According to Robbie Dell'Aira in Kastelenkookboek, this type of dessert may have been introduced in the Netherlands in the late Middle Ages, when Italian bankers from the Northern Italian duchies of Tuscany and Lombardy and the Republic of Venice settled in the economic centers of the Netherlands.
Most of these Italian settlers, then simply known in the Netherlands as Lombarden (Lombards) or lommerds, settled in the Flemish city of Bruges in the 14th and 15th centuries. Later, in the 16th century, the trade center of the Southern Netherlands moved to the city of Antwerp in the Duchy of Brabant. While these cities are in Belgium today, it's worth noting that Belgium did not exist as a nation-state until the 19th century, and these territories were once part of the Netherlands.
Many well-known banking words, which are still used daily by Dutch people, such as bruto (gross), netto (nett) and bankroet (bankrupt), were introduced by these Italian bankers, showing the enduring legacy of their early influence. To this day, you'll find a street named Lombardstraat in many old Dutch cities - a sure sign that there was once an Italian bank there.
According to Dell'Aira, the Italians left their mark not only in the banking world, but also introduced dishes such as ravioli and zabaione to the Netherlands. This saffron-flavored version of zabaione was adapted by Robbie Dell'Aira from Notabel boecxken van cokeyen, a Dutch cookbook published in Brussel in 1514. In the 16th century, the dish would have been cooked in a saucepan over an open fire, but Dell'Aira has wisely chosen to use the more modern au bain marie method. Not only is it more foolproof, but it also ensures a lighter, frothier finish.
We translated and adapted the recipe from the original Dutch in Kastelenkookboek cookbook. It has been published on the Dutch Food site with the kind permission of the publisher.
Yield: Serves 4
- 6 egg yolks
- 1/5 cup/50 ml Marsala wine
- 3 threads of saffron
- Powdered (icing) sugar, to taste
- A knob of butter
- YOU WILL NEED:
- A balloon whisk
- Use a double boiler (optional) or place a bowl over a saucepan.
Cook the mixture au bain marie, by using a double-boiler or simply placing a heat-proof bowl over a saucepan of water cooking on a low heat. Make sure that the bottom of the bowl does not touch the water. Beat continuously until the custard thickens. Do not let the mixture boil!
Add the saffron, powdered sugar and the knob of butter. Beat with the whisk, and serve in small cups.