, Zabaglione. A simple mousse-like dessert, comprising of egg yolks, sugar and Marsala (but other sweet wines can be used for different flavour) whisked in a double boiler, until light and fluffy. There is a charming story from 15th Century Italy that describes the initial process of how Zabaglione was discovered. A skillful and fierce Umbrian nobleman called Giovan Baglioni (known locally as Zvan Bajoun) was forced to keep his army of men happy (apparently they would switch sides if they were not given suitable rations – a case of politics being ruled by the stomach) when they were fighting and, discovering that he only had some eggs, honey and sweet wine at his disposal, ordered his cooks to boil everything in a pan and serve up the resulting dish. The solders so enjoyed this sweetened, slightly frothy mixture that they asked for seconds, slept soundly that night and fought with such vigour the next day that the surviving opposition asked them what was their secret. They simply replied Zwanbajoun. Over time, the name has been refined to Zabaglione, the method has been made simpler and the honey replaced with sugar. However, It is still considered as a “pick-me-up”, no doubt due to the high alcohol content, although I am not sure if the Italian army are still served it as part of their daily menu!

Delia Smith, Britain’s first true TV domestic goddess, has generously visited Harry's Bar in Venice on our behalf, sampled the many Venetian treats they have to offer and returned with a truly stunning torte that is both simple and wonderfully delicious, Harry's Bar Torta di Zabaglione.
An all in one, featherlight sponge cake, so light as to be almost of pudding texture, filled generously with a rich, thick Zabaglione-inspired cream.
The cream needs to be chilled for at least two hours, so make this first. The cake can also be made a few hours in advance and wrapped in clingfilm when cooled, ready to cut in half when you are.
It is simple enough to serve for a casual afternoon tea on Sunday but looks glamorously pale enough to be served for a special occasion too. In her book, How to Cook Pt.3, Delia ices the sides but leaves the golden top plain, just dusted with icing sugar. However, you may find, as I did, that this was a little hard to achieve. Despite being chilled, the filling remains just a bit too creamy to give a perfect presentation to the cake. I simply slathered it on all over. And you will have cream left over. Just eat it with a spoon. Cooks treat, of course.

Oh, and it is just as good a couple of days later, providing it has been well fridged. At this point, heavily laden with the boozy cream, it really does become pudding like. And terribly, wonderfully, moreish.
The perfect Pick-Me-Up!

HARRYS BAR TORTA DI ZABAGLIONE from Delia Smiths How to Cook Book 3
For the Zabaglione filling:
3 large egg yolks
3 oz (75 g) golden caster sugar
1½ oz (40 g) plain flour, sifted
9 fl oz (250 ml) Marsala
12 fl oz (340 ml) double cream
For the cake:
4 oz (110 g) self-raising flour
½ level teaspoon baking powder
2 large eggs, at room temperature
4 oz (110 g) very soft butter
4 oz (110 g) golden caster sugar
¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
a little sifted icing sugar, to dust

You will also need a 1½ in (4 cm) deep sponge tin, 8 in (20 cm) in diameter, lightly greased and the base lined with silicone paper (baking parchment).
First of all make the Zabaglione filling. Using an electric hand whisk, beat the egg yolks for 1 minute in a medium bowl, then add the sugar and beat until the mixture is thick and pale yellow (about 3 minutes). Next, whisk in the flour a tablespoon at a time, mixing in very thoroughly, then gradually whisk in the Marsala.
Now tip the mixture into a medium heavy-based saucepan and place over a medium heat. Then, cook the mixture, stirring constantly, until it has thickened and is just about to boil; this will take about 5 minutes. Don't worry if it looks a bit lumpy, just tip it into a clean bowl, then whisk until smooth again. Let the custard cool, whisking it from time to time to stop a skin forming. When it is cold, cover with clingfilm and pop in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours. Pre-heat the oven to gas mark 3, 325°F (170°C).
Meanwhile, make the cake. To do this, take a large mixing bowl, place the flour and baking powder in a sieve and sift into the bowl, holding the sieve high to give them a good airing as they go down. Now all you do is simply add the other cake ingredients to the bowl and, provided the butter is really soft, just go in with the electric hand whisk and whisk everything together until you have a smooth, well-combined mixture, which will take about 1 minute. What you will now end up with is a mixture that drops off a spoon when you give it a tap on the side of the bowl. If it seems a bit stiff, add a little water and mix again.
Now spoon the mixture into the tin, level it out with the back of a spoon and place the tin on the centre shelf of the oven. The cake will take 30-35 minutes to cook, but don't open the oven door until 30 minutes have elapsed. To test whether it is cooked or not, touch the centre lightly with a finger: if it leaves no impression and the sponge springs back, it is ready. Remove it from the oven, then wait about 5 minutes before turning it out on to a wire cooling rack. Carefully peel off the base paper, which is easier if you make a fold in the paper first, then pull it gently away without trying to lift it off. Now leave the sponge to cool completely.
To assemble the torta, whip the double cream in a large bowl until stiff, then add the Zabaglione custard to the bowl and whisk again until thoroughly mixed. Place the cake flat on a board, then, holding a serrated palette knife horizontally, carefully slice it into 2 thin halves. Next, reserve 2-3 heaped tablespoons of the Zabaglione filling to decorate the sides of the cake and spread the rest of the filling over the bottom half, easing it gently to the edges. Place the other cake half on top and press down very gently. Before you spread the mixture on the sides of the cake, it's a good idea to brush away any loose crumbs, so they don't get mixed up in it. Now, using a small palette knife, spread the reserved filling evenly all around the sides of the cake. Finally, dust the top with the icing sugar before serving. If the cake is made and decorated ahead of time, store it, covered, in the fridge (to keep it firm), but remove it half an hour before serving
(recipe taken from directly from Delia's website, as I cannot possibly improve on it!)


Meeta K. Wolff said...

Holy WOWS! Look at that filling. I too am not a huge sherry fan - only buy it for baking and cooking and it looks like I have a good reason to buy a new bottle!

T.W. Barritt at Culinary Types said...

I am quite taken with sweets that originated to comfort a 15th century army! And I do love baking with sherry - it's one of my favorite ingredients for cakes.

Kelly-Jane said...

It looks fantastic! This has long been on my list to try....

Cynthia said...

Keep the cake, I'm all about the boozy cream :) I love me some sherry!

Deborah Eley De Bono said...

Holy Cow! I think the second pix nailed me. I would believe the "boozy cream" would be good on anything, maybe just a spoon.

Nice to see you back.

Joyce said...

Just when I thought it was safe to come out of the kitchen...wowsers, that's a beauty that has my salivating.

Lydia (The Perfect Pantry) said...

Oooh, I've had this very dessert at Harry's Bar, and it was divine!

Chris said...

The cream...the cream! Yum! And...this brought back happy memories when my mom and I were at Harry's Bar many years ago. :)

Amanda at Little Foodies said...

Sherry is a bit of a weakness of mine! There, secrets out... Just call me Dot Cotton.

This looks seriously good. I think I'd like it even more a couple of days later, like you say all pudding like. You can't really beat a good Delia recipe.